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The Broken Windows Theory and West Virginia

There is a theory of business and crime prevention that has been written about extensively – the broken windows theory.

This theory was the foundation of the crime fighting strategy used by Rudolph Giuliani that cleaned up New York City. In this approach, instead of focusing solely on the major crimes, such as rape, murder, and armed robbery; the NYC police department also honed in on small crimes – people cleaning windows on the street expecting money, people jumping turnstiles on the subway and painting graffiti on buildings.

By addressing the small crimes, painting over the graffiti, and fixing the broken windows, Giuliani returned power to the populace and restored hope.

This story may be relevant for West Virginia.

We need to empower our citizens to realize the great opportunities to be healthier, happier, economically successful, and fit for a knowledge economy.


By starting with communities, schools, and families.

A recent report by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, reported in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, overviewed the aggregate data for West Virginia counties.

Folks in Williamson, in the southern region of the state, have realized the opportunity. They created the Williamson Health and Wellness Center and started a running club, farmers market, and a community garden. The RWJ Foundation recognized them with a Culture of Health award. They have transformed the health of their children.

Unfortunately, the rest of Mingo County, where Williamson is located, has not fared as well.

Folks in Putnam County are improving, too. More than 80 percent of people in this county graduated from high school. The Eastern Panhandle counties have better healthcare outcomes than the rest of the state.

The southern part of the state has many counties in the lower tier of the rankings, and almost 50 percent of children live in poverty.

We need to build off the bright spots in the state; empower our citizens by restoring community confidence in education, health, and economy; and return hope.

The broken windows in West Virginia have not been repaired in a number of years. The time has come. Our state’s people deserve it.

In my experience, changing outcomes involves building trust, creating an environment of success, and empowering the people you are helping.

We can do this in West Virginia and create a benchmark for the country. It is our choice, our duty, and our opportunity.

The future is now.