Sunday, April 5, 2015

Flawed thinking on crime prevention

This is an article from a seemingly very knowledgeable commentator who calls into question Rudy Giuliani's crime prevention strategy of harassing people for petty crimes in order to prevent more serious ones like homicide.  This strategy is also known as the "broken window" approach, in reference to the idea that if a house in a neighborhood has a broken window that doesn't get fixed, the house and eventually the neighborhood will spiral downward as fewer people get motivated to keep them up.  This seems to be confirmed by common sense and anecdotal experience.  The larger claim, that such minor cosmetic problems of "disorder" can eventually lead to higher rates of serious crimes like murder, seems a bit silly to me, and is apparently not very solidly supported by the evidence.  In the particular case of Central America's Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala), the heavy-handed approach has already shown itself wanting after the "Mano Dura" policies of a few years ago, and the further harassing and marginalizing of people in impoverished neighborhoods by police doesn't seem to me a very sure route to solving the problems of economic inequality, exclusion, fear, and resentment that define these post-war societies.

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