Why we need to clean up our streets

Have you ever thought about the link between litter and gun violence? Most people agree those are both things that we want to eliminate. But as we get ready for the big Earth Day rally, consider this: back in the 80s, a couple of criminologists (people who study crime, cool job!), researched a theory that says that the state of an urban environment directly influences disorderly behavior there.

What does that mean? It works like this. When there’s litter on the street, according to this theory, it doesn’t just pollute the earth. It sends a signal to everyone in the neighborhood that this is the kind of place where people do whatever they want. Without even realizing it, our brains think: “Well, if people throw garbage on the ground and spray graffiti on the walls, then stealing this car isn’t a problem because I’ll fit right in here.” And before you know it people do steal, and fight, and shoot, and even kill.

Of course it’s not that simple. Click here if you want to learn more about this theory, and some of the debates surrounding it. What do you think? How do you think gun violence and litter are related?

 

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