The Public Interest

Disorder and the court

Catherine M. Coles & George L. Kelling

Summer 1994

In The Current debate over what to do about crime in America, national political leaders focus on the “grand” crime issues—capital punishment, gun control, the length of prison sentences, and the number of police on the streets. But on the local level, the terms of” debate are much different. There, the issues may seem relatively trivial: panhandling, lying down in public spaces, public drinking and drug use, prostitution, unsolicited window washing, public urination and defecation, loitering, and graffiti. Yet the skirmishes being fought over these issues in areas such as Boston’s Dorehester, San Francisco’s Tenderloin area, Milwaukee’s Near West Side, Seattle’s Wallingford area, and New York City’s Columbia Heights may well determine whether or not these areas continue to decay. 

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