Wednesday, September 05, 2007


I wish our city officials would soon realize how important it is to immediately fix or replace broken street signs, light bulbs in our lamp posts, potholes, or anything else that may somehow compromise the overall pleasant appearances of our neighborhoods. Stringent measures must also be adopted so as to prevent thefts of our manhole covers, street signage, lamp post parts, and etc.

In New York City, there is a common belief that broken stuff like windows that are left in disrepair only inspire those inclined toward petty crimes to commit further similar offenses -- graffitti, vandalism, littering, and etc. Consequently, procrastination or complete disregard only contributes to the inevitable decline of the general appearance of a neighborhood; worse, it reflects indifference or a nobody cares attitude by local residents, which in turn, encourage petty criminals to commit even more serious crimes such as burglary, mugging, assault, rape, and etc.

The New York Transit Authority once was confronted with what seemed to be an insurmountable dilemma with graffitti, vandalism, and public urination. Nonetheless, it was able to solve it effectively and for good when it adopted a Zero Tolerance policy.

The first step it implemented was to clean up and perform all necessary repairs on all subway cars and stations; even refusing to allow a subway car out of the yard even if only defaced with a single graffitti. Eventually, the city's efforts were rewarded with significant reduction in the amount of petty crimes on its subway system, as well as a drastic drop in incidences of violent crimes.

Perhaps, if applied locally, Manilenyos will begin to enjoy an even more pleasant city with no more darkened streets and missing road signs, as well as reduced chances of becoming crime victims.


posted by Señor Enrique at 5:30 AM


Blogger Urbano dela Cruz said...

broken windows theory, which Malcolm Gladwell covered well in Tipping Point. But was questioned as the primary cause in the drop in crime stats by the Freaknomics guys.

September 05, 2007 9:20 AM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

Naku, tell that to the authorities of MMDA. They are largely responsible for putting up some hideous, albeit senseless and dangerous, additions to our cityscape. Just to remind fences, pink urinals, and those "Metro Gwapo" murals.

September 05, 2007 9:47 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My memory must be failing me now, Urbano, but I don't remember Malcolm Gladwell dedicating a chapter on the broken windows theory -- I do remember his mention of Hush Puppies and New York's Lower East Side. Perhaps, he wrote about broken windows theory in his New Yorker articles?

As for the Freakanomic guys, I don't think abortion had anything to do with the astonishing successful effects of NYC's Zero Tolerance policy. For example, the IRT subway line revealed marked improvements in only a couple of months since the inception of this policy, and nowadays not a single car is defaced with vandalism.

I am, however, surprised that you dind't toss in three additional names into the mix -- Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

September 05, 2007 11:21 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Scrooch!

Believe it or not, Bayani Fernando I'd vote for president should he run for office. Considering that he has to deal with the overblown egos of Metro Manila mayors just to do his job, I'd say he's quite gutsy. And let's not forget what he had done in Marikina much to the great delight of its populace.

As for his penchant for the color pink, it's all right with me -- after all, pink is the new black ... hehehe.

September 05, 2007 11:33 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Incidentally, I had previously blogged about freakanomics, "Freakanomics on Crime and Abortion," September 07, 2006.

September 05, 2007 11:47 AM  

Anonymous kyels said...

True enough that broken things should be repaired to counter crimes from happening. After all, prevention is definitely better than cure.

September 05, 2007 12:35 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The pitiful state of NY's subway system was truly dismaying, Kyels, and a source of great embarrassment to city officials. Thank God for that broken window theory that was put into practice.

Interestingly, my mother doesn't want to hold on to chipped plates, mugs or glasses. Not only can they cause harm, she claims, but they can be harbingers of bad luck, too. So she says :)

September 05, 2007 12:56 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am no longer familiar with the streets in Manila and I found driving at night is even worse when the streets are dark and the street signs are either broken or missing :)

September 05, 2007 2:07 PM  

Blogger tet said...

pinas eh. even manholes pinagkakakitaan sa atin. :-(

September 05, 2007 2:49 PM  

Anonymous Toe said...

I think Urbano Dela Cruz might be correct. I do recall the Broken Windows Theory and it must have been on one of the first few chapters of Tipping Point. Oh, I just love walking on the streets of New York.

I agree that the Zero Tolerance policy should be applied in Metro Manila. Naku, I wonder when I would be able to walk along its streets feeling safe at night.

In Bangkok, the king told the Thais... clean up Bangkok... and because they love him, they did. That was all there is to it. :) We have no one like that.

September 05, 2007 3:46 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Quite a lot of work ahead...

September 05, 2007 3:50 PM  

Anonymous Shutter Box Philippines said...

I believe that those street signs should be fixed.

It is an unfortunate truth though that in some localities in the country there are no street signs to be fixed because they don't even have street signs!

September 05, 2007 5:02 PM  

Blogger Urbano dela Cruz said...


have you been to NYC recently? the graffiti is back on the subway lines. The vandals have learned to scratch the glass and the chrome. They've slacked off on the zero-tolerance for graffiti since Bratton left for L.A.

