If you believe in the "broken windows" theory of crime, build better neighborhoods with green spaces.
Defund the police, fund the parks.
A few days ago, I observed that the subway train in Sofia, Bulgaria, is cleaner and safer than the MTA in New York City. The intercoms work. The trains are on time. And a light, metal barrier descends at the busy stations to keep people from falling—or being pushed—onto the tracks.
It made me get a little Freakonimics-y: Meaning, it’s made me think about simple solutions to the seemingly intractable problem of violent crime. First off, no one has a gun, so there’s that. Also most people take care of their crazy relatives for better or worse. You hope your alcoholic uncle won’t heap shame upon the family, but you don’t usually kick him out into the street. Unfortunately, both common sense gun control and making people take care of the crazy uncle appear to be beyond the purview of United States lawmakers. But there are nevertheless other, simpler, less expensive things than caging more people than any country on earth. And we choose not to do them.
This morning, I went for a run here. It’s a giant forrest walking distance from where I’m staying, but also just three short stops away from the center of the city. Bulgaria has a lot of green spaces, and also a big culture of hiking and skiing.
In New York City, the finance capitol of the world, rich people have Central Park. Other rich people have Prospect Park. When rich people started moving downtown, Michael Bloomberg gave them the Highline. Poor people don’t have any of that. Most of Queens has more graveyards than parks, unless you think of them as parks for rich dead people. When I lived at the juncture of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, the closest park was two miles away and with no easy way to get there.
And I was a stress case. Once I was walking to the train and a guy clearly just released from the psych ward threw a cup of hot coffee in my face. I’d almost get hit by a car every. single. time, I left the house, because the streets are designed so poorly they’re full of blindspots and also people drive insanely fast and seem to view stop signs as suggestions. The final straw was a violent crime I don’t write about publicly. I was in constant fight-or-flight mode.
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