People judge neighbourhood safety on the basis of appearance - and are accurate.

Strangers to a neighbourhood percieve signs of 'disorder' as indicators of a community that is vulnerable to criminal behaviour and lacking in safety.  Such signs include:

  • loose garbage
  • broken windows
  • unkempt lawns
  • peeling paint
  • litter

Studies of cities have shown that the maintenance of physical structures is directly correlated to the strength of ties between neighbors, which in turn is responsible for the crime level

Our willingness to establish community ties may revolves around whether or not we think our neighbors are worth investing our trust and cooperation in.  Disorderly neighborhoods tend to discourage cooperative behavior because they signal to observers that they need to be wary of others.

In the light of this research it seems folly that the waste collection systems employed by local councils in UK add to the appearance of disorder, with bins and rubbish bags present in the humblest and the most prestigious city streets.