To my friends and family, it is no secret that I love superheroes. I have even written about them before. Before I was looking at whether or not people should become vigilantes, now I want to look more into our favorite vigilante's main crime-fighting method and see if it works, namely, is fighting criminals the best way to reduce crime?
First, I want us to imagine Batman, characteristically brooding on the top of a tower, waiting to see any kind of crime happening. The moment a cry goes up Batman is off to deal with whatever is going on. And in this way, Batman fights crime, one criminal at a time, stopping one crime at a time. Now on one extreme in the Kingdom Come storyline, Batman creates a line of Batbots which patrol Gotham, and he turns Gotham into a police state. On another extreme Batman could do nothing, he could stop fighting crime.
Clearly between the above options its clear to see that the best option is to keep doing what he is doing, and fight crime one criminal at a time. Given that crime is happening, is Batman's best response what he is currently doing? Doing nothing does not seem to be a solution. The other extreme seems just as bad though, creating a police state, even if Batman were to simply scale up his rate of crime-fighting then he would begin to look more like a representation of the Broken Windows Theory. With the most "notable application of the theory [being] in New York City under the direction of Police Commissioner William Bratton" This theory's main idea is that even what might be considered relatively small stuff, like jumping a subway terminal, are something that needs to be confronted with full force. This idea eventually lead to "zero-tolerance" policies. Eventually, the Broken Windows Theory was seen as not being able to find enough empirical evidence to support its claim and has largely been confined to the past.
So what is a vigilante to do? Well, the Urban Institute in one article mentions "violence interrupters" and organizations like CureViolence. Using trained workers to de-escalate situations, and engaging the community to voice their concerns, and disapproval of violent acts in their community.
To Batman's credit, he is often seen as empowering communities to speak out against violence. And although Batman's technique of fighting crime one on one is important, it doesn't lead to lasting change. Perhaps a new model for superheroes will be engaging in some kind of restorative justice, and de-escalating situations instead of punching people until "justice" has been done.