Location of Analysis
The walkway between Dalhousie Crescent and E.P. Taylors is a very big debate in the community, due to concerns over its safety. The walkway has been deemed unsafe, due to the high amount of crime, unmaintained property, litter, as well as improper lights, security and cameras. A noticeable lack of police enforcement is also causing a lot of the issues, because people do not feel they will be reprimanded for their actions. The litter and unmaintained property is causing a considerable amount of concern in the area, and it is believed that more police enforcement will improve the respect that the public has for the walkway. However, a considerable amount of neglect has left the property looking unpresentable, and this has attracted a high amount of crime, and fear in the community.
This area was chosen for analysis because it is such a prominent location in the city, and it is one that I have personal experience walking down. The city made an attempt at improving the area early in 2013, but it has still fallen into disarray (Janmaat, 2011). The walkway is near to a college campus, and so it has a high amount of foot traffic. Due to this fact, there is a likely increase in the amount of litter that is on the property. This abundance of garbage likely makes people feel more inclined to not respect the area, and this only leads to more garbage. Furthermore, the fact that the campus is near a college could have something to do with the high amount of crime in the area. Many alcohol bottles have been noticed on the walkway, and this is likely connected to young males drinking. This demographic has the highest likelihood of drinking and doing drugs (Kelling and Wilson, 1982). That can often result in crime. Several fights have broken out in the area, and the community, in general, is the product of alcohol-related vehicle accidents, (Janmaat, 2011).
Preliminary Observation of the Area
The pathway is about 200 metres long by two metres wide, and it flows from Dalhousie Crescent to E.P Taylors. The path is made out of concrete, and it is fenced in on the Dalhousie side. The path has a fence that is eight feet high. There are three square lights that line the area and they include the wooden fence. A couple of street lights are overlooking the E.P Taylors are of the path, in the part that intersects with a road that flows to the Gordon Wiley building. Three cement pillars are located on both sides of the walkway, and this prevents large vehicles from travelling through. About 320 people walk through the area, as observed during regular class hours between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. That would be over 2,500 people in a period of 8 hours on a school day. Far fewer people were observed walking the path at night. Around 63% of those who used the path were males. Many of the people using the path were observed heading to the school gym. Graffiti was visible on the fence, depicting “666.” A coin-operated newspaper rack is also on the path, and there is graffiti on that. Furthermore, broken glass and garbage was littered in various locations on the Dalhousie side of the walkway. Finally, there is no visible security that would deter crime, and this could be why there is so much litter and graffiti.
In the 1982 article “Broken Windows,” George Kelling and James Wilson make the assertion that tolerating petty crimes and disorders only encourages the occurrence of more serious crimes. According to the writers, the level of community anxiety is remedied when police perform regular foot patrols. While crime rates did not decrease due to police foot patrols, the authors point out, the general well-being of the community seemed to increase. While there are some solid cases against implementing foot patrols, the authors are successful at convincing the reader that, underneath the surface of fighting crime, foot patrols are important in establishing neighbourhoods where people feel safe and, thus, crime is eventually deterred.
However, not everyone agrees that foot patrol is an effective way at increasing the well-being of the city’s residents, and it is not effective at reducing crime. In fact, foot patrol was essentially disregarded by the police force, at least with many police chiefs who made their voices heard. “It reduced the mobility of the police, who thus had difficulty responding to citizen calls for service, and it weakened headquarters control over patrol officer,” (Kelling and Wilson, 1982). Also, many of the police officers did not want to do foot patrol because they are often difficult due to weather and the potential of limiting an officer to make a “good pinch.” However, as the authors point out, the State of New Jersey implemented their “Safe and Clean Neighborhoods Program,” which they believed would improve the quality of the community life in 28 municipalities throughout the state. The research accumulated five years after the implementation of the program indicated there was not a reduction in the crime rate, but people in the neighborhoods where foot patrol was used felt much safer. Those same people also felt that crime had been reduced, even though it had not. Prior to the foot patrols, some people in specific neighborhoods felt like they had to stay home and lock the doors. But they felt much more at ease, and went out more, after the foot patrols were implemented. Furthermore, people living in the areas where foot patrol was used had a better opinion about police than people who lived elsewhere. But the positive impact was not only felt by the average residents, the police also had a higher morale in the force, a better attitude about the citizens and greater job satisfaction than the officers who were assigned to their patrol cars. While this information provides some explanation as to why the foot patrols were implemented, the authors need to approach each argument that the police force has made against foot patrol. Several key counter-arguments are made in the text.