Gladwell covered Broken Windows in Chapter 4: The Power of Context.

I actually agree with both Gladwell AND Levin and Dubner. Both books are right. I even think that Nevin and Reyes were also right in that maybe lead (or the lack of it) had something to do with the drop in crime.

There are no panaceas to complex urban problems -but we must always be looking for better solutions. -And that includes, as you say, a zero tolerance for decay and disorder.

September 05, 2007 6:46 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

It makes sense so much---the Zero Tolerance rule---because it is but consequential for petty criminals to be encourage if he or she sees disarray all around, like there is no form of order around whatsoever.

If ever Mayor Lim wants to be really Dirty harry and be so strict, then he could do it best in this manner.

September 05, 2007 7:43 PM  

Anonymous lino said...

honga eric. i remember when we rode the subway in new york, medyo nakakatakot. unlike yung Metro sa Washington DC at yung sa San Francisco, medyo mas malinis at di ganun ka eerie. I hope na makarating sa authorities tong post mo, para magka idea sila... :D

September 05, 2007 8:59 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

During the first couple of years since my having moved back here, BW, I didn't drive anywhere at night without the company of someone savvy enough with the streets of Metro Manila. It was too confusing and seemingly perilous, especially for someone coming from a city with well-endowed and -maintained infrastructure.

September 05, 2007 9:09 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

As long as there are willing "fences," Tet, there will be petty thieves.

Incidentally, in this morning's news, they showed two guys apprehended for stealing the electrical cables stolen from those lamp posts along Baywalk.

I think they should also arrest those legitimate merchants who purchase these stolen items from these thieves.

September 05, 2007 9:12 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Well, in that case, my memory had, in fact, failed me then, Urbano.

Haven't been back to NYC in a couple of years, but if it is indeed true that graffiti is back on those subway cars and stations, then I ought to feature those three names I had mentioned.

Perhaps, we should bring Bratton here to Manila :)

September 05, 2007 9:15 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Unfortunately, Toe, we have no king or no true leader charismatic enough to influence the masses as easily and effectively as the king of Thailand.

Well, perhaps it's true then what they say about the Pinoys -- that we are the blacks of Asia; that is, we excel in singing, dancing, boxing, yet to this day remain without a "true national leader."

Sad, ain't it?

September 05, 2007 9:20 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Not really, Sidney. If it's true then what Atienza used to boast about increased revenues in the billions generated by his administration, then Manila is well-endowed enough to fund and maintain our infrastructures.

Besides, there's enough unemployed Manilenyos who'd jump at the prospect of getting hired as backup laborers in the city's engineering and maintenance departments.

In short, this can be addressed rather expeditiously provided the city wants it done, and done well.

September 05, 2007 9:25 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, true and sad, Shutter Box. That in this day and age, some of our streets and roadways remain without decent illumination.

September 05, 2007 9:26 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's right, Major Tom! And I believe Mayor Lim is the man who can implement a zero tolerance policy in Manila, and by golly, I bet other mayors of other cities, towns and municipalities will follow suit. But then again, Bayani Fernando had successfully done such in Marikina, no?

September 05, 2007 9:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Lino!

DC's metro system, much like our local LRTs here in Manila doesn't really have that much track to cover. New York City basically covers or connects the four major boroughs -- Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn with several lines, while Staten Island only has the tip-to-tip line. So, the amount of work involved in supervising and maintaining these systems is truly staggering. Also worth noting is the amount of people that they move on a daily basis -- in the millions. But then again, that is not a good enough reason to let it decay.

And I'm sorry to hear that the NY subway system is not as nice and comfortable as I had last experienced it. That's just too bad.

September 05, 2007 9:36 PM  

Blogger Urbano dela Cruz said...

Add to that -DC's Metro is new. They started work in the late 80s so they had the chance to build it as a whole system.

NYC's dates back to the late 1800s and was cobbled from at least 5 private lines.

You haven't seen horrible until you ride Boston's T though. Only the Red Line is passable. The rest are on this side of horrendous.

September 05, 2007 11:22 PM  

Blogger Urbano dela Cruz said...

btw, have you seen IndioSign's post on the design IQ of the MRT?

September 05, 2007 11:25 PM  

Blogger Urbano dela Cruz said...

(senor, not sure if my other comment got in -so am just reposting -UDC)

add to that -DC's system is new. They began building it in the late 80s so they had the luxury of building a whole system.

NYC's dates back to the late 1800s -and was cobbled together from at least 5 private lines.

If you want to see scary (read: undependable) you should try the Boston T. Only the Red Line (that serves Cambridge) is passable.

September 05, 2007 11:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks for these URLS, Urbano!

I have actually taken some guerilla-style shots of MRT and LRT2, which I intend to feature. I will soon enough now that I have an interesting article (The design IQ of the MRT) to link the entry with. Haven't read it thoroughly, but will do so tomorrow am when my eyes and mind are fresh :)

Again, may thanks for such illuminating comments and URLS :)

September 06, 2007 12:02 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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