Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

Point Park University's Student-Run Newspaper

Point Park Globe

The broken windows theory does not work for Pittsburgh

At the surface level, the Broken Windows Theory seems appetizing to a bustling, small city like Pittsburgh. If vandalization was decreased, or at the very least became less visible, then crime would decrease too, right? If both correlate, the decrease in crime could save the city. 


The Broken Windows Theory is a psychological theory which studied graffiti, loitering and vandalism in cities and the impact they have on crime rates. If people saw an increased level of vandalization, then it could normalize committing crimes around people’s homes and workplaces. Broken windows in houses, as the prominent example, could encourage crime, according to Simply Psychology


Although the latter result seems probable, it has been shown that there is no causational relationship between an increase in vandalism and an increase in crime. If Pittsburgh was to adhere to this theory, the city would be focusing on the wrong aspect. The city would be focusing on increased criminalization, rather than supporting Pittsburghers through providing resources. 


If people in the city of Pittsburgh were given more access to affordable housing, income assistance-based programs and safer places to live, then there would be little to no reason for people to indulge in any type of public drinking, loitering or vandalizing business properties. 


The theory goes more into depth to say these behaviors are exhibited as social disorders. Social control and social conformity is needed in order to use fear to curb people’s willingness to commit crimes. Community members should not have to abide by social normalities in order to be “law-abiding” citizens. 


Pittsburgh does seemingly little to repair gaps in varying communities. If the city itself does not take social responsibility, then BIPOC and low-income individuals are often going to be blamed for an increase in crime. In certain Pittsburgh neighborhoods, houses can be seen without windows, their foundations sinking, covered in chipped and faded paint. Once gorgeous, massive Victorian homes are now being neglected in favor of luxury apartments. High-end apartments can be built with cheap materials, but renters will still be charged triple the amount of their worth because of the area of the city they are built into. 


Pittsburgh houses naturally become damaged homes because there is a lack of affordability to fix early 1900s furnaces, plumbing and foundational cracks or leaks. Areas which were once beautiful, famous areas such as the Hill District, McKees Rocks and Southside neighborhoods, are now areas to be avoided, according to older Yinzers. 


The Broken Window Theory could continue to damage Pittsburgh’s reputation as a “Most Livable City.” If people or places are never given a chance to be seen in a non-violent light, then there is little room for growth in an area which has not been given a chance to become a hipster destination. 


A city does not have to exhibit low-crime rates in order to be a well-maintained, successful, trusted environment for all people. Young professionals, families, older generations and everyone in between deserves respect and should love the environment they live in.

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