In “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey offers to throw a lasso around the moon for Mary, the girl he loves. But if you recall that classic Frank Capra scene, you will recall that right before that moment George and Mary both throw rocks through the windows of the “ole Granville place.” It makes for a remarkable scene in the movie, but it’s indicative of a real world social behavior.
In 1982, James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling published an article about the “broken window effect.” They postulated that a major determiner of a person’s action were social norms, and when those norms showed a lack of order and social monitoring, people were more likely to break established rules. George and Mary threw those rocks at the house because most of the windows were already broken by other people, and no one was likely to stop them.
If an area becomes acquainted to or begins to accept instances of crime as a norm, and individuals feel that monitoring is lax, criminal acts will become more pervasive.
In reaction to this theory, many major cities have taken action to try and eliminate instances of vandalism and other property crimes by actively revitalizing run-down areas. With this method, areas once prone to graffiti or gang violence no longer are, and citizens who were once frightened to take an active and engaged roll in their community feel more in-tune with the places they live.
It seems there are increasingly more and more stories about crime here in our little part of the world; In a place many once felt completely safe with doors unlocked. These very pages tell the tale, one that years ago we might never have thought could be told in our little towns. These are the stories we should not allow to become the norm here.
Work with us to unbreak the windows of Wetzel County. Look around your neighborhood and find the “broken windows” out there and fix them. Plant a nice garden where there are now only grown-up weeds, or paint a facade that has become weathered with age. Make our community one that others will respect. Don’t be afraid to be good citizens and assist our law enforcement officers in routing those who may still wish to do nefarious deeds. With these simple actions, the tides can turn and the idyllic little town in the hills can make a resurgence.