You are on page 1of 18

Broken windows theory
The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effect of
urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that
maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public
drinking, and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing
more serious crimes from happening.
The theory was introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L.
Kelling.[1] Since then it has been subject to great debate both within the social sciences and the
public sphere. The theory has been used as a motivation for several reforms in criminal policy,
including the controversial mass use of "stop, question, and frisk" by the New York City Police

1Article and crime prevention

2Informal social controls

3Concept of fear

4Critical developments

5Theoretical explanation

6Support for the theory


6.1New York City

6.2Albuquerque, New Mexico

6.3Lowell, Massachusetts

6.4The Netherlands

7Other advantages

7.1Real estate


8Criticism of the theory


8.1Other factors

Broken windows theory

8.2Implicit bias


8.4Drawbacks in practice

8.5In popular press

9See also




13Further reading

14External links

Article and crime prevention[edit]

James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling first introduced the broken windows theory in an article
titled Broken Windows, in the March 1982 The Atlantic Monthly.[1] The title comes from the following
Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for
vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it's
unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside.
Or consider a pavement. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people
even start leaving bags of refuse from take-out restaurants there or even break into cars.
Before the introduction of this theory by Wilson and Kelling, Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford
psychologist, arranged an experiment testing the broken-window theory in 1969. Zimbardo arranged
for an automobile with no license plates and the hood up to be parked idle in a Bronx neighbourhood
and a second automobile in the same condition to be set up in Palo Alto, California. The car in the
Bronx was attacked within minutes of its abandonment. Zimbardo noted that the first "vandals" to
arrive were a family a father, mother and a young son who removed the radiator and battery.
Within twenty-four hours of its abandonment, everything of value had been stripped from the vehicle.
After that, the car's windows were smashed in, parts torn, upholstery ripped, and children were using
the car as a playground. At the same time, the vehicle sitting idle in Palo Alto sat untouched for more
than a week until Zimbardo himself went up to the vehicle and deliberately smashed it with a

Broken windows theory
sledgehammer. Soon after, people joined in for the destruction. Zimbardo observed that majority of
the adult "vandals" in both cases were primarily well dressed, Caucasian, clean-cut and seemingly
respectable individuals. It is believed that, in a neighborhood such as the Bronx where the history of
abandoned property and theft are more prevalent, vandalism occurs much more quickly as the
community generally seems apathetic. Similar events can occur in any civilized community when
communal barriersthe sense of mutual regard and obligations of civilityare lowered by actions
that suggest apathy.[1][page needed]
The article received a great deal of attention and was very widely cited. A
1996 criminology and urban sociology book, Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing
Crime in Our Communities by George L. Kelling and Catharine Coles, is based on the article but
develops the argument in greater detail. It discusses the theory in relation to crime and strategies to
contain or eliminate crime from urban neighborhoods. [2]
A successful strategy for preventing vandalism, according to the book's authors, is to address the
problems when they are small. Repair the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week,
and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage.
Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate (or for the rate of
littering to be much less). Problems are less likely to escalate and thus "respectable" residents do
not flee the neighborhood.
Though police work is crucial to crime prevention, Oscar Newman, in his 1972 book, Defensible
Space, wrote that the presence of police authority is not enough to maintain a safe and crime-free
city. People in the community help with crime prevention. Newman proposes that people care for
and protect spaces they feel invested in, arguing that an area is eventually safer if the people feel a
sense of ownership and responsibility towards the area. Broken windows and vandalism are still
prevalent because communities simply do not care about the damage. Regardless of how many
times the windows are repaired, the community still must invest some of their time to keep it safe.
Residents' negligence of broken window-type decay signifies a lack of concern for the community.
Newman says this is a clear sign that the society has accepted this disorderallowing the
unrepaired windows to display vulnerability and lack of defense.[3] Malcolm Gladwell also relates this
theory to the reality of NYC in his book The Tipping Point.[4]
The theory thus makes two major claims: that further petty crime and low-level anti-social behavior is
deterred, and that major crime is prevented as a result. Criticism of the theory has tended to focus
disproportionately on the latter claim.

