When Braddock, Pa.’s eccentric mayor, John Fetterman, started tattooing the dates of local killings on his forearm in 2006, townspeople told him, “You’re gonna run out of arm.” That hasn’t happened: the town of 2,500 hasn’t had a murder in 40 months. And when a community has been dying as long as Braddock, a dramatic decline in crime is a welcome sign of life.
The question, of course, is why? Since his election in 2005, Fetterman’s hulking physique, his Harvard education, and the family money he poured into this Pittsburgh suburb made him a star. Braddock, like so many towns, had collapsed with the steel industry; its population down 90 percent since the 1960s. But stories about the mayor’s hip plans drew in homesteaders, who conjured an artist colony among the abandoned houses. Fetterman also managed to attract corporate sponsors: Levi’s created an adcampaign around the town and made a seven-figure donation.
But Fetterman’s feel-good campaign—playgrounds, gardens, and the like—alone didn’t slow violent crime. He is quick to credit Chief Frank DeBartolo, whose team of 14 part-timers man the thin blue line for $9 an hour. In 2007 and 2008, the officers, along with county, state, and federal agencies, carried out what he called “a major roundup” focusing on “cocaine, heroin, crack, and firearms.”
Fetterman’s efforts have helped restore a sense of community pride, which, as it happens, is a core principle in modern policing. “Broken windows,” literally and figuratively, lead to broken societies; fix a place up, and people will work to keep it that way. Fetterman’s message: “No community is beyond hope.”