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the walls speak

From The Economist:

“The most dramatic result, though, was the one that showed a doubling in the number of people who were prepared to steal in a condition of disorder. In this case an envelope with a €5 ($6) note inside (and the note clearly visible through the address window) was left sticking out of a post box. In a condition of order, 13% of those passing took the envelope (instead of leaving it or pushing it into the box). But if the post box was covered in graffiti, 27% did. Even if the post box had no graffiti on it, but the area around it was littered with paper, orange peel, cigarette butts and empty cans, 25% still took the envelope.
The researchers’ conclusion is that one example of disorder, like graffiti or littering, can indeed encourage another, like stealing. Dr Kelling was right. The message for policymakers and police officers is that clearing up graffiti or littering promptly could help fight the spread of crime.”

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I’m a little tired of the whole Rudy-Giuliani-broken-windows-lead-to-more-disorder kind of theory, and if these experiments weren’t so freakin’ cute, I’d say that this scientific study was a boring application of whatever research funds went to pay for it. I’m much more interested in WHAT graffiti artists decide to tag. Besides gang tags, which are used to mark turfs, usually for drug trafficking, graffiti seems to claim mostly awful examples of urban design: blank walls, false windows, dark re-entrant corners.

Maybe someone could throw some science weight behind that theory and then we’d all live in urban places where the envelope get stuffed back into the mailbox.