Episode 119 S3-38
Broken Glass Theory
The Walls of Freedom Ch 38
To fully understand "The Broken Glass or Broken Window Theory" you have to take a look at the background of policing in general. The first thoughts for a police force was that there should be boots on the ground, mingling with the locals. As members of law enforcement gained access to vehicular transportation and better technology they began to police larger and larger areas. The expansion of jurisdiction took away from an officer's ability to get to know the neighborhood people on an individual basis. This time period was during the 1920s when the police force used the slang "beat cop."
Then in the late 1980s, early 1990s there was a realization that this lack of interaction with the public was severely affecting the success of the police force. They started applying neighborhood policing policies that put the officers in direct contact with specific neighborhoods. There were pros and cons. Having an increased police presence deterred crime and the officers got to know the people personally. However, a lot of their time was often devoted to non-policing activities like contact with the local media.
It was during this time that an experiment was done in the Bronx. An average vehicle was placed in a neighborhood of mixed ethnicities, religious beliefs and monetary classes. The police dispatcher received calls about the car being left on the side of the road but it was otherwise unscathed. One night an officer broke out on of the windows and left the car sitting there again. They were amazed when they returned the next day and the car was demolished, everything of value had been removed. This phenomena became known as "The Broken Window or Glass Theory." Basically, the theory is that if something exists that is undesirable and it is allowed to exist, then it will be proliferated. For example, graffiti in the inner cities. When it is not allowed to exist, often the rates of aggravated assault and homicides decreases. The people involved in the Bronx experiment were not teenagers having fun. The car was dismantled by families and individuals that you would not expect to be participating in that type of behavior. The Broken Glass Theory exemplifies a moral flaw in human nature. Individuals may think: Someone else already did it so what does it matter if I do a little more.
The only way to stop the broken window theory in its tracks is to stop the undesirable from existing. Smaller crimes will lead to bigger crimes. If these crimes can be eliminated before they are allowed to escalate, the neighborhood will be a safer place to live.
The character flaw illuminated by the broken glass theory presents some major concerns for a grid down, long-term disaster scenario. When individuals realize that no help is coming and no one is going to stop them from breaking the rules, everyone's ethical beliefs will be tested. As a moral individual once you break one of your moral codes what will stop you from finding excuses to break the next one and the next one. Then there are other folks that are just evil. They do not believe in ethical codes and are usually big risk takers. These risk takers may utilize the lack of law enforcement to take advantage of every situation. It is also these same risk takers that have the guts to rise up as leaders which make the situation even more desperate.
In the end, the hope is, most people have good hearts. It will only be a matter of time until these good-hearted people stand up and return society to one based on "Nature's God and Nature's Law".
Featured Quote From Today's Chapter:
"People are thinking and waking up."