In 1982, social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling of Harvard put forth the idea that the best way to solve the big problems in the urban settings was to fix the little things.
“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,” they wrote.
“Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.”
Their advice was to reset the social norms in high-crime areas by fixing the broken windows.
Charleston’s West Side is doing just that. Following the shooting and killing of Tymel McKinney, 18, on his front porch on April 23, his mother organized a march around the idea of “Guns Down, Hands Up To Pray.”
Perhaps this changed attitudes or verified a move to better cooperation with the police to stop the violence. Lt. Steve Cooper, Charleston’s chief of detectives, said recent tips about possible criminal activities have led to several raids in recent weeks.
For example, on Monday, police went to Orchard Manor and arrest three people. The charges seem light: a warrant for driving without a driver’s license, trespassing and a warrant for domestic battery. But such enforcement sends the message that you cannot get away with crime as easily as in the past on the West Side.
“We think the high visibility and targeted enforcement has played a significant role in curbing the violence,” Lt. Cooper told the Daily Mail’s Ashley B. Craig. “(Our efforts are) more effective because the community is actually providing unsolicited information about crime hot spots.
“This should put criminals on notice that their law-abiding neighbors are watching them.”
The police also are still working on the McKinney homicide. Tougher enforcement of the law may help prevent future shootings and killings. Repairing the windows matters.