The chapter begins with a nasty encounter involving Bernhard Goetz and four black men whom he met in an underpass in New York. While in the subway, the four young adults demanded five dollars from Goetz who suddenly took out his gun and fired shots towards them. Three of them died instantly while the last one became completely paralyzed. Upon investigation, it was established that the four young men had criminal records. One of them had previously been arrested for robbery while the others had been linked to various cases of theft. Moreover, three of the victims were found with screwdrivers that were likely there to be used to cause harm. The incident stirred discussions across the United States especially as it happened at time when crime rates had been escalating in New York City. Goetz was perceived to be a hero, a death wish shooter, and a subway vigilante among other personas. Days later, the shooter turned himself in and was then charged with attempted murder and assault. However, the streets were filled with jubilance, and a party was even thrown outside Goetz’s neighborhood to recognize his heroic actions. On the contrary, some individuals perceived him to be a murderer and a racist who had no place in American society.
Gladwell notes that between the years 1980 and 1990, New York City witnessed a sharp decline in crime. He tries to explain the fall from the perspective of environmental importance, which is critical in influencing the tipping point. The sharp decline remains a mystery with some scholars attributing it to new policing techniques established in the Broken Window hypothesis. The hypothesis suggests that big crimes such as robbery, murder, and rape are often perpetrated by criminals who begin with trivial crimes such as drawing illegal graffiti and public urination. The idea is that combating minor crimes consequently reduces the possibilities of major crimes happening. When the administrators put the broken window hypothesis into practice, major crimes were significantly clamped down.