Fixing Broken Windows

I’ve listened to several speakers validate a common criminological theory–”fixing broken windows.” This was introduced by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982, and proposed that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition (i.e., no broken windows or other signs of chaos) will prevent further vandalism and even more serious crime. In other words, an effective and simple way to prevent vandalism and other crime in your garage is “fixing the broken windows”–keeping the garage well maintained and clean, changing out defective light bulbs immediately, etc.

While to some this may smack of environmental determinism, Kelling has plenty of research that supports his revolutionary–yet simple–notion: if people are cued to understand that breaking the rules is tolerated in a certain environment, they’re more likely to break the rules in that environment. Kelling, in fact, was given the opportunity to provide a real-life demonstration of his theory when he was hired as a consultant for the New York City Transit Authority in 1985. His theory, implemented by David Gunn, aggressively targeted small crimes such as fare dodging and graffiti tagging while improving the overall atmosphere of the subways. The result, according to a 2001 crime study, is that crime fell suddenly and significantly and continued to drop over the next decade.

If you allow graffiti to remain in your facility for a long time, you can expect more graffiti to come your way. If you are slow to changing out lights, you can expect break-ins to continue. In a 2013 IPI Conference & Expo presentation, The Art of Parking, speaker Jeff Petry explained that placing art on different levels in one particular garage eliminated graffiti and biologicals altogether. In a garage where graffiti was common, simply adding art stopped graffiti and urination in those areas completely.

This is not advocating that security is not needed. But remember that keeping your garage clean, maintained, well-lit, and fixing the other broken windows of your parking facility is doing more for your facility than simply looking nice.

 

 

 

 

About Isaiah Mouw, CAPP

Isaiah Mouw, CAPP, LEED Green Associate, is a general manager for Republic Parking System. He serves on the IPI Advisory Council, Sustainability Committee, and Parking Matters® Committee.

Comments

  1. Mark Lyons says:

    As parking professionals we need to keep the concept you alluded to in the frontal cortex at all times. Interesting enough, Kelling’s concept of hastily repairing equipment can extend over into the realm of revenue control. Finding problems with cashier closeout reconciliations should not go unmentioned as a “fluke” event. These issue need to be addressed quickly to prevent the proliferation of problems from within. The theory, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” may not apply in this environment. Like an airline pilot, I prescribe to making small adjustments in course corrections instead of major changes to get back on course.

    Good article Isaiah – helps to keep us on the right course.

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