How would you combat urban blight, also referred to as Broken Window Syndrome?

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The idea of Broken Window Syndrome holds that small problems in a given neighborhood, such as broken windows in buildings or cars, will soon lead to other, larger problems.  The reason for this is that the small problems create a sense of lawlessness and disorder.  People who live in an area internalize that sense and act accordingly.  Therefore, the best way to combat this problem is to prevent the small problems from occurring in the first place or to make sure that they are taken care of immediately.

There are at least two ways of doing this.  First, small criminal acts can be aggressively combatted.  New York City’s police force famously did this in the early 1990s when it would go after people like the “squeegee men” who would practice borderline extortion by washing the windshields of people stuck in traffic and intimidate them into paying.  This made people feel unsafe.  The police cracked down on this and other rather petty crimes that contributed to an atmosphere of lawlessness.  Second, there can be more attention paid to the physical aspects of a neighborhood.  Landlords can be forced to fix broken windows or other such problems.  This can make the neighborhood seem more respectable and can encourage residents to act more responsibly as well.

In these ways, the broken windows syndrome can be combatted.

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