(NYTIMES) - For years, "broken windows" policing - the idea that the best way to prevent serious crime was to enforce laws against petty crime - was derided by critics as unnecessary, unjust, even racist. So cities across America pulled back from prosecuting the supposedly small stuff, like shoplifting. Now we've seen a jump in violent crime.
Criminologists can debate the causes of the new crime wave. But many people intuitively understand that places in which decay and disorder become the norm are places where crime tends to thrive. That's because crime is largely a function of environmental cues - of the palpable sense that nobody cares, nobody is in charge, and anything goes. We now live in a broken-windows world.