Broken windows theory

Informal social controls[edit]

Many claim that informal social controls can be an effective strategy to reduce unruly
behavior. Garland 2001 expresses that community policing measures in the realization that informal
social control exercised through everyday relationships and institutions is more effective than legal
sanctions.[5][page needed] Informal social control methods, has demonstrated a get tough attitude by
proactive citizens, and expresses a sense that disorderly conduct is not tolerated. According to
Wilson and Kelling, there are two types of groups involved in maintaining order, community
watchmen and vigilantes[1][page needed] The United States has adopted in many ways policing strategies
of old European times, and at that time informal social control was the norm, which gave rise to
contemporary formal policing. Though, in earlier times, there were no legal sanctions to follow,
informal policing was primarily objective driven as stated by Wilson and Kelling (1982).
Wilcox et al. 2004 argue that improper land use can cause disorder, and the larger the public land is,
the more susceptible to criminal deviance.[6] Therefore, nonresidential spaces such as businesses,
may assume to the responsibility of informal social control in the form of surveillance,
communication, supervision, and intervention.[7] It is expected that more strangers occupying the
public land creates a higher chance for disorder. Jane Jacobs can be considered one of the original
pioneers of this perspective of broken windows. Much of her book The Death and Life of Great
American Cities focuses on residents' and nonresidents' contributions to maintaining order on the
street, and explains how local businesses, institutions, and convenience stores provide a sense of
having "eyes on the street."[8][page needed]
On the contrary, many residents feel that regulating disorder is not their responsibility. Wilson and
Kelling found that studies done by psychologists suggest people often refuse to go to the aid of
someone seeking help, not due to a lack of concern or selfishness but the absence of some
plausible grounds for feeling that one must personally accept responsibility [1][page needed] On the other
hand, others plainly refuse to put themselves in harm's way, depending on how grave they perceive
the nuisance to be; a 2004 study observed that "most research on disorder is based on individual
level perceptions decoupled from a systematic concern with the disorder-generating
environment."[9] Essentially, everyone perceives disorder differently, and can contemplate
seriousness of a crime based on those perceptions. However, Wilson and Kelling feel that although
community involvement can make a difference, the police are plainly the key to order
maintenance.[1][page needed]

Broken windows theory

Concept of fear[edit]
Ranasinghe argues that the concept of fear is a crucial element of broken windows theory, because
it is the foundation of the theory.[10] She also adds that public disorder is ...unequivocally constructed
as problematic because it is a source of fear.[11] Fear is elevated as perception of disorder rises;
creating a social pattern that tears the social fabric of a community, and leaves the residents feeling
hopeless and disconnected. Wilson and Kelling hint at the idea, but dont focus on its central
importance. They indicate that fear was a product of incivility, not crime, and that people avoid one
another in response to fear, weakening controls.[1][page needed] Hinkle and Weisburd found that police
interventions to combat minor offenses, as per the broken windows model, "significantly increased
the probability of feeling unsafe," suggesting that such interventions might offset any benefits of
broken windows policing in terms of fear reduction. [12]

Critical developments[edit]
In an earlier publication of The Atlantic released March, 1982, Wilson wrote an article indicating that
police efforts had gradually shifted from maintaining order to fighting crime. [1][page needed] This indicated
that order maintenance was something of the past, and soon it would seem as it has been put on the
back burner. The shift was attributed to the rise of the social urban riots of the 1960s, and "social
scientists began to explore carefully the order maintenance function of the police, and to suggest
ways of improving itnot to make streets safer (its original function) but to reduce the incidence of
mass violence".[1][page needed] Other criminologists argue between similar disconnections, for example,
Garland argues that throughout the early and mid 20th century, police in American cities strived to
keep away from the neighborhoods under their jurisdiction. [5][page needed] This is a possible indicator of the
out-of-control social riots that were prevalent at that time. Still many would agree that reducing crime
and violence begins with maintaining social control/order.
Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities is discussed in detail by Ranasinghe, and
its importance to the early workings of broken windows, and claims that Kelling's original interest in
"minor offences and disorderly behaviour and conditions" was inspired by Jacobs' work.

Ranasinghe includes that Jacobs' approach toward social disorganization was centralized on the

streets and their sidewalks, the main public places of a city" and that they "are its most vital organs,
because they provide the principal visual scenes."[14] Wilson and Kelling, as well as Jacobs, argue on
the concept of civility (or the lack thereof) and how it creates lasting distortions between crime and
disorder. Ranasinghe explains that the common framework of both set of authors is to narrate the
problem facing urban public places. Jacobs, according to Ranasinghe, maintains that Civility
functions as a means of informal social control, subject little to institutionalized norms and
processes, such as the law but rather maintained through an intricate, almost unconscious,

Broken windows theory
network of voluntary controls and standards among people and enforced by the people

Theoretical explanation[edit]
The reason why the state of the urban environment may affect crime may be described as due to
three factors:

social norms and conformity,

the presence or lack of routine monitoring, and

social signaling and signal crime.

