The “tipping point” is an interesting concept…the idea that things happen not solely or even mostly because of some genetic makeup but as the result of other things…like context.

The book references something called the “broken window theory”. Essentially, bad things happen in places where it looks like it won’t matter anyway. If the ground is already littered why not add your piece of trash, if the yards all look crappy why not yours, if the book is already written in and dog-eared one more pen – one more fold doesn’t matter.

He goes on to talk about the change in the crime rate in nyc in the ’90s and how the chief of police got his start as head of the metro police and he used this very theory…instead of focusing on the felonies taking place in outrageous numbers on the rail, he instead looked at petty crimes, fare jumpers and graffiti. The idea being that if you focus on those little things and improve the environment the bigger things are also affected. It worked. Trains were not allowed to leave with graffiti on them. Fare jumpers were arrested, searched for records, had their backgrounds checked for outstanding warrants. And over the course of a few years things began to change.

New Orleans – pre and post Katrina – comes to mind. Here is a city that even before being submerged in water for a month was, in many areas, falling apart at the seams. Rotting wood, peeling paint, gutted buildings, dirty streets…and ahhh…the smell of stale urine wafting through the quarter and from deserted lots and settling all over the city.

Crime was high.

And now people are concerned. Today the FBI made an announcement about their presence and how they are going to throw everything they have at the problem – the officers, the technology, everything.

But my mind raced back to the broken window…or in the case of New Orleans, the boarded up buildings, the gutted houses, the water soaked wood, and yes…the broken windows.

It seems such a small thing but I wonder what would happen if those things were tended to…both those from the storm and the decay of time and abandonment. Maybe what the city needs to make the leap from crime capital and depression is to look like it shouldn’t be the home of criminals…like happiness could live here.

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