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How Many Broken Windows in our City?




GLOUCESTER CITY, NJ --Years ago, I took a Criminal Justice course at St. Joseph's University.  The instructor was a captain of the Philadelphia Police Department who brought his police-issued laptop with him to every class.  The first thing he told us was that what he was going to present was the truth and he had and would show us the documentation to prove it.  He said that if anyone was easily Images-3 offended, this was the time to drop the course.

That was one of the best courses I took in my long educational career and one thing that I took away from the course and stayed with me was "The Broken Window Theory."  Many times, I read on Gloucester City Facebook pages that this is not the city in which many of us grew up. I've lived here for 70 years, and I can attest that the Gloucester City of today is not the Gloucester City of years gone by.  The difference?  The Broken Window Theory.
The core of the theory, defined in 1982, is that in any town, regardless how big or small, one broken window will lead to another and then another after that.  The first window, if not repaired, sends a message that no one cares.  If there are no consequences, there is no incentive to repair the problem.  This does not apply only to windows but also to drug sales, unlicensed vehicles and trash in yards, graffiti, and so on.  Gloucester City, for a while now, has given the impression that no one cares.
The theory suggests that by curtailing small crimes such as minor drug dealing, vandalism, loitering, and public drinking people get the idea that someone does care and that there are consequences for illegal actions.  Those of you who are old enough to remember when Rudy Giuliani took over as mayor of New York City he concentrated on small crimes in the Times Square area.  Most tourists visit Times Square, so he cleaned that section first.  Within a couple of years all of New York City was much safer and people felt comfortable walking the streets.
So why does Gloucester City have the problems it does?  We've known for years that many of our houses have gone from owner-occupied to rentals by out-of-town landlords.  The rentals continue to be a problem as if the owner doesn't see the properties it becomes an out-of-site, out-of-mind situation.  Also, neighbors don't seem to care about their neighborhood the way they did years ago.  "Back then" a neighbor would politely ask you to clean up your yard or alley.  That doesn't seem to be the case anymore.  
What does a person do if a neighbor doesn't clean up his yard?  That can be frustrating.  The police have been known to point to the Housing Officer who has been known to point back to the police.  The only suggestion I have is to check which county official or Congressman is up for re-election and go to him. It has worked for me in the past. Good luck.
BELOW some examples of the Broken Window Theory in Gloucester City (from Peyton & Me column)