I’ve written recently about the NOPD program for preventing future felonies by cracking down on misdemeanors. The theory behind it is that a small percentage of the population is responsible for the majority of the crime and just diverting a few young people from pursuing this lifestyle can make a big difference in future crime rates.
Whether or not you agree with that theory, business owners and residents of the French Quarter certainly do. They are banding together with the NOPD in a new initiative around a perceived similar correlation – this time, between graffiti and crime. See the article in the Times Picayune.
They are basing the initiative on a program piloted in New York City, which began cracking down on seemingly minor crimes like graffiti and vandalism. The “broken windows” program has been praised by law enforcement agencies as well as many empirical studies as being instrumental in stopping erosion of the urban landscapes and its safety.
The broken windows theory states that if you overlook small disrepair, you will eventually find yourself surrounded by large-scale decay. This idea was introduced by social scientists who suggested that broken windows in an abandoned property leads to squatting which leads to vandalism and theft.
French Quarter property owners contend that graffiti has nothing to do with art, and everything to do with degrading the historic neighborhood and claiming ownership. They say that where there is graffiti, there is crime.
Even though Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas has directed his officers to focus less on minor crimes, he says he agrees with the “broken window” approach and will back the neighborhood associations with a new crackdown on minor crimes in the Quarter. The program has already gotten underway as officers, backed by a recent state statute making graffiti in the historic district a felony, have made numerous arrests over the last few weeks.
Not everyone is convinced the “broken windows” theory is a winner, and I’ll be very interested to see how the trials of those presently being held for felony graffiti will be handled, but this is another audible shot by the residents of the city saying enough is enough, we deserve better.