In an anonymous, urban environment, with few or no other people around, social norms and
monitoring are not clearly known. Individuals thus look for signals within the environment as to the
social norms in the setting and the risk of getting caught violating those norms; one of those signals
is the area's general appearance.
Under the broken windows theory, an ordered and clean environmentone that is maintained
sends the signal that the area is monitored and that criminal behavior is not tolerated. Conversely, a
disordered environmentone that is not maintained (broken windows, graffiti, excessive litter)
sends the signal that the area is not monitored, and that criminal behavior has little risk of detection.
This theory assumes that the landscape "communicates" to people. A broken window transmits to
criminals the message that a community displays a lack of informal social control, and is therefore
unable or unwilling to defend itself against a criminal invasion. It is not so much the actual broken
window that is important, but the message the broken window sends to people. It symbolizes the
community's defenselessness and vulnerability and represents the lack of cohesiveness of the
people within. Neighborhoods with a strong sense of cohesion fix broken windows and assert social
responsibility on themselveseffectively giving themselves control over their space. The theory
emphasizes the built environment, but must also consider human behavior.[16][page needed]
Under the impression that a broken window left unfixed leads to more serious problems, residents
begin to change the way they see their community. In an attempt to stay safe, a cohesive community
starts to fall apart as individuals start to spend less time in communal space to avoid potential violent
attacks by strangers.[1][page needed] The slow deterioration of a community as a result of broken windows
modifies the way people behave when it comes to their communal space, which in turn breaks down
community control. As rowdy teenagers, drunks, panhandlers, addicts, and prostitutes slowly make

Broken windows theory
their way into a community, it signifies that the community can't assert informal social control, and
citizens become afraid of worse things happening. As a result, they spend less time in the streets to
avoid these subjects, and feel increasingly disconnected from their community if the problems
At times, residents tolerate "broken windows" because they feel they belong in the community and
"know their place"but problems arise when outsiders begin to disrupt the community's cultural
fabric. This is the difference between "regulars" and "strangers" in a community. The way "regulars"
act represents the culture within, whereas strangers are "outsiders" who do not belong. [16]
[page needed]

Consequently, what were considered "normal" daily activities for residents now become

uncomfortable as the culture of the community carries a different feel from what it was once.
With regard to social geography, the broken windows theory is a way of explaining people and their
interactions with space. The culture of a community can deteriorate and change over time with the
influence of unwanted people and behaviors changing the landscape. The theory can be seen as
people shaping space as the civility and attitude of the community create spaces that are used for
specific purposes by residents. On the other hand, it can also be seen as space shaping people with
elements of the environment influencing and restricting our day-to-day decision making. However,
with policing efforts to remove unwanted disorderly people that put fear in the publics eyes, the
argument would seem to be in favor of people shaping space as public policies are enacted and
help to determine how we are supposed to behave. All spaces have their own codes of conduct and
what is considered to be right and normal will vary from place to place.
This concept also takes into consideration spatial exclusion and social division as certain people
behaving in a given way are considered disruptive and therefore unwanted. It excludes people from
certain spaces because their behavior doesn't fit the class level of the community and its
surroundings. A community has its own standards and communicates a strong message to criminals,
through social control, that their neighborhood does not tolerate sub-standard behavior. If however, a
community isnt able to ward off would-be criminals on their own, policing efforts help. By removing
unwanted people from the streets, the residents feel safer and have a higher regard for those that
protect them. People of sub-standard civility who try to make a mark in the community are removed
as a result of this theory.[16][page needed] Excluding the unruly and people of certain social statuses is an
attempt to keep the balance and cohesiveness of a community.

