Broken window theory- is it really accurate?

broken windows

Broken window theory- is it really accurate?

The broken window theory was proposed by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson in 1982. They used broken windows as a metaphor for disorder in neighbourhoods. The theory states that there is a link between disorder in a community to occurrences of serious crime. The theory had a great impact on the police throughout the 1990s and the 21st century. The most notable application of the theory was under the direction of Police Commissioner William Bratton in New York City. In 1996 when Bratton resigned, felonies were down almost 40 percent in NYC, and the homicide rate was down to half.


The broken windows theory states that if unorderly places and actions aren’t monitored, crimes will increase as it could convey the message that these places are not monitored and hence crimes go unpunished. So, the police focus to reduce minor crimes with the idea that it will prevent measure crimes. A research study published in the Annual Review of Criminology and the Social Science & Medicine by researchers at Northeastern University observed that disorders in the neighbourhood do not cause more people to commit more crimes or participate in unhealthy behaviour.


They found two widespread flaws in the design of how past studies, that found evidence for the broken windows theory, were conducted. These flaws caused the conclusion to overstate the impact that elements of neighbourhood disorder had on crime and health. O’Brien, who co-directs the Boston Area Research Initiative, which is based at Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, says that many studies did not consider some very important variables which might affect the study like income levels of the households in a neighbourhood that were analysed. Past research has found out that regions with poverty have a high number of crimes and are more disordered.


Mayuri Talgaonkar

mayuri talgaonkar

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