Re fighting crime - Does anything really work if demographics don't change?

I was reading about the precipitous drop in crime during the first tenure of Rudy Giuliani as Mayor of New York with Police Chief William Bratton trying the "broken windows" theoryof crime fighting.

While I wouldn’t call it a consensus there seems to be a large group of people who claim the effectiveness of the broken windows methodology in fighting crime is a false correlation, and that overall crime rates are in truth much more a function of economic and demographic factors, such as the crack epidemic abating, and other social changes moving through society rather than whatever type of policing is being implemented.

Per programs like “broken windows” is more intensive policing of small crimes so you don’t get bigger crimes over rated as crime fighting technique?

Just came in to mention this.

All the ookiness at the top of the page is daunting; but they list numerous cites.

However, that’s not really what you’re asking. By and large, I think it is definitely overrated and probably wrong. It is true specifically with respect to vandalism that, once a place is torn up, anything goes. But at the same time, I think that, the more that police are seen as acting unfairly or discriminatorily (i.e., shaking down groups of black teenagers who are just standing on a corner, pulling people over for DWB, taking people to jail for a joint, etc.), the more that there will be a generalized disrespect for the law and the community.

Thats not my understanding of the stats at all (but as you say there is no consensus). I thought (as described in the book Freakonomics) that William Bratton’s methods did in fact contribute to the drop in crime, but “broken windows theory” had nothing to do with it, it was simply that his methods involved large increases in the number of police on the beat.

IMHO every five-year-old knows what deters misbehavior, and it’s the only thing that really does: is someone going to catch me right now if I do this?

Broken window theory may indeed create the impression people are looking out for the area (and thus you are more likely to be caught). But generally increases in draconian penalties don’t seem to deter, nor do increases in standard of living (look at Bear Stearns and all those rich white guys looting the country.) The only real deterrent is, “is somebody watching me?”