Marketing Idea No. 82 – Crimebusting, New York Style

The transparency and corruption index just came out. But what if we do a safety index? After the tragic killing of a teacher of NSU, we need to ask ourselves – how much worse can it get? Is pepper spray the future of our handbag content? Even more important….is there a way out? 

If you are an ex-mayor and an ex-head of police department of New York city, you would say an emphatic yes. Crime can be stopped by being innovative. 

In the early 90s crime in New York city was on the up like the popularity of an attractive cheerleader. It was everywhere. Everyday there was mugging, killing, gang warfare, rapes. It was a crazy time in the vicinity of Time Square.  Then all of a sudden the crime rate dropped. The question in every thankful lip was what happened. 

Well what happened can be explained by a theory called “Broken Windows” theory, which is the brainchild of criminologist James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. They argued that crime is the inevitable result of disorder. If a window in a house is broken for a long time, when people simply walk by it they will think that none cares. Soon more and more windows will be broken and that sense of anarchy will spread from the house to the streets. In terms of crime, it means  

  1. Simple petty crimes like drawing graffity in walls and groping can lead to violent crimes like killing during mugging.
  2. Crime is contagious just like fashion.

Rudolph Giuliani (Mayor), David Gunn (Subway director, New York Transit Authority) and William J. Bratton (Head of Police) applied this “Broken Window” theory in New York city. What they did at times seemed more puzzling and trivial than logical. 

  1. The police chief traveled in subway trains for hours looking for clues for minor crimes
  2. He focused on minor crimes like people who traveled without fare, people who just pop-up during signal to wash the window of the cars and demand money, people who peed in the streets etc.
  3. He focused on efficiency like getting mobile police vans. Rather than taking the criminals to the police headquarters, he took the quarters to the criminal – and thus saved a lot of time, which the police officers used to crack down more criminals

 And it worked like magic. The means may be confusing, but the results are fantastic. None thought crime rates would drop in NY, but it did. So what do we learn from this example that we can apply? 

  1. Minor crimes leads to violent crimes. So if we can put an end to minor crimes like peeing in streets, groping girls during shopping we can put a brake on more violent crimes
  2. It is not needed to crack down every criminal. You just need to send a signal that the Police is alert and patrolling. That alone will put off the criminals
  3. Even with limited resources you can be very effective. By being innovative and efficient, even with limited budget and resources we can make headway against crime.

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