lifestyle

Flower power helps keep thieves away

17 Comments
By Mayumi Saito

Social psychologists largely agree on the Broken Window Theory -- first introduced in the United States in the 1980s -- that unattended buildings with broken windows exacerbate crime in the neighborhood. The residents of one ward in Tokyo have another theory: plant flowers around your gate and doorway.

“It’s not that flowers stop burglars. But planting and watering them with a group of people inspires communication among strangers,” says Asako Sayama, 60, who heads a volunteer group of 130 elderly neighbors to plant flowers in side streets and patrol the area near JR Koenji station in Tokyo. “I think that enhanced solidarity within the community discourages potential criminals.”

Sayama recalls her elation when a new resident told her how safe she feels to send children to school in the clean neighborhood with people keeping an eye in the back streets.

They live in one of the many districts crammed with houses along narrow streets in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, once notorious for a high occurrence of break-ins.The ward, with a population of 530,000, had a record 1,711 burglary cases in 2002, but succeeded in cutting the figure by nearly 80% to 385 cases in 2007 and 387 in 2008.

Kiyotaka Oyagi, the ward office’s security manager and an officer at the Metropolitan Police Department, attributes the sharp drop in burglaries in Suginami to multiple crime prevention measures since 2003. They include hiring veteran policemen for neighborhood watch, installing 240 surveillance cameras in cooperative areas, e-mailing the latest crime reports to residents and subsidizing 140 groups of 9,600 volunteer patrol personnel within the ward.

He explains that the “Operation Flower” campaign is one of them. It started in 2006 as the patrols surveyed 100 households that suffered break-ins in the previous year and found that few victims had flowers decked in their doorway or front yard. Oyagi’s office has been promoting the security benefits of flowers since then.

“The basis of crime prevention is to have more people on the lookout,” he says. “Those who tend flowers often spend all day outside, including on previously unmanned streets. People who take a walk could also change their routes to view the flowers. Their presence makes streets safer for the children and the elderly.”

As Oyagi emphasizes that the combination of concerned and active residents, police and surveillance cameras has led to a reduction in street crimes, Suginami Ward has brought a number of municipal officials from as far as Okinawa, Fukuoka and Shizuoka prefectures to study their success.

Meanwhile, Nerima Ward has also been distributing 300 flowerpots to be placed outside houses in each security-conscious neighborhood for its “Flower Town” campaign since 2005. According to security department manager Takeshi Kashihara, the ward, with a population of 710,000, has seen a major drop in burglaries from 1,093 cases in 2004 to 367 in 2008, thanks to the flowers, patrols and other measures.

© Japan Today

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17 Comments
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Plant a few thorny rose bushes around those windows.

Warmer climates -real orange trees (non-grafted type) have some serious thorns on them. =Production orange trees have an orange tree on top and the base is something else = more oranges produced in grafted trees + no thorns (I believe). 50deg F+ for orange trees or else they die. Roses may need to be covered in winter also if you get very cold.

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Another deterrent would be a big pile of artificial dog poop and big bowl of water.

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Dig a moat round the house, fill it up and have some beautiful koi.

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An old lady in my Osaka neighborhood used to keep a pair of my discarded shoes in her genkan. They were big enough to frighten off practically anyone.

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"An old lady in my Osaka neighborhood used to keep a pair of my discarded shoes in her genkan. They were big enough to frighten off practically anyone."

Maybe is was the smell. ha ha ;p

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What a strange method of distracting the potential criminals. But so interesting theory, indeed. It is helping me to think about my blank front yard twice. Unfortunately, nurturing flowers in a yard means greater responsible and burden.

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Another deterrent would be a big pile of artificial dog poop and big bowl of water.

Indeed, there is nothing like the bark of a large (unseen) dog to put people on edge.

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If you are going to use a bark machine, you are going to piss a lot of people off...like me. I hate barking dogs, but I do like flowers.

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I understand a three-foot-high doggie door also keeps burglars away.

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Instead of a moat with koi,how a bout pirhanas or sharks or gators.

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If I had the money I would remove the front, side to back lawn of my home in Canada, to be normal like gravel & dirt & a few sage brush for they do not need watering & can still look pretty through the year.

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For keeping thieves away, flowers don't match the distinctive sound of the slide action on a Remington 12 gauge. Works wonders in America. No shots (usually) required.

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You don't need flowers if there is somebody standing around your house all day. Hire one of those homeless multitudes to walk around your place like they own it and then feed him/her for payment, win-win.

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Maybe keeping a gun in the home might sound like a good idea until it gets stolen.

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This article is screwed up from the first sentence. The Broken Window Theory is pretty far from "mostly agreed upon" by social psychologists. There is considerable evidence that it's not at all correct and the theory is pretty controversial among many psychologists. Good fact checking there, Lou!

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Good points actually, thieves are always looking for unattended locations. Broken Window phenomenon has nothing to do with social psychology, even though people sell it as such. In reality, crooks are thinking rationally about where to break in for the very reason that they're looking for a place that nobody is guarding or taking care of. The last thing they want is to be seen. This was true long before it was popularized in culture and given gimmicky names like Broken Window and touted by fake psychologists.

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I understand a three-foot-high doggie door also keeps burglars away.

A determined burglar would dope the dog and climb in through the door. I doubt many of the burglars in Japan are junkies, so they might actually think things through.

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