Support for the theory[edit]

See also: Government response to graffiti

Broken windows theory

New York City[edit]

The book (Broken Windows) author, George L. Kelling, was hired as a consultant to the New York
City Transit Authority in 1985, and measures to test the broken windows theory were implemented
by David L. Gunn. The presence of graffiti was intensively targeted, and the subway system was
cleaned in a special effort from 1984 until 1990. Kelling has also been hired as a consultant to
the Boston Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department.
In 1990, William J. Bratton became head of the New York City Transit Police. Bratton described
George L. Kelling as his "intellectual mentor", and implemented zero tolerance offare-dodging,
faster arrestee processing methods, and background checks on all those arrested. After his election
as Mayor of New York City in 1993, Republican Rudy Giulianihired Bratton as his police
commissioner to implement the strategy more widely across the city, under the rubrics of "quality of
life" and "zero tolerance". Influenced heavily by Kelling and Wilson's article, Giuliani was determined
to put the theory into action. He set out to prove that despite New York's infamous image of being
"too big, too unruly, too diverse, too broke to manage", the city was, in fact, manageable. [17]
Giuliani's "zero-tolerance" program was part of an interlocking set of wider reforms, crucial parts of
which had been underway since 1985. Bratton had the police more strictly enforce the law against
subway fare evasion, public drinking, public urination, graffiti vandals, and the "squeegee men" (who
had been wiping windshields of stopped cars and aggressively demanding payment). Initially,
Bratton was criticized for going after "petty" crimes. The general complaint about this policy was,
"Why care about panhandlers, hookers, or graffiti artists when there are more serious crimes to be
dealt with?"
The main notion of the broken window theory is that small crimes can make way for larger crimes. If
the "petty" criminals are often overlooked and given tacit permission to do what they want, their level
of criminality might escalate to more serious offenses. Bratton's goal was to attack while the
offenders are still "green", to prevent escalation to more serious criminal acts. [17] According to the
2001 study of crime trends in New York by George Kelling and William Sousa, [18] rates of both petty
and serious crime fell suddenly and significantly, and continued to drop for the following ten years.
However, some later research strongly suggested that there was no benefit from the targeting of
petty crime.[19] The crime reduction may have been a result of the decrease of crime across the
United States and other factors like the 39% drop in New York City's unemployment rate. [20]

Broken windows theory

Albuquerque, New Mexico[edit]

Similar success occurred in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the late 1990s with its Safe Streets
Program. Operating under the theory that American Westerners use roadways much in the same
way that American Easterners use subways, the developers of the program reasoned that
lawlessness on the roadways had much the same effect as it did in New York subways. Effects of
the program were extensively reviewed by the US National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration (NHTSA) and published in a case study.[21]

Lowell, Massachusetts[edit]
In 2005, Harvard University and Suffolk University researchers worked with local police to identify 34
"crime hot spots" in Lowell, Massachusetts. In half of the spots, authorities cleared trash, fixed
streetlights, enforced building codes, discouraged loiterers, made more misdemeanor arrests, and
expanded mental health services and aid for the homeless. In the other half of the identified
locations, there was no change to routine police service.
The areas that received additional attention experienced a 20% reduction in calls to the police. The
study concluded that cleaning up the physical environment is more effective than misdemeanor
arrests, and that increasing social services had no effect. [22][23]

The Netherlands[edit]
In 2007 and 2008, Kees Keizer and colleagues from the University of Groningen conducted a series
of controlled experiments to determine if the effect of existing visible disorder (such as litter or
graffiti) increased other crime such as theft, littering, or other antisocial behavior. They selected
several urban locations, which they arranged in two different ways, at different times. In one
conditionthe controlthe place was maintained orderly and kept free from graffiti, broken
windows, etc. In the other conditionthe experimentexactly the same environment was arranged
to look as if nobody monitored it and cared about it: windows were broken and graffiti painted on the
walls, among other things. The researchers then secretly monitored the locations to observe if
people behaved differently when the environment was disordered. Their observations supported the
theory, and they published their conclusion in the journal Science:
One example of disorder, like graffiti or littering, can indeed encourage another, like stealing. [24][25]

Broken windows theory

Other advantages[edit]

Real estate[edit]
Other side effects of better monitoring and cleaned up streets may well be desired by governments
or housing agencies, as well as the population of a neighborhood: broken windows can count as an
indicator of low real estate value, and may deter investors. Fixing windows is therefore also a step
of real estate development, which may lead, desired or not, to gentrification. By reducing the amount
of broken windows in the community, the inner cities would appear to be attractive to consumers with
more capital. Ridding spaces like downtown New York and Chicago - notably notorious for criminal
activity of danger would draw in investment from consumers, increasing the city's economic status,
providing a safe and pleasant image for present and future inhabitants. [26]

