Magazine article USA TODAY

Putting a Halt to Neighborhood Decline. (Urban Life)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Putting a Halt to Neighborhood Decline. (Urban Life)

Article excerpt

Rowdiness, teen loitering, public drinking, neighbors fighting, boarded-up houses, and graffiti are signs that a neighborhood may be on the verge of declining, according to creators of the "broken windows" theory. However, criminal justice professor Ralph Taylor, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pa., the author of Breaking Away from Broken Windows, rejects the popular premise that broken windows symbolize declining neighborhoods.

"It's more complicated than that," he maintains. "Mopping up the crack vials and the Twinkle wrappers and locking up the street rowdies for the night are activities that will make a neighborhood look better, but they are not going to turn that neighborhood around. Resident groups working in close collaboration with police and other city agencies, and targeting needed resources to those sites, is the best long-term strategy for preserving neighborhoods."

Theorists of the broken windows premise rose to prominence in the early 1990s in the wake of declining reported crime rates in many large, older cities and highly publicized order-maintenance policing in places like New York City. "People in this field have suggested that there is a general problem called incivility [disorder], but there is not," Taylor contends. "When you talk to a community leader about his or her neighborhood, the leader doesn't think of deterioration as one problem or as something caused by one problem. [He or she sees] different, distinct issues, like a problem created by an abandoned house at a specific location, or a playground used by toughs rather than tots. …

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