Squeegee Guys Return to New York Streets

The Big Apple is the city that never sleeps, but the massive layoffs on Wall Street and the precipitous drops of the markets have forced Manhattan to at least take a little nap.

If you talk to older New Yorkers who remember the FDR Depression, you might pick up on a sense of pride. Like veterans who survived a battle, senior citizens will tell war stories of how they adapted to an ailing America. Times have changed and now even cash-strapped students lug hundreds of dollars of electronic equipment with them to class every day with very little fear for their personal security.

The words "grit" and "New York" are no longer wedded since the Sex and the City image dominates the media and Times Square has become a major tourist attraction for family entertainment and not the seedy sex destination for lonely, suburban men or the workplace for entrepreneurial wayward women.

I came to Manhattan during the mid-90s and only caught part of what the city had been like during the crime wave of the 70s and 80s, when the yearly murder rate peaked just above 2,000, compared to the record-breaking 2007 total of under 500.

So, what does a guy armed with a dripping sponge attached to a stick and a bottle of diluted Windex have to do with a drop or increase in the rate of violent crime?

According to the theory espoused by law enforcement and explained in the book Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities, the devil behind delinquency was mostly in the details. The authors of the then-controversial study, George L. Kelling and Catherine Coles, argued that by controlling the minor infractions -- graffiti, litter, and the symbolic broken windows -- law enforcement primed the crime prevention pumps for curtailing the bigger crimes: drug dealing, rape, and, yes, murder.