Sermon Illustrations

Many people remember former New York Mayor Rudy Gulliani specifically because of his leadership following the World Trade Centre attacks in September, 2001. But he will also be remembered for dramatically reducing the crime levels in New York City.

For many years New York’s reputation throughout the world was that it was a city of high crime statistics, and rightly so. Movies always portrayed the city as one that was covered in graffiti, controlled by gangs and a place that you would never walk in alone, day or night.

When Rudy Gulliani became mayor he embraced a social theory called “Broken Windows” to fight the high crime levels and attempt to improve the overall living standard of the city. From his book called “Leadership” this is how he describes “Broken Windows.”

The theory holds that a seemingly minor matter like broken windows in abandoned buildings leads directly to more serious deterioration of neighbourhoods. Someone who wouldn’t normally throw a rock at an intact building is less reluctant to break a second window in a building that already has one broken. And someone emboldened by all the second broken windows may do even worse damage if he senses that no one is around to prevent lawlessness. (Rudy Giuliani, “Leadership”, (London: Time Warner, 2002), 47)

It was an enormous task for Gulliani. One which required the co-operation of many separate departments, such as the police, sanitation, public transport and so on. All departments were told to “sweat the small stuff,” as Gulliani describes it. Seemingly ‘minor’ crimes like jaywalking and littering were cracked down upon. It was a must that any graffiti upon trains or other public places was removed immediately. Store owners whose shops needed repair were encouraged to fix their premises. Garbage removal was improved so that waste did not remain on the streets unnecessarily.

Gulliani achieved the immense task of uniting all of the various departments behind the common cause of stopping the “Broken Windows” theory in its tracks and thereby dramatically reducing the city’s crime levels.