martes, 25 de noviembre de 2008

The Broken Windows Theory proved right

What's the Broken Window Theory? Well, that's a question we should address before going any farther on this article, isn't it? The Broken Window Theory is incredibly well explained in the Wikipedia (yes, I love the Wikipedia, in case you didn't notice before), but to avoid forcing you to jump from to site to site all the time I'll give a short introduction to it (borrowed from the Wikipedia, by the way):
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.
The claim here is that by fixing and avoiding low-importance petty vandalism we prevent crude criminality to arise. It's a heavy statement, and much debate has been held about it with some important supporters. For example, it is claimed to be one of the main actors, together with CompStat, that helped reducing criminality in New York City to its lowest record ever. And, to its credit, a recent investigation has added scientific support. Researchers from the University of Groningen (Netherlands) have conducted several experiments where evidence shows that people are more likely to commit small crimes if they are in a messy environment (it being graffiti in the walls, litter on the ground, etc.).

This seems to suggest some sort of inertial behaviour in human kind: if things are bad they tend to get worse...