The authors point out the counter-argument that police officers might also be skeptical about the effectiveness of the foot patrol on community fear, which the harshest skeptic could identify. “A determined skeptic might acknowledge that a skilled foot-patrol officer can maintain order but still insist that this sort of ‘order’ has little to do with the real sources of community fear – that is, with violent crime,” (Kelling and Wilson, 1982).
The disgruntled police chiefs, as the writers also point out, believe that there is as much attention given to the streets by motorized-patrol officers, as there is foot patrol officers. While the writers admit that an officer in a squad car is essentially able to observe as much as an officer on foot and both can talk to the same number of people, but the relationship that the police and the citizens have is severely changed because of the automobile. “An officer on foot cannot separate himself from the street people if he is approached, only his uniform and his personality can help him manage whatever is about to happen,” (Kelling and Wilson, 1982). The writers add that the police officer is also not able to see what type of encounter they will have.
However, these arguments are refuted by the writers. They note, for one, that the findings actually support the police who said the patrols do not decrease crime. “These findings may be taken as evidence that the skeptics were right – foot patrol has no effect on crime; it merely fools the citizens into thinking that they are safer,” (Kelling and Wilson, 1982). But as the writers point out, the citizens were not actually fooled. In fact, the writers’ opinion is supported by the Police Foundation study that investigated the new policing format and its results, (Cookson, 2008, and Prenzler, 2007). The citizens were aware of what the foot patrol officers were doing, and they knew that the neighborhoods were safer by having the officers walk the streets. As the authors point out, the neighborhoods were actually safer even though there was not a decrease in crime. This is because many people were concerned about being harassed by people who are not necessarily criminal, but are instead people who are considered a nuisance but are not committing a crime. That could include drunks, panhandlers, rowdy teenagers, loiterers, prostitutes or the mentally disturbed. By having the police on the streets, the occurrence of people being bothered by one of these people is much lower than if the police were not on the streets, the authors point out.
In addressing the criticism from the harshest critic, which we have considered to be the police force, who say the foot patrols are not effective, the authors say there are two components that critics need to consider. “First, outside observers should not assume that they know how much of the anxiety now endemic in many big-city neighborhoods stems from a fear of ‘real’ crime and how much from a sense that the street is disorderly, a source of distasteful, worrisome encounters,” (Kelling and Wilson, 1982). The writers argue that the people of Newark hold the value of public order very highly and they are put at ease when the police are there to assist them. The authors also argue that at the community level, there is usually a close link between disorderly behaviour and criminal activity. In taking their point a step further, the authors use a study that a Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo conducted, where he left relatively identical vehicles in the Bronx and in Palo Alto, California. He wanted to see if there would be the destruction of the vehicle in an area that is free from police monitoring, while being safe in an area where there was not police monitoring. This study is effective at proving the authors’ point because it showed that the vehicle in the Bronx was completely torn apart within an hour, while the car in Palo Alto was only vandalized after Zimbardo himself started hitting it with a sledgehammer – “the nature of community life in the Bronx – its anonymity, the frequency with which cars are abandoned and things are stolen or broken, the past experience of ‘no one caring’ – vandalism begins much more quickly than it does in staid Palo Alto, where people have come to believe that private possessions are cared for, and that mischievous behavior is costly,” (Kelling and Wilson, 1982).
The authors have provided convincing evidence through a thorough analysis of the research and opposition to their claims. By bringing up the various counter-arguments to their claims, and establishing their own opinions’ superiority to those counter-arguments, the writers have successfully convinced their audience that foot patrols are worthwhile and beneficial to communities, and this could be applied to the walkway at Dalhousie.
But while the foot patrols reduce the perception of crime, and help manage some of the debauchery that takes place, some of the criminal behaviour on the path also needs attention. Much of the crime in the area is likely due to drinking, because of the prevalence of alcohol cans and bottles in the area. Most of the time, injuries related to alcohol are caused by drinking a lot in a single occasion, (Irving, et. al., 2009, and Sacks et. al., 2013). In order to reduce the risks associated with consuming alcohol, safety adjustments need to be done on a societal level and an individual level. “No level of consumption is safe when driving and less than two drinks per occasion should be encouraged to reduce the risk of injury” (Irving, et. al., 2009). The research reveals much of the same claims that Sacks et. al. made, about the dangers of binge drinking and the association it has with the vast majority of injuries and deaths related to alcohol consumption. This is not a recent development; in fact, binge drinking is to blame for the vast majority of alcohol-related injuries over the past 40-50 years, and this research is extensive to various countries and cultural boundaries, (Irving, et. al., 2009).
