By anguillian May 29, 2017 10:40 Updated




Another death by gunshot has left us once again in disbelief and despair. Again, we have begun the pontifications about the causes of gun violence on our otherwise peaceful island. We have begun again to search for something or someone to blame so that we can make sense of all of this, and satisfy ourselves that we ourselves are not part of the problem.
I had the privilege, recently, of reading a book by Malcolm Gladwell, the Tipping Point, in relation to the little things that trigger life changing, earth moving shifts in human behaviour. In that book, Gladwell referenced the work of criminologists James Q Wilson and George Kelling who developed the Broken Windows Theory. According to that theory, says Gladwell:

“crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window is broken and 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 on which it faces, sending a signal that anything goes….This is an epidemic theory of crime. It says that crime is contagious – just as a fashion trend is contagious – that it can start with a broken window and spread to an entire community….The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behavior is not coming from a certain kind of person, but from a feature of the environment.”
The Broken Windows Theory suggests that we may be seeking to address our crime situation using the wrong approach. Traditionally, approaches to solving crime have focused on the psycho-social analysis of the perpetrators – whether they are in touch with the world around them, whether they understand how to have healthy relationships, whether they were taught right from wrong or the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, whether they grew up poor, fatherless, in abusive situations, whether they are unemployed and the like.
However, the Broken Windows Theory says that the perpetrators of crime are very much aware of the world around them and commit crimes based on their perception of that world. In other words, our focus in reducing crime should be less on psycho-social matters (which can be quite overwhelming, even to the point of inertia), and more on environmental stimulants which promote criminal behaviour. The criminologists theorize that by changing little things in our environment, crime can be reduced.

This is definitely something worthy of consideration. What is it about our environment here in Anguilla that encourages crime? Does our country have the appearance of disorder? If we are honest with ourselves, the answer will be a definite yes! Could it be that if we cleaned up our litter, took better care of our environment, removed the garbage from the airwaves, adhered to rules and guidelines, demonstrated respect for authority (police and members of Government), engaged in less spiteful and bitter exchanges, we could assist in reducing crime? Could it be that our everyday actions are creating a sense of disorder in our country and sending the message that anything goes? Could it be that our twenty-four hour outrage at criminal behaviour, our silence and non-cooperation with police, our inability to even remember the names of the victims, have created the impression that crime is acceptable?

What do our young people see when they look at Anguilla? Do they see a country of high standards and ideals, order and discipline, pride and a sense of civic responsibility? Or do they see a country with a fake sense of morality – where disorder is applauded and country above self is just a catch phrase? Does our country seem so broken that persons feel that they can do anything and get away with it?
The Broken Windows Theory forces us to look at ourselves and the environment we have created physically, and through our everyday choices which create disorder and unwittingly encourage criminal activity. It shifts the focus away from our over-analysis of the perpetrator of crime and unto all of us. Many will disagree with the theory because we are uncomfortable with any suggestion that we, the “good” citizens, may be the main contributors to the escalation in criminal activity in our country. However, I am of the view that, given all that is happening, the theory is worthy of consideration and could very well be the new approach that we so desperately need.

By anguillian May 29, 2017 10:40 Updated


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