Broken Windows

Recently, our nearby 7-11 store closed. The manager had had enough of broken windows and threats to employee safety, so they decided to move. This came as a big surprise to us because we thought 7-11 stores were eternal. Obviously, we were wrong.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur neighbourhood is, mostly, a very pleasant one, with tree-lined streets and an active community centre.  Every year there is a street festival called Kaleido which brings together the music, dancing, arts, food, and fun of the area’s many ethnic groups. There are enclaves from a wide variety of places including the Caribbean, Somalia, Portugal, Pakistan, and Japan as well as from Canada’s first nations.

Like many neighbourhoods, though, we have one street that seems to attract less desirable characters. Ours is 118 Avenue, and it struggles to maintain small shops and businesses providing services in older buildings while homeless people, bike thieves, and prostitutes all try to survive in the same vicinity. In the four years I have lived here, I have seen many enterprises come and go, and some have been closed and shuttered all that time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I first arrived I was surprised to realize that there are one or two hairdressers on every block. I hardly ever see them actually cutting hair, so its a mystery to me how they continue to sustain themselves. We also seem to have more than our fair share of pawn shops and payday loan businesses.

At the same time, we have flourishing restaurants, specialty grocery stores, churches, car dealerships, cafes, banks, and services that contribute a lot to the community; they also keep their sidewalks and windows clean. It’s a really mixed assortment of people trying to make a go of things.

The closure of the 7-11 store inspired me to view 118 Avenue from a slightly different perspective. I decided to see how many windows were broken or boarded up. I remembered that, back in 1982, James Q. Wilson and George R. Kelling introduced the criminological theory that broken windows are an indication of social disorder and, if they are left unrepaired, lead to further crime and anti-social behaviour. Whether or not they are correct, it bothers me when buildings are not maintained in good condition. I feel as though the owners don’t care about me, their neighbour. It’s personal.

So, I took these pictures.  They don’t reflect the street in all its glorious multicultural, industrious, entirety. These are just the broken and boarded-up windows, which are only a small number compared to the many that are in good shape. Even so, they stand out and I wish their owners would restore them.



  1. I imagine it happens everywhere. The closest district to us where one might see such things is the suburb of Yeoville.
    At one time it was hailed as the epitome of the New South Africa, a mini representation of the so-called Rainbow-Nation-to-be.
    A place where one expect to find the more Bohemian type.
    The pipe dream lasted about a year, maybe two.
    It is now an area where I simply would not go for a walkabout if you paid me.
    Multi culturalism quickly degenerated to what one would call an overwhelmingly run-down black African suburb full of drugs, pimps pushers and such like.

    Many of what were once quaint turn of the 20th century buildings were over run by squatters and abandoned by their owners. And the place is, by and large, filthy.

    • I’m sorry to hear that multiculturalism has not worked well there. In Canada it has, for the most part, been quite successful. We all rub along together fairly well. People tend to socialize with people of the same ethnic origins but we work , go to school, use public facilities together without much trouble.

      The problems in my neighbourhood seem to be more related to poverty and the social effects of addictions than ethnicity.

      • Oh, this is just one example where expectations ran too high I think.
        And poverty related factors played a role as well, and still do.
        When one culture or group feel threatened they either band together or leave and this allows the majority to enforce their own culture if you like, and not always for the good I’m afraid..
        The suburb we live in is as mixed a bag as you will likely find, and there is no animosity or such problems that I am aware of.

        C’est la vie.

          • To our immediate right are a German and a Zulu, couple. We have been friends for nearly 30 years. Our children went to school together and Walter and I are both Pratchett fans.
            The lady directly opposite, moved to a garden cottage o her kids’ property but we still keep in contact and have baked cakes for her children and grandchildren for the past eight years.
            To our immediate right are a Nigerian and Zulu couple. Ben is a scientist who works for a pharmaceutical company and his wife, Agnes works at the Jo’burg Zoo.
            Two doors down are a Chinese couple ( who we don’t know, that well) and two doors to our left, are Jolene and Tommy, who are Indian. He grows bonsai trees, but sadly he supports Manchester United so we can never be friends … EVER! 🙂
            Jolene works at the school all our kids went to. She also does part-time catering for small functions and makes superb samoosas.
            We get together every now and then when one of us throws a garden party.
            So you can see, we all get on pretty good!

            • This is really good to hear, Ark. You are obviously a wonderful person to have as a neighbour, and it sounds as though you all get along really well. Anyone who bakes cakes for their friends is a friend to keep!

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