Mounties discuss theory

RCMP discussed a crime prevention theory called the "broken window theory"

Port Hardy RCMP Staff Sgt. Gord Brownridge and Const. Rob Brennan appeared at the June 18 District of Port Hardy Operational Services Committee meeting where they discussed the ‘Broken Window’ theory.

The theory is that maintaining and monitoring urban environments prevents small crimes such as vandalism and public drinking, and helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.

The theory was introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Since then it has been subject to debate and the theory has been used for several reforms in criminal policy.

The idea, said Brownridge in an interview, is that if owners don’t care about their property, other people don’t respect it or care for it either.

Brownridge said the City of Nanaimo, for instance, had an issue with people tagging electrical and other boxes with graffiti.

“You drive downtown now and they have really nice murals on their electrical and hydro boxes. It is very decorative and that kind of thing really cuts down on graffiti,” Brownridge said.

The Port Hardy RCMP are hoping to encourage business and homeowners to clean up their properties in an effort “to discourage unsocial activity in that area,” he said.

It’s just one more tool “in a multifaceted approach that we’re taking on those issues. You use everything you can,” said Brownridge.

Brennan told the committee that detachment members have spoken to local business owners and the Rotary Club about things they can do to clean up areas regardless of ownership.

Brennan said the RCMP would also like to partner with the District to clean up the affected areas, in the hopes that if areas are cared for they will no longer attract pubic intoxication.

Allison McCarrick, director of Financial Services, said the District does have an Unsightly Premises bylaw that can be enforced. Typically a letter is sent to the owner asking them to clean up the property by a certain date. If the owner does not comply, either public works or a contractor is called in to clean it up and the cost is added to the owner’s property tax account.

The committee voted to circulate the Broken Window report to staff to identify the owners of problem sites and come back with a recommendation on how to proceed with cleaning them up.