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Columbus Proposes 'Broken Windows' Approach To Illegal Dumping

Hilltop activist Lisa Boggs.
Nick Evans
Hilltop activist Lisa Boggs.

Columbus officials say dirty streets are providing cover for rising crime, and are launching a new initiative to combat illegal dumping.

Taking a page from the “broken windows” theory, Columbus leaders argue chronic, excessive litter is more than an image problem. They say trash strewn alleys convey neglect and invite criminal activity.

"We know that this has led to cases of arson, and provided cover for other illegal activities including drugs and prostitution," says Mayor Andrew Ginther.

Hilltop activist Lisa Boggs, who has been working to clean up the neighborhood for more than a decade, agrees. 

“They see that no one cares, so they can do whatever they want there and they do,” she says. “And they do. If they see that a neighborhood is not clean and neat they just do whatever they want to do.”

Hope City House of Prayer Pastor Brian Williams he felt the sense of neglect growing up in the Hilltop.

"As a young person, it actually kind of communicates this idea that we don't care," Williams says. "When you go to maybe more affluent areas or parts of the city and you see that it's cleaner, it gives the impression that we do care, and so as a city it’s exciting to see that we do care."

But broken windows policies, particularly in law enforcement, have come under firein recent years. Many researchers question the efficacy of focusing enforcement efforts on low-level infractions to reduce more significant crimes.

In addition to ramping up enforcement, Columbus will develop a map of hotspots based on calls to 311. In some areas they’ll replace large 300-gallon trash containers with 90-gallon bins similar to those used for recycling. The proposal would also increase surveillance, with $500,000 going to cameras trained on certain alleys and another 50 cameras for Columbus trails.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.