Thursday, July 9, 2015

Newsweek: "Building Repairs May Lower Crime Rates"

Jessica Firger at Newsweek has this article about a study in Philadelphia:
     There’s no denying that the environment can help determine human behavior. Previous studies have shown that people are more likely to commit crimes in neighborhoods that give off the impression that no one cares. And a new study published July 8 in the journal PLOS One shows that even small improvements to the urban built environment could actually reduce the rates of criminal activity on a block.
     In 2010, Philadelphia identified approximately 25,000 vacant buildings within city limits. A year later, city officials enacted the Doors and Windows Ordinance. The law requires building owners to have working windows and doors if the unused and abandoned property is located on a block where more than 80 percent of the buildings are actually occupied. Buildings are only exempt from the ordinance if owners have applied for a permit to conduct renovations beyond replacing both windows and doors.
     For the study, the researchers compared the crime rates on blocks improved through this ordinance with crime rates in randomly selected buildings in areas where the policy wasn’t enforced.
This is more proof of the broken window theory, which has been around at least since 1982. It says that if you are in an area where the norms for social behavior are lax, and certain petty infractions and crimes are allowed to go unchecked, it just encourages more of the same behavior. You usually hear this around election time when the subject turns to code enforcement, or lack thereof.