In the education realm, the broken windows theory is used to promote order in classrooms and
school cultures. The belief is that students are signaled by disorder or rule-breaking and that they, in
turn, imitate the disorder. Several school movements encourage strict paternalistic practices to
enforce student discipline. Such practices include language codes (governing slang, curse words, or
speaking out of turn), classroom etiquette (sitting up straight, tracking the speaker), personal dress
(uniforms, little or no jewelry), and behavioral codes (walking in lines, specified bathroom times).
Several schools have made remarkable strides in educational gains with this philosophy such
asKIPP[citation needed] and American Indian Public Charter School.[citation needed]
From 2004 to 2006, Stephen B. Plank and colleagues from Johns Hopkins University conducted a
correlational study to determine the degree to which the physical appearance of the school and
classroom setting influence student behavior, particularly in respect to the variables concerned in
their study: fear, social disorder, and collective efficacy.[27]They collected survey data administered to
6th-8th students by 33 public schools in a large mid-Atlantic city. From analyses of the survey data,
the researchers determined that the variables concerning their study are statistically significant to the
physical conditions of the school and classroom setting. Their conclusion, published in the American
Journal of Education, was that:
...the findings of the current study suggest that educators and researchers should be vigilant about
factors that influence student perceptions of climate and safety. Fixing broken windows and
attending to the physical appearance of a school cannot alone guarantee productive teaching and
learning, but ignoring them likely greatly increases the chances of a troubling downward spiral. [27]

Broken windows theory

Criticism of the theory[edit]

Other factors[edit]
Many critics state that there are factors, other than physical disorder, that more significantly influence
crime rate. They argue that efforts to more effectively reduce crime rate should target or pay more
attention to these factors instead.
According to a study by Robert J. Sampson and Stephen W. Raudenbush, the premise that the
broken windows theory operates onthat social disorder and crime are connected as part of a
causal chainis faulty. They argue that a third factor, collective efficacy, defined as cohesion among
residents combined with shared expectations for the social control of public space, is the actual
cause of varying crime rates that are observed in an altered neighborhood environment. They also
argue that the relationship between public disorder and crime rate is weak. [28]
C. R. Sridhar, in his article in the Economic and Political Weekly, also challenges the broken
windows policing and the notion introduced in the annotated by Kelling and Brattonthat aggressive
policing, such as the zero tolerance police strategy adopted by William Bratton, the appointed
commissioner of the New York Police Departmentis the sole cause of the decrease of crime rates
in New York City.[29] This policy targeted people in areas with a significant amount of physical disorder
and there appeared to be a causal relationship between the adoption of the aggressive policy and
the decrease in crime rate. Sridhar, however, discusses other trends (such as New York City's
economic boom in the late 1990s) that created a "perfect storm"that they all contributed to the
decrease of crime rate much more significantly than the application of the zero tolerance policy.
Sridhar also compares this decrease of crime rate with other major cities that adopted other various
policies, and determined that the zero tolerance policy is not as effectual.
Baltimore criminologist Ralph B. Taylor argues in his book that fixing windows is only partial and
short-term solution. His data supports a materialist view: changes in levels of physical decay,
superficial social disorder, and racial composition do not lead to higher crime, while economic
decline does. He contends that the example shows that real, long-term reductions in crime require
that urban politicians, businesses, and community leaders work together to improve the economic
fortunes of residents in high-crime areas.[30]
Another tack was taken by a 2010 study questioning the legitimacy of the theory concerning the
subjectivity of disorder as perceived by persons living in neighborhoods. It concentrated on whether
citizens view disorder as a separate issue from crime or as identical to it. The study noted that crime
cannot be the result of disorder if the two are identical, agreed that disorder provided evidence of

Broken windows theory
"convergent validity", and concluded that broken windows theory misinterprets the relationship
between disorder and crime.[31][page needed]
In recent years there has been increasing attention on the correlation between environmental lead
levels and crime. Specifically, there appears to be a correlation with a 25-year lag with the addition
and removal of lead from paint and gasoline and rises and falls in murder arrests. [32][33]

Implicit bias[edit]
RJ Sampson argues that based on common misconceptions by the masses, it is clearly implied that
those who commit disorder and crime have a clear tie to groups suffering from financial instability
and may be of minority status: "The use of racial context to encode disorder does not necessarily
mean that people are racially prejudiced in the sense of personal hostility" and notes that residents
make a clear implication of who they believe is causing the disruption, which has been termed as
implicit bias.[34] He further states that research conducted on implicit bias and stereotyping of cultures
suggests that community members hold unrelenting beliefs of African Americans and disadvantaged
minority groups, associating them with crime, violence, disorder, welfare, and undesirability as
neighbors.[34] A later study indicated that this contradicted Wilson and Kelling's proposition that
disorder is an exogenous construct that has independent effects on how people feel about their
neighborhoods.[31][page needed]

