How Do You Save a Neighborhood?

In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, he talks about how New York reduced it’s crime rate by a substantial amount in the 1990’s by implementing some simple yet very powerful tactics.  One of those was to keep the Subways clean.  Based on the concept developed by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 article titled Broken Windows, by eliminating the small offenses (such as a broken window) it is much more difficult to commit the larger more serious ones.

In January of 2007 Maclean’s magazine wrote an article titled Canada’s Worst Neighborhood which described the North Central Regina neighborhood.  Since then many changes have come about for the better but there is still much work to be done.  Here’s my thought experiment for the day, it’s now your job to let me know if it’s feasible or not.

  1. High school kids are looking for jobs
  2. Neighborhoods need work to be done but the majority of home owners can not afford to pay professionals
  3. Considering the broken window theory, if we made neighborhoods look good they would be less prone to serious crime

If someone started a non-profit organization supported by the city or donations, these low skilled laborers could learn to paint, fix fencing, basic landscaping, simple carpentry, and gardening.  Having these teams of workers going from yard to yard throughout the central area for the two summer months could help immensely in the long run.  Ensuring the work was of a certain standard these mobile work camps would provide jobs, teach teens new skills, and help our communities where they need it most.  The only thing missing is someone to start and run this program.  Thoughts?

9 replies
  1. Umbra
    Umbra says:

    Good idea, but you still have to factor in the general reluctance among teenagers (in general, not picking on any one city or area of a city) to engage in such activities. “Pride” in one’s neighborhood does exist, but it is lacklustre among the younger population.

    I’m not one to agree that coercion is a workable solution, but it seems to me that a partnership between the venture and the justice system would increase the chance of success for this idea. At present, offenders are allowed (and in most cases, “lovingly coerced”) to engage in alternative measures programs (many of which mirror the concept you are purporting)

    I think funneling some of those youth into a venture such as yours would accomplish several objectives:

    1) Provision of a certain level of manpower for the project

    2) Fostering (hopefully) a sense of pride in one’s neighborhood at the completion of said projects

    3) Repeat Volunteers – We want these youth out of the cycle of “destroy property, end up in court, repeat” and into “rebuild property, end up with life skills, repeat”

    It’s not an easy task; you need the right person. As you’ve stated (and I agree), you need someone:

    a) Committed and willing to help the neighborhood in question

    b) With the skillset needed to effectively manage such a venture


  2. Zink
    Zink says:

    I was talking to my dad and apparently the fire department and The city of Regina got on board with this a while ago. Not necessarily “Broken Window” theory but still along the same lines.

    They noticed that the North Central Population obviously had artistic kids that did a lot of Graffiti. They also had a huge problem with back alley garbage cans being burnt down.

    The solution was to combine the two problems. They allowed the kids to spray paint the garbage bins. In turn what used to be a victimless crime of burning down garbage cans now possessed a human element which drove down garbage can burning and graffiti in the area dropped dramatically as well. Regina got it right. Now to bad that was years ago and we never really heard much about it.

    It’s time for round two Jeff , and that’s you
    .-= Zink´s last blog ..Dashboard Confessional – Alter the ending =-.

  3. Jeph
    Jeph says:

    Thanks for the comment Umbra, you bring up some great points that I will have to pass on if we can find someone to go through with this. Also, partnering with the justice system makes sense, I think the next step would be convincing them to get on board.


  4. Jeph
    Jeph says:

    Sean, definitely seems like a project Adam could tackle. I’m not sure if you’d want to make it “low” profit, non-profit would make it more legitimate and ensure that the person running this program wasn’t trying to get rich off high-school labour. HA! thanks for your comment.

  5. Jeph
    Jeph says:

    Zink, I would love to go through with it but work is far too bust right now. I would like to be directly involved though. I would like to build at least a ten year plan for it though to ensure it doesn’t fizzle away like the last attempt. Smart idea with the garbage cans though!
    Thanks for your comment.

  6. Ryan Holota
    Ryan Holota says:

    Neat idea. I’m against government directly funding the idea as it would create competition against private enterprise, but there is ample room for industry to get involved. Not only would this idea spur economic development, it would also be an excellent recruiting project for the trades who are hurting for young people.

    If government would support this by clearing red tape and supporting business in the right way, it would have an excellent chance of working.

  7. Mitch Gallant
    Mitch Gallant says:

    I think this is a remarkable idea. I believe there are hundreds of local corporate sponsors who would be able to help with not only man power but stuff like marketing and branding, creating a documentary, vehicles, lunches and the whole 9 yards.

    To piggy back off sean stefan’s comment, and take a page from Cloud 9 (or use them) is awesome. That got so much publicity and, I think, created an appetite for business to get involved with this type of sponsorship.

    The difference is one time shot vs. ongoing revitalization.

    If there’s anything I can do to help or you’re looking for sponsors we have a Capital Cares committee that I’m involved with, and that I’d be happy to pitch to.

  8. Jeph
    Jeph says:

    Hey Mitch, thanks for your thoughts. I’ll make sure to let you know if anything comes of this. It seems like such a good idea, just need a company or someone to champion the program. The proof would be in measuring if in fact it improves on the terrible crime rate we have. If it does, well, we just created a framework for other cities to follow to lower crime rates.
    Thanks again!

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