Dark Days – Consequence Of The Broken Window Effect

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The parcel bombs come on the back of bullets posted to Lennon, McGinn and McCourt.  The “crimes” of these individuals – They were vocal in their support of Celtic!

 

At the AGM John Reid stated that Celtic would no longer be treated as second class citizens.  He was not looking for preferential treatment, just equal treatment.  The problem is for those hundred plus years referred to above we weren’t.  When Rangers had a signing policy that precluded Catholics from their club, authorities said nothing.  When they have belted out the vile songs of hate? Authorities did nothing.  When they pelted players with potatoes – it’s just banter.  So how do we stop this latest episode of spiralling?  All we need is one of these parcels to get through or just one idiot deciding to send a retaliatory package the other way and we have a big problem.  If ever there was an example of “The Broken Window Effect,” this is it.

 

I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point.  In it he states, “Ideas and products and messages and behaviours spread like viruses do.” But this can be positive and negative and to illustrate he uses the massive drop in New Yorks crime figures during the 1990’s and the impact of the “Broken Windows Effect.”  Criminologists Wilson & Kelling argued that if a window is broken & left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no-one cares and no-one is in charge.  Soon, more windows will be broken, and the sense of anarchy will spread from the building to the street it faces, sending a signal anything goes.

 

“If the neighbourhood cannot keep a bothersome panhandler from annoying passers-by, the thief may reason, it is even less likely to call the police to identify a potential mugging or to interfere if the mugging actually takes place.”

 

New York got to the point where won commuter described the underground as like “entering Dante’s inferno.”  With serious crimes on the subway at record levels they decided to crack down on fare beating because they believed this small expression of disorder invited more serious crimes. An estimated 170,000 people a day were entering the system without paying.  The problem was once one or two people forced their way through or didn’t pay, the normally law abiding would join in, reasoning that if some people weren’t going to pay, they shouldn’t either.  The problem was exacerbated because only $1.25 was at stake the police didn’t feel it worth their while to pursue with so many more serious crimes.

 

Like sectarian singing, if everyone does it and no-one stops it, normally law abiding people join in.

 

So how did they stop it?  They put up to 10 plain clothes police at stations and nabbed fare dodgers one at a time, handcuffed them and left them standing in a chain on the platform until they had a “full catch.”  Then they found that although many were normally law abiding people who jumped on the band wagon, 1 in 7 arrestes had an outstanding warrant.  “Every arrest was like opening a box of Cracker Jack….Got a gun, got a knife, got a warrant?”

 

For too long the authorities have sat back and shrugged that this problem can’t be fixed.  It can!

 

In New York they fixed the subway.  Graffitied trains were immediately taken out of service and cleaned up, taken out & cleaned up and so on until the people causing the damage got bored.  The fare dodgers were stopped.  Ordinary citizens stopped breaking the law “because everyone else is doing it.”  They fixed the broken windows.

 

The threats to Lennon, McBride and Godman are a dark day for Scotland.  It may need to get worse before it gets better but the rule of law must win out, starting Sunday.  The police must be given the direct instruction to arrest EVERY person shouting or singing sectarian or racist abuse, as the New York subway example showed – who knows what you might uncover.  There will be violence and trouble when they do this but very quickly the law abiding people will stop.

 

We need to start fixing the broken windows and maybe some good will come of this.

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