According to most criminologists who speak of a broader "backlash",[a] the broken windows theory is
not theoretically sound.[35][page needed] They claim that the "broken windows theory" closely
relates correlation with causality, a reasoning prone to fallacy. David Thacher, assistant professor of
public policy and urban planning at the University of Michigan, stated in a 2004 paper that:[35][page needed]
[S]ocial science has not been kind to the broken windows theory. A number of scholars reanalyzed
the initial studies that appeared to support it... Others pressed forward with new, more sophisticated
studies of the relationship between disorder and crime. The most prominent among them concluded
that the relationship between disorder and serious crime is modest, and even that relationship is
largely an artifact of more fundamental social forces.
It has also been argued that rates of major crimes also dropped in many other U.S. cities during the
1990s, both those that had adopted "zero-tolerance" policies and those that had not. [36] In the Winter
2006 edition of the University of Chicago Law Review, Bernard Harcourt and Jens Ludwig looked at
the later Department of Housing and Urban Development program that re-housed inner-city project
tenants in New York into more orderly neighborhoods.[37] The broken windows theory would suggest

Broken windows theory
that these tenants would commit less crime once moved, due to the more stable conditions on the
streets. Harcourt and Ludwig found instead that the tenants continued to commit crime at the same
In a 2007 study called "Reefer Madness" in the journal Criminology and Public Policy, Harcourt and
Ludwig found further evidence confirming that mean reversion fully explained the changes in crime
rates in the different precincts in New York during the 1990s[citation needed]. Further alternative explanations
that have been put forward include the waning of the crack epidemic,[38] unrelated growth in the
prison population due to Rockefeller drug laws,[38] and that the number of males aged 1624 was
dropping regardless due to the shape of the US population pyramid.[39]

Drawbacks in practice[edit]
A low-level intervention of police in neighborhoods has been considered problematic. Accordingly,
Gary Stewart writes that "The central drawback of the approaches advanced by Wilson, Kelling, and
Kennedy rests in their shared blindness to the potentially harmful impact of broad police discretion
on minority communities."[40][page needed] This was seen by the authors, who worried that people would be
arrested "for the 'crime' of being undesirable". According to Stewart, arguments for low-level police
intervention, including the broken windows hypothesis, often act "as cover for racist behavior".[40]
[page needed]

The application of the broken windows theory in aggressive policing policies, such as William J.
Bratton's zero-tolerance policy, has been shown to criminalize the poor and homeless. This is
because the physical signs that characterize a neighborhood with the disorder that broken windows
policing targets correlate with the socio-economic conditions of its inhabitants. Many of the acts that
are considered legal, but disorderly are often targeted in public settings and are not targeted when
conducted in private. Therefore, those without access to a private space are often criminalized.
Critics such as Robert J. Sampson and Stephen Raudenbush of Harvard University see the
application of the broken windows theory in policing as a war against the poor as opposed to a war
against more serious crimes.[41][page needed]
In Dorothy Roberts' article, "Foreword: Race, Vagueness, and the Social Meaning of Order
Maintenance and Policing," she focuses on problems of the application of the broken windows
theory that lead to the criminalization of communities of color, who are typically disfranchised. [42] She
underscores the dangers of vaguely written ordinances that allows for law enforcers to determine
who engages in disorderly acts, which in turn produce a racially skewed outcome in crime statistics.

Broken windows theory
According to Bruce D. Johnson, Andrew Golub, and James McCabe, the application of the broken
windows theory in policing and policy-making can result in development projects that decrease
physical disorder but promote undesired gentrification. Often, when a city is improved in this way,
the development of an area can cause the cost of living to rise higher than residents can afford, thus
forcing low income people, often minorities, out of the area. As the space changes, middle- and
upper class, often white, people begin to move into the area, resulting in the gentrification of urban,
low income areas. The local residents are affected negatively by this application of the broken
windows theory, ending up evicted from their homes as if their presence indirectly contributed to the
areas problem of physical disorder.[42]

