Last Updated 05 Jan 2023

The Broken Windows Theory Bases its Logic On An Example

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Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Power of Context, provides insight into the rise and fall of crime in New York City. Gladwell compiled sets of information and questions the ultimate reasons behind the crimes in New York. Meanwhile, Martha Stout’s presentation on her patients’ psychology is an important factor in understanding the motives behind the crimes Some people believe that crime has something to do with the mental well-being of the person committing the crimes. Bernard Goetz, the man responsible for shooting four young black men on the subway, can be viewed as a criminal, for attempting murder, or a hero, for putting the boys into place and ultimately raising awareness of subway crimes. Stout, as a psychologist, spends a lot of time with her patients and tries to grasp an understanding of what causes them to behave in a certain manner. Her patients have taught many that traumatic experiences often become the culprit in situations like Goetz.

The link between psychology and trauma strongly correlate to committed crimes and continues to be studied in order to reach a higher understanding of human behaviors Trauma greatly impacts a person’s life, often causing them to become forward and highly motivated or reserved and cautious. Bernard has had a traumatic past experience of being mugged by three black men Goetz was also embittered by the fact that one of the doormen, whom he was close to, was beaten badly by muggers. Traumatic experiences influence the victim, in some cases, in a positive way, leading to reform through no use of violence. In others, it creates a violent situation, one that could lead to the same outcome but, in a more painful and tragic way. These traumatizing experiences Bernard went through influenced him in a negative way.

He became highly motivated, to the point of an obsession, in cleaning up the streets of New York. Goetz took an apartment in Manhattan, on a city block heavy with homelessness and drug dealing. Goetz was known to complain often about a vacant newsstand, piled in trash and urine, a symbol for the ‘troublemakers’ in the neighborhood. One day it was mysteriously burned down and the next day he was seen sweeping up the debris. Later on Goetz stated at a community meeting that the only way to clean up the street was to “get rid of all the spies and niggers” (Gladwell 155). Bernard didn‘t stop there.

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He also illegally took possession of a gun, which he carried around with him While the possession of a gun could easily be seen as just a form of self-defense, the fact he shot the boys in the subway rather than scaring them into leaving him alone proves otherwise. Goetz has purposefully placed himself in a rat hole Dissociation Stout’s patients dissociate due to a trigger, one that may remind them of their traumatic experiences, which often forces them into a dissociate statei. Even while in a dissociated state, the patients continue their daily tasks without being conscious. One of Stout’s patients who suffer from dissociation is Lilai Lila, referring to her ‘flyaway self’, who states “I had an argument with the cashier at the seven-eleven store.

I gave him a twenty and he said I gave him a ten. He wouldn’t give me my other ten dollars back. The way he looked at me--- it was the same way my stepfather used to, like I was stupid like I was dirt. I knew he wasn’t my stepfather but all the feelings were there anyway. After a minute, Ijust couldn’t argue about it. I left without my money, and by the time I got back home, my flyaway self thing had already started" (Stout 433). There is deep connection between Lila’s dissociation and Bernard’s behavior. As previously stated, Bernard took it upon himself to move to a troublesome neighborhood. Between the shooting, the racist remarks, moving to a poor neighborhood, and illegally carrying a gun, Goetz‘s behavior and attitude shows a pattern. He desperately wants to get rid of the black population.

Goetz, the man who seemed oblivious of what he was getting himself into, was set off by Canty’s “shining eyes and the big smile on his face, that showed he was enjoying himself." Goetz pulled out his gun and fired at the youths. After firing at Darrel Cabey for the first time, Goetz walked over and said, “You seem all right, Here‘s another,” right before firing a second bullet at Cabey. After the incident, the subway conductor asked him why he shot at the boys. Goetz only response was that he didn’t know why he did it. This suggests that Goetz was not himself at the moment. He felt threatened, and like a dissociate person, acted without being conscious. One way to look at this is through an example Goetz provided himself, “What you are capable of changes. Your field of View acted vicious and savagely... If you corner a rat and you are about to butcher it, okay? The way I responded was viciously and savagely, just like that, like a rat”.

This suggests that Bernard’s instincts took over and that he, like Stout‘s patients, was acting without being fully conscious Goetz was focused on hurting them. After firing at Darrel Cabey for the first time, Goetz walked over and said, "You seem all right. Here‘s another,” right before firing a second bullet at Cabey (Gladwell 149). His aggression was taken out on the boys and ultimately led them to be seriously injured. The connection between Lila and Bernard is solid. Both were set off by triggers, certain facial expressions within the moment that made them remember their traumatic past experiences, and led Lhem to dissociate. Understanding why Goetz acted in such a way and linking crimes to psychology helps many understand exactly what led up to the rise and fall of crime in the state of New York. The Broken Windows theory is one of the candidates that assisted in the reversal of the crime epidemic.

The Broken Windows theory bases its logic on the example of a broken window and how if it is left alone and no one fixes it, then the people who walk by conclude that no one cares enough to fix it and that no one is in charge. They applied this concept to the streets of New York City and its subway systems. The subway systems were failing to bring in as much revenue as expected because people refused to take it with the rising crime rates. However, once the Broken Windows theory was applied, there was an increase of transit officers in the stations, the old train cars were replaced with new ones, and the city was being cleaned up. Any time there would be any sign of vandalism, the city made sure to clean it up. What occurred was that, over time, they started giving up the vandalism and graffiti art, while the people entering and riding the subway no longer evaded paying the fees.

The criminals were shown that there was someone that has asserted their dominance and was now in charge of the city. The criminals decided it was better to avoid any conflict so that they wouldn‘t be caught. Although Bernard was morally wrong in shooting the youths through a violent confrontation, he was the stepping stone for the city clean up. No matter how he was viewed, as a criminal or a hero, people were motivated to put an end to all the crimes. A lot of effort was put into the clean up of the city and, ultimately, it worked. If the Broken windows theory had been applied earlier, then maybe the violent crimes and muggings would not have happened but, unfortunately, in order to make a change, there usually has to be a large and negative situation in order to motivate people.

Psychology greatly impacts crimes in a few ways, whether it be in understanding why a crime was committed or used in order to prevent crime. Stout presentation on psychology, through the use of her patients, provided interesting information on dissociation and trauma. This information gave many a new knowledge and has helped in understanding Goetz’s reality and violent actions, Based on his background, some may question if what he did was intentional. When a person looks at the information provided, they see that Goetz placed himself in an area full of the homeless and drug dealers Goetz also had an obsession with cleaning up the street he lived on, commenting on the need to get rid of the blacks.

This was his way to target his rage and hatredl. His traumatic experience of being mugged led to a great change in himself. A small but mighty link between trauma, psychology and crime rates has been identified thanks to the situation between Bernard Goetz and the four youths in the subway, Goetz became a symbol of change in the city and is even recognized by some as a hero. Why might this be? This incident called for higher security in all of New York City’s subway stations, Bratton and Gunn put the Broken Windows Theory to test, ending the ongoing cycle of crime. The subway trains were completely changed and kept clean, Criminals then started to follow the rules and New York City’s crime rate dropped severelyl It all goes back to Goetz, and the Violent incident that occurred in the subway The understanding of psychology has proven to be the greatest hero in this context.

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