Broken Window Theory

What is the Broken Window Theory?

The “Broken Window Theory” is the idea that if a community prevents smaller crimes like vandalism and graffiti it will improve the overall quality of life for the whole community, which will prevent larger crimes from occurring. Targeting low level crimes to prevent larger crimes. This theory was first introduced by social scientists,  James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling , in a 1982 article in The Atlantic.

The theory is that if one allows a few broken windows to go unrepaired in abandoned building, then more will eventually be broken. More broken windows could lead to graffiti and people illegally inhabiting the building, and soon the building becomes a center of illegal activity like drug deals, which leads to worse criminal activity. Essentially if a community prevents or repairs the petty crimes, like graffiti and vandalism, before they become a bigger issue, then that will improve the overall crime rate in the community.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani and NYPD Commissioner William Bratton incorporated this theory into their crime prevention methods. Bratton is currently the NYPD Commissioner under Bill De Blasio, and he has implemented the theory as an integral part of the city’s law enforcement. NYPD according to NBC News uses a “Stop-and-frisk” method and relies on the “Broken Window Theory”. New York City uses the theory to deal with issues like graffiti, vandalism, and littering. When issues arise like graffiti in the subways, the city cleans it up, so the overall crime does not increase.

NYPD under Bratton has been a very effective police force, most likely because of their key principle of using the “Broken Window Theory”.   This theory addresses crime prevention so larger crimes do not arise. The “broken window” theory is a method that should be used by police enforcement throughout the country.

Crime Prevention

Strategic Crime Prevention Efforts Used by Cities

If your city’s crime prevention efforts are focused on repairs and reversing damages caused by the crime, those efforts can only go so far until resources and budgets are completely depleted. It’s critical to have proactive methods in crime enforcement operations to have a truly effective “prevention” program.

According to a report prepared by the National Institute of Justice (NCJRS) titled “Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising,” it defines “crime prevention” not by the intentions or methods, but by the results. Cities enforce curfews, lock gates and increase street lighting in order to get the results of preventing nuisance crimes like graffiti, trespassing, metal theft and illegal dumping from taking place.

With the increasing levels of crime and reduced amount of available resources, tools like remote surveillance systems are options many cities are implementing into their crime prevention strategies as well. Other communities implement neighborhood watch programs, which not only serves as a deterrence but also helps extend the presence of law enforcement by having more “eyes” on the street to help stop crime from taking place.

Education and awareness programs are also key efforts that cities and schools should continue to provide for their community.  Although the results may not be seen immediately, the long term impact of empowering a community with crime prevention tips and strategies helps reduce overall crime significantly, creating a safer, cleaner environment that everyone can take pride in.