In popular press[edit]
In the best-seller More Guns, Less Crime (University of Chicago Press, 2000), economist John Lott,
Jr. examined the use of the broken windows approach as well as community- and problem-oriented
policing programs in cities over 10,000 in population over two decades. He found that the impacts of
these policing policies were not very consistent across different types of crime. Lott's book has
been subject to criticism, though other groups support Lott's conclusions.
In the best-seller Freakonomics, economist Steven D. Levitt and co-author Stephen J. Dubner both
confirm and cast doubt on the notion that the broken windows theory was responsible for New York's
drop in crime, arguing "the reality that the pool of potential criminals had dramatically shrunk", an
alternative that Levitt had attributed in the Quarterly Journal of Economics to the legalization of
abortion with Roe v. Wade, a decrease in the number of delinquents in the population-at-large one
generation later.[44]

See also[edit]

Anti-Social Behaviour Order

Crime in New York City

Crime prevention through environmental design

Graffiti abatement

Legalized abortion and crime effect

Signal crime

Broken windows theory



Bastiat's Parable of the broken window and the law of unintended consequences


Jump up^ The term "backlash" refers to the wave of "tough-on-crime" policies in the U.S.
beginning in the 1980s.


^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j Wilson & Kelling 1982.


Jump up^ Kelling, George; Coles, Catherine, Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and
Reducing Crime in Our Communities, ISBN 0-684-83738-2.


Jump up^ Newman, Oscar, Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban
Design, ISBN 0-02-000750-7.


Jump up^ Gladwell, The tipping point.


^ Jump up to:a b Garland 2001.


Jump up^ Wilcox et al. 2004, p. 186.


Jump up^ Wilcox et al. 2004, p. 187.


Jump up^ Jacobs 1961.


Jump up^ Sampson & Raudenbush 2004, p. 319.


Jump up^ Ranasinghe 2012, p. 65.


Jump up^ Ranasinghe 2012, p. 67.


Jump up^ Hinkle & Weisburd 2008.


Jump up^ Ranasinghe 2012, p. 68.


Jump up^ Jacobs 1961, p. 378.


Jump up^ Ranasinghe 2012, p. 72.


^ Jump up to:a b c Herbert & Brown 2006.


^ Jump up to:a b Adams, Joan (2006), The "Broken Windows" Theory, CA: UBC, (subscription
required (help)).

Broken windows theory

Jump up^ Corman, Hope (Jun 2002), Carrots, Sticks and Broken Windows (PDF),
Washington,(subscription required (help)).


Jump up^ Ludwig, Jens (2006), Broken windows (PDF), U Chicago.


Jump up^ "Criticism for Giulianis broken windows theory", Business insider, Aug 2013.



Jump up^ Albuquerque Police Department's Safe streets program, US: Department of
Transportation NHTSA, DOT HS 809 278.
Jump up^ "Research Boosts Broken Windows". Suffolk University. Retrieved 2009-02-20.


Jump up^ Johnson, Carolyn Y (2009-02-08). "Breakthrough on 'broken windows". The

Boston Globe. Retrieved 2009-02-20.


Jump up^ Keizer, K; Lindenberg, S; Steg, L (2008). "The Spreading of

Disorder". Science 322(5908): 16815. doi:10.1126/science.1161405. PMID 19023045.


Jump up^ "Can the can". The Economist. 2008-11-20. Retrieved 2008-11-24.


Jump up^ Harcourt, Bernard L; Ludwig, Jens. "Broken Windows: New Evidence from New
York City and a Five-City Social Experiment" (PDF).


^ Jump up to:a b Plank, Stephen B; Bradshaw, Catherine P; Young, Hollie (1 February 2009).
"An Application of "BrokenWindows" and Related Theories to the Study of Disorder, Fear, and
Collective Efficacy in Schools". American Journal of Education 115 (2): 22747.doi:10.1086/595669.


Jump up^ Sampson, Robert J.; Raudenbush, Stephen W (1 November 1999). "Systematic
Social Observation of Public Spaces: A New Look at Disorder in Urban Neighborhoods". American
Journal of Sociology 105 (3): 60351. doi:10.1086/210356.


Jump up^ Sridhar, C.R. (1319 May 2006). "Broken Windows and Zero Tolerance: Policing
Urban Crimes". Economic and Political Weekly 41 (19): 184143.


Jump up^ Ralph B. Taylor. Breaking Away from Broken Windows: Baltimore Neighborhoods
and the Nationwide Fight Against Crime, Grime, Fear, and Decline. ISBN 0813397588


^ Jump up to:a b Gau & Pratt 2010.


