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Experts Explain How To Fight Crime
In a seminar held at LA NACION, three Americans spoke of their experiences trying to stem the wave of violent crime.
Starting in the sixties, life in Jersey City, a city of 250,000 residents in the northern United States, became hell. The elderly shut themselves up in their homes, children did not go to the parks, companies moved out and anyone who could got away. The reason was simple: the crime rate was going up by leaps and bounds.
Bret Schundler, mayor of this New Jersey city, and a member of the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Civic Innovation, explained yesterday how they managed to reduce violent crime by 40% without spending more money or making the police more aggressive.
The occasion was a seminar organized by LA NACION, the Liberty Foundation, the Argentine Foundation Network and the Manhattan Institute to analyze policies to curb crime in modern society.
In addition to Schundler, the speakers describing their experiences in the LA NACION auditorium were Lawrence Mone, President of the Manhattan Institute, one of the most influential organizations in the formulation of public policy in the United States, and George Kelling, a Senior Fellow at the Institute and author of the book “Fixing Broken Windows.”
Mayor Schundler said that the key to reducing the crime wave was in the fight against petty crime. For this, police officers need to break out of their isolation, get out of their patrol cars and out onto the street.
The idea was to speak to people, listen to their problems and be thoroughly familiar with the life
So the city was divided into 32 neighborhoods. Each was patrolled by three or four officers on bicycles. That’s how the police found out that young people drinking, hanging out, listening to loud music or urinating in public were the offenses that most annoyed the people in the neighborhood. And that those behaviors were the first steps on the ladder to violence.
“Enforcing the laws and making sure they were observed was the basis for reestablishing order,” stated the mayor. And along with the reduction in petty crime, they also saw a drop in more serious crimes. Little by little, peace returned to the neighborhoods of Jersey City.
“Crime is a very local phenomenon: criminals commit their crimes in areas they know. So crimes have to be dealt with locally,” stated George Kelling. The panel member underlined the importance of making sure that people know and respect the laws, before being arrested. The focus should be on crime prevention and not its subsequent punishment. This was the underlying idea, he explained, in the fight against murder, robbery and crime that plagued the New York subways, and which led ultimately to the New York subway being one of the safest transportation systems in the world today.
The experts also emphasized that children must be the first to learn and internalize the rules for living together. Education establishes the sense of responsibility and basic control in the whole of society. “Are you going to let crime reach the levels it reached in the United States?” George Kelling asked the crowded auditorium. He paused and then added, “We paid a high price.”
©2000 La Nacion
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