Alcohol has a stranglehold on the well-being of not only the young males, but of society as a whole. Sacks et. al. provides an analysis on the governmental costs associated with excessive drinking. According to the research, $223.5 billion was spent on the consequences of excessive drinking in the United States in 2006. Additionally, drinking an excess of alcohol is responsible for about 80,000 deaths every year, (Sacks et. al., 2013). In addition to the sheer number of deaths that are caused, alcohol abuse increases healthcare costs due to chronic health issues and injuries from its abuse. Each state in the U.S. is responsible for paying many of the costs associated with alcohol abuse, and this averaged about $2.9 billion per year in 2006. In fact, California spent $31.9 billion. Binge drinking was responsible for about 76.6% of those costs, (Sacks et. al., 2013).
This research was valuable at specifying the price the American government has to pay for particular types of drinking. For example, binge drinking cost $170.7 billion in the U.S. in 2006, (Sacks et. al., 2013). That research helps provide an idea about where to focus in order to prevent such a high death and injury toll, as well as the high costs, and the challenges associated with the troubled walkway. With binge drinking accounting for about 76.6% of the governmental costs associated with alcohol, addressing that specific issue can solve much of the problem, (O’Shae, 2000). A solution to limiting the costs to the state include increasing the alcohol excise taxes, and limiting the allowable density of alcohol. Additionally, more liability for expenses associated with over-drinking could be placed on the commercial vendor who sold the alcohol; “… that can help reduce excessive alcohol use and the associated economic costs” (Sacks et. al., 2013).
Proposed Plan of Action
Solving some of the problems associated with binge drinking at the college could help improve the area. If there is fewer funds dedicated to alcohol-related accident relief, then there could be more attention given to adding foot patrol to the neighbourhood. An excessive amount of binge drinking is causing extra expenses to society, due to medical attention because of fights and vehicle accidents. More than one organization should be responsible for fixing this problem. The school should take responsibility promoting safe drinking. This could help limit the amount of alcohol the students are consuming, and the resulting garbage and unsafe feeling in the neighbourhood.
Another important addition to the fight against minor and major crime in the area is increasing police foot patrols. The research showed that the Broken Windows Theory is typically responsible for a high amount of vandalism, garbage, and graffiti that was identified as adding to the sense that this walkway is unsafe. In order to help ensure the people feel safe in the area, a regular police foot patrol should be implemented along the walkway. This will likely make people feel a lot safer. It will also likely decrease the amount of loitering, and help improve the treatment of the path. Once the perception is there that the city will not tolerate disorderly conduct along the path, as well as vandalism and littering, the path will likely become much safer. As “Broken Windows” pointed out, the patrol does not do a lot to deter crime, but it does create the perception that the area is much safer. This is partially due to the fact that there is a decrease in the amount of loitering, and other behaviour that makes people feel unsafe, but is not against the law.
Furthermore, the municipality could make a better effort at cleaning up the pathway. It is only natural that a large amount of litter would accumulate on a pathway that is very busy, particularly one where people are often eating on the run, such as a college. The city should place one garbage can at either end of the pathway, so that people have a place to toss their trash, rather than putting it somewhere along the path, where it might not be as obvious. Also, the city should hire someone from the public works department to walk the path occasionally in order to ensure there is no garbage. The cans should be attractive, so people will notice them, and they will respect the area a bit more.
Also, the city should equip lighting in the pathway, while there is already lighting at either end, placing additional lighting in the pathway will help ensure that people are not tempted to write graffiti on the fence late at night. The lights will help illuminate these possible vandals, and make sure they do not feel free from public scrutiny when they are applying the spray paint.
Finally, while it would have been beneficial for the city to leave some bushes or grass at either side of the pathway, it can fix this aesthetic problem by painting the fence with images, because people are likely less willing to spray paint over art, than they are to spray paint over a fence that is not very attractive.
All of these recommendations stack up with what was recorded in the literature review. For example, the literature says that making a community more beautiful will decrease the amount of vandalism and general misuse. Also, having a person patrolling in order to ensure that there is the proper use of the area will be effective. As the literature points out, this type of situation is not new, and the aforementioned tasks have been proven in the literature to be effective.
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