4 Things Big Cities Can Do to Clean up Their “Bad Side” of Town

One of the most prevalent theories in creating safer neighborhoods is the “broken windows theory” which suggests that cleaner and nicer looking neighborhoods deter crime. It’s a notion that’s been integrated into modern policing, but promoting responsible behavior is something the whole community needs to take part in. Healthy communities require vigilance and civic pride. These four tips for promoting safer neighborhoods draw deeply from the broken windows policy.

Busy Streets Deter Crime


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Criminals are far less likely to engage in illicit behavior when there’s a risk of being caught, and the presence of witnesses significantly increases this risk. A study in Flint, Michigan found that incidences of crime and mental illness shrunk significantly in neighborhoods where specialized businesses were replaced by community hubs. Encouraging neighbors to engage with one another through the use of active development and hosted public events creates a tighter knit community and draws in marginalized members.

Improving the Lighting in a Neighborhood

Getting people out in the streets and engaging with their neighborhoods can help improve the quality of the area, but people need to feel safe being out and about. Brightly lit areas make criminal behavior more risky while also lending an extra level of safety to the neighborhood’s citizens. Landscape lighting design both in public spaces and private residences can help improve the aesthetic appeal of the neighborhood while also keeping criminal activity at bay. Modern landscape lighting is designed to withstand environmental damage, so there’s less need to worry about actively replacing bulbs and fixtures.

Promoting Communications Among Neighbors

Criminals thrive on confusion, but when neighbors communicate effectively with one another, everyone is better alerted to potential crimes and suspicious behavior. While traditional community watch organizations can play a big part in improving a community, technology has given us access to even more useful resources. Facebook groups and specialized social media platforms such as Nextdoor can connect neighbors who may otherwise never be in touch. Community meetings and engagement with the local police department can further turn an isolated community into a closely knit neighborhood.

Improving Government Services

Broken windows policy is more than just a job for the police and community. Active and regular trash collection services can greatly improve the appeal of a neighborhood and dissuade criminals in the process. Similarly, increasing the funds used to maintain parks can beautify an area and help reduce the stigma of it being a “bad neighborhood”. A few benches, plants, and trees can change the perception of an area in a fundamental way.

While the municipal government should play a major role to play in improving neighborhoods, it’s an effort everyone should be involved in. Engaging with your neighbors and your representatives can help you turn the public impression of your neighborhood around sharply.


Hannah WhittenlyHannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake.