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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Essay on Broken Windows Policy

Essay on Broken Windows Policy

For years scholars, policy makers and law enforcers have pointed out that the more police officers direct their efforts into curbing minor crimes, the more likely they are preventing serious crimes from taking place. By doing so, they reduce the fear felt within the community and while at the same time strengthening the communities resolve against criminal activities happening within. This theory is known as the “Broken Windows theory” first introduced in 1982 by social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling. According to the theory “If the first broken window in a building is not repaired, the people who like breakingwindows will assume that no one cares about the building and more windows will be broken. Soon the building will have no windows” (Wilson and Kelling, 1982). 

From this it may be argued that the real problem comes, not from the delinquent behavior of the individuals, rather crimes are often prompted by the lack of control or disorder within a community. The lawlessness or disorder within a certain community creates fear and anxiety within the neighborhood thus causing many families to leave the community. Those who are left behind tend to isolate themselves from others, as a result anonymity goes up and any form of informal social control within the community decreases. With the area lacking various forms of social control and the increased disorder, the neighborhood attracts more potential law breakers and criminal behavior increases. The proponents of the theory states that since urban decay and social disorder were not prevented, the number of serious criminal behavior in an area increases (Wilson and Kelling, 1982). 

The theory has been implemented in several localities, with the most successful case in New York City when it was first implemented at the beginning of 1984. Offenders who engaged in graffiti in and around the city were the focus of the new implementation, as well as those who frequently skip subway paying the subway fare. In 1993, the newly elected mayor, adopted the strategy and further developed it into a larger policy known as the zero-tolerance policy. Aside from the minor crimes stated above, law officers also directed their attentions into stopping other minor crimes such as public intoxication and the unwanted washing of windshields of stopped cars, mostly done by homeless people. As a result of the implementation of the broken windows theory, New York City’s crime rate (both minor and serious crimes) declined considerably through the 1990s and 2000s. 

Though the theory has been considered successfully implemented in a number of localities, it I not wit out critics as well. One of the primary concerns raised against the Broken Windows theory is the definition of “crime” or “disorder” used by its proponents and followers, to put it more simply critics of the theory have asked “Why the windows in poor communities broken in the first place?” (Shelden, n.d.). The theory seemed to suggest that the causes of crimes are the “broken windows”, more specifically the homeless or the marginalized individuals within the community. Another critic of the Broken Windows theory is its seeming complete disregard of the various social causes of crime. Critics of the theory pointed out that its proponent and followers seem to regard various social and psychological factors as having little or in some cases no relation to the causes of offensive behaviors. According to this view, there seemed to be no definite causes of offensive behavior. People simply choose to engage in offensive behavior, not wary of any consequences or thinking that they can “get off scot free” (Shelden, n.d.). Critics have often pointed out that this type of thinking eludes the basic question as to “why people choose to engage in such offensive behavior instead of just refraining from it?”    
Braga, A. A., & Welsh, B. C. (n.d.). Broken Windows Policing to Reduce Crimes in Neighborhoods. The Campbell Collaboration. Retrieved January 7, 2013, from
Kelling, G. L., & Coles, C. M. (1997). Fixing broken windows: Restoring order and reducing crime in our communities. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Shelden, R. G. (n.d.). Assessing ?Broken Windows?: A Brief Critique. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Retrieved January 7, 2013, from

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