Jump up^ Lucifer Curves, Rick Nevin, 22 Feb 2015



Jump up^ America's Real Criminal Element: Lead, Mother Jones, January/February 2013
Issue, Kevin Drum
^ Jump up to:a b Sampson & Raudenbush 2004, p. 320.


^ Jump up to:a b Thacher, David (2004). "Order Maintenance Reconsidered: Moving beyond
Strong Causal Reasoning" (PDF). Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (Northwestern University
School of Law) 94 (2). doi:10.2307/3491374.


Jump up^ Harcourt, Bernard E (2001), Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken
Windows Policing, Harvard, ISBN 0-674-01590-8.

Broken windows theory

Jump up^ Harcourt, Bernard E; Ludwig, Jens (2006). "Broken Windows: New Evidence from
New York City and a Five-City Social Experiment". University of Chicago Law Review 73.


^ Jump up to:a b Metcalf, Stephen. "The Giuliani Presidency? A new documentary makes the
case against the outsized mayor". Retrieved 2007-09-03.


Jump up^ Levitt, Steven D.; Dubner, Stephen J (2005). Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist
Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-073132-X.


^ Jump up to:a b Stewart 1998.


Jump up^ Sampson & Raudenbush 2004.


^ Jump up to:a b Johnson, Bruce D.; Golub, Andrew; McCabe, James (1 February 2010). "The
international implications of qualityoflife policing as practiced in New York City". Police Practice and
Research 11 (1): 1729. doi:10.1080/15614260802586368.


Jump up^ Roberts, Dorothy (Spring 1999). "Foreword: Race, Vagueness, and the Social
Meaning of Order-Maintenance Policing". The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. 3 89: 775
836. doi:10.2307/1144123.


Jump up^ Donohue; Levitt (2001), The impact of legalized abortion (PDF), U Chicago.


Garland, D (2001), The Culture of Control: Crime and Order in Contemporary Society,
Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Herbert, Steve; Brown, Elizabeth (September 2006), "Conceptions of Space and Crime in
the Punitive Neoliberal City", Antipode 38 (4): 75577, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2006.00475.x.

Hinkle, Joshua C.; Weisburd, David (November 2008), "The irony of broken windows
policing: A micro-place study of the relationship between disorder, focused police crackdowns
and fear of crime", Journal of Criminal Justice 36 (6): 503
512, doi:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2008.09.010.

Jacobs, J (1961), The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Vintage Books.

Ranasinghe, P (2012), "Jane Jacobs' framing of public disorder and its relation to the 'broken
windows' theory", Theoretical Criminology 16 (1): 6384,doi:10.1177/1362480611406947.

Sampson, RJ; Raudenbush, SW (2004), "Seeing Disorder: Neighborhood Stigma and the
Social Construction of "Broken Windows"", Social Psychology Quarterly 67 (4): 319
42, doi:10.1177/019027250406700401.

Broken windows theory

Stewart, Gary (May 1998), "Black Codes and Broken Windows: The Legacy of Racial
Hegemony in Anti-Gang Civil Injunctions", The Yale Law Journal 107 (7): 2249

Wilcox, P; Quisenberry, N; Cabrera, DT; Jones, S (2004), "Busy places & broken windows?:
Toward Defining the Role of Physical Structure and Process in Community Crime
Models", Sociological Quarterly 45 (2): 185207, doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2004.tb00009.x.

Wilson, James Q; Kelling, George L (Mar 1982), "Broken Windows: The police and
neighborhood safety", The Atlantic, retrieved 2007-09-03 (Broken windows (PDF), Manhattan

Further reading[edit]

Bratton, William J (1998), Turnaround: How America's Top Cop Reversed the Crime
Epidemic, Random House.

Eck, John E; Maguire, Edward R (2006), "Have Changes in Policing Reduced Violent
Crime?", in Blumstein, Alfred; Wallman, Joel, The Crime Drop in America (rev ed.),Cambridge
University Press.

Gladwell, Malcolm (2002), The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference,
Back Bay, ISBN 0-316-34662-4.

Silman, Eli B (1999), NYPD Battles Crime: Innovative Strategies in Policing, Northeastern
University Press.

Skogan, Wesley G (1990), Disorder and Decline: Crime and the Spiral of Decay in American
Neighborhoods, University of California Press.