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If you like Rudolph Giuliani's story, you might also like:
David Boies,
Willie Brown,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
Larry King,
Norman Mailer,
Frank McCourt,
William McRaven,
Alan Simpson,
John Sexton,
Antonio Villaraigosa
and Andrew Young

Rudolph Giuliani's recommended reading: Profiles in Courage

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Rudolph Giuliani
Rudolph Giuliani
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Rudolph Giuliani Interview (page: 4 / 8)

Former Mayor of New York City

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  Rudolph Giuliani

In fighting crime, you also started small. Maybe you could talk a little bit about the "Broken Windows" theory. Why was it so important to clean up the streets and get rid of graffiti?

Rudolph Giuliani: Well, I very much subscribe to the "Broken Windows" theory, a theory that was developed by Professors Wilson and Kelling, 25 years ago maybe. The idea of it is that you had to pay attention to small things, otherwise they would get out of control and become much worse. And that, in fact, in a lot of our approach to crime, quality of life, social programs, we were allowing small things to get worse rather than dealing with them at the earliest possible stage. That approach had been tried in other cities, but all small cities, and there was a big debate about whether it could work in a city as large as New York. One of the ways that New York used to resist any kind of change was to say, "It can't work here," because they wanted to keep the status quo. There is such a desire for people to do that, to keep the status quo. And I thought, "Well, there's no reason why it can't work in New York City. We have bigger resources. We may have bigger problems, we have bigger resources, the same theory should work." So we started paying attention to the things that were being ignored. Aggressive panhandling, the squeegee operators that would come up to your car and wash the window of your car whether you wanted it or not -- and sometimes smashed people's cars or tires or windows -- the street-level drug-dealing; the prostitution; the graffiti, all these things that were deteriorating the city. So we said, "We're going to pay attention to that," and it worked. It worked because we not only got a big reduction in that, and an improvement in the quality of life, but massive reductions in homicide, and New York City turned from the crime capital of America to the safest large city in the country for five, six years in a row.

[ Key to Success ] Perseverance

To what do you attribute the drastic cut in serious, violent crime?

Rudolph Giuliani Interview Photo
Rudolph Giuliani: The drastic cut in crime in New York City -- which continued after crime started going up in other cities -- has to do with two principal things and then a lot of other things. One is the "Broken Windows" theory. You've got to pay attention to everything, and you can't give criminals a sense of immunity. The second is the COMSTAT program, the computer program that measures crime every single day in every single part of the city, pin-maps it, plots it, and gives you real hard data on which you can make decisions about your law enforcement strategies. So every day, you can look at where crime is going up, where crime is going down, and assign your police not based on some kind of a hunch or guess, but based on the fact that crime is going up in this part of the city, and this is where we have to put our police officers, and these are the kinds of police officers that we need to do it, because you need different kinds of police officers based on different kinds of crimes. In one part of the city, you can have auto theft going up. You need a certain kind of policing and a certain kind of police officer to reduce that. In another part of the city, you could have thefts of office buildings. You need a different kind of police officer, you need a different kind of policing, and you need the help of the security people in the buildings. But by having these accurate statistics and keeping after them very intensely, you get to see these trends right away, and then you can take action to stop it before it gets out of control.

How did you get so many people off welfare in such a short time?

Rudolph Giuliani: We got a tremendous number of people off welfare and into work, but it wasn't a short time. It was a six or seven-year period. And the number is about 700,000 people that were removed from the welfare rolls. And the last couple of years, we were averaging finding jobs for about 100,000 people each year. So it wasn't just getting them off welfare, it was getting them off welfare and getting them into work. And it was by explaining the value of work and challenging the notion that it was kinder and better to put people on welfare than to keep people in the work force, because I didn't accept the idea that you were really helping people by putting them on welfare. You really help people when you help them to stay self-sufficient, or you lead them to self-sufficiency. That's really compassion. That's really caring, that's really worrying about a person as a person rather than as a statistic. And I found that social philosophy in New York for 15-20 years to be very, very damaging to the work ethic. The idea that you would sign people up for welfare, you would encourage people to be on welfare, you would make welfare user-friendly, and then, all of a sudden, you would see a deterioration of the work ethic. Well of course you would. I mean, the idea is to take welfare officers and make them employment officers. I'm going to help my friend by finding my friend a job, not by giving my friend a sense of somebody else can take care of you for the rest of your life, unless that is really necessary because of disability, medical problem, mental issues, whatever.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

So that's what we tried to do. We changed the social philosophy. It was very hard at first.

There was a knee-jerk reaction that you're going to help people more by putting the maximum people on welfare. But I would stand up to that and say, "No, that's not right. You don't care about people as much as I do, because what I want to do is find them a job." I want to work harder on this problem than just signing them up for a welfare check. I want to work with them to keep their job. Get another job if they have lost their work ethic, reestablish it for them, help reestablish it for them, so then I can leave them with a chance to take care of the rest of their life by being self-sufficient, as opposed to leaving them maybe in many cases in a certain sense disabled.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

It's like the concept of codependency in the treatment of alcoholism.

Rudolph Giuliani: There's no question about it. The approach to welfare that I took is very, very similar to the approach that's taken to dealing with alcoholism, dealing with drug addiction, dealing with other issues in which people need help -- homelessness. Do you ignore it and not help a person and enable them to remain in that status? Or do you try to move them into a situation where the maximum number can take care of themselves? I think there is a difference in philosophical approach in how to deal with social programs in all of those areas. The view had been, back in the '70s and the '80s, that people who enabled were the ones who were really compassionate, and it always seemed to me it was people that helped to bring about self-sufficiency that were the people that really cared.

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This page last revised on Apr 17, 2008 16:20 EDT
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