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 The Broken Window Theory

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PostSubject: The Broken Window Theory    Tue Feb 07, 2012 7:41 pm

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 monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism as well as an escalation into more serious crime.

The theory was introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Since then it has been subject to great debate both within the social sciences and in the public debate. The theory has been used as a motivation for several reforms in criminal policy.

According to most criminologists who speak of a broader "backlash", the broken windows theory is not theoretically sound. They claim that the "broken windows theory" closely relates correlation with causality, a reasoning which is prone to fallacy. David Thacher, assistant professor of public policy and urban planning at the University of Michigan, stated in a 2004 paper that:

[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. 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. The broken windows theory would suggest 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 rate.

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. Further alternative explanations that have been put forward include the waning of the crack epidemic, unrelated growth in the prison population due to Rockefeller drug laws, and that the number of males aged 16–24 was dropping regardless due to the shape of the US population pyramid.

The reason why the state of the urban environment may affect crime may be described as due to three factors:


A major factor in determining individual behavior is social norms, internalized rules about the appropriate way to act in a certain situation. Humans constantly monitor other people and their environment in order to determine what the correct norms are for the given situation. They also monitor others to make sure that the others act in an acceptable way. In other words, people do as others do and the group makes sure that the rules are followed. However, when there are no people around, as is often the case in an anonymous, urban environment, the monitoring of or by others does not work. In such an environment, criminals are much more likely to get away with robberies, thefts, and vandalism. When there are few or no other people around, individuals are forced to look for other clues—called signals—as to what the social norms allow them to do and how great is the risk of getting caught violating those norms. An ordered and clean environment sends the signal that this is a place which is monitored and people here conform to the common norms of non-criminal behavior; a disordered environment which is littered, vandalized, and not maintained sends the opposite signal: this is a place where people do as they please and get away with it without being detected. Therefore, as people tend to act the way they think others act, they are more likely to act "disorderly" in the disordered environment.

The broken windows theory was first introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, in an article titled "Broken Windows" and which appeared in the March 1982 edition of The Atlantic Monthly. The title comes from the following example:

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 sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.
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 a co-author 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.

A successful strategy for preventing vandalism, say the book's authors, is to fix 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 do not escalate and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood.

The theory thus makes two major claims: that further petty crime and low-level anti-social behavior will be deterred, and that major crime will, as a result, be prevented. Criticism of the theory has tended to focus only on the latter claim.
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PostSubject: Re: The Broken Window Theory    Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:57 pm

Dark Ghost,

Thank you for posting this! I've always been a firm believer in the Broken Windows Theory. It applies not just to Criminology, but also to various other things as well. Rudy Giuliani understood the Broken Windows Theory, and used that to reduce crime in New York City by approximately 68% in his 8 years in office. Major changes were made, police went after criminals for the smallest crimes - which normally I would be against, but, in a high crime city, a very necessary message was sent to criminals, and apparently heard. I guess you could say a lot of windows were broken during those years, which led to a lot more windows being broken. Those windows being a reference to crime.

To put the Broken Windows Theory simply, the more of something there is, the more of it there will be. The less of it there is, the less of it there will be. Like gravity. The bigger planets have a stronger gravitational pull. The smaller planets have a lighter gravitational pull. People are drawn to things that other people are drawn to. They are very often more concerned with fitting in with others, and being famous, and popular, than they are with doing what is right.

It's not the same thing as the Ripple Effect, but can easily integrate with it. I'll have to get more on that one later.
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PostSubject: Re: The Broken Window Theory    Thu Feb 09, 2012 6:44 pm

this is very inerresting. Im always looking for ways to increes my knolideg.
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PostSubject: Re: The Broken Window Theory    Mon Feb 13, 2012 12:04 pm

I once did a thesis paper on this and my research at the time took me by surprise. Not only is the theory sound in it's objective view, it can be actually proven when tested out. Places that have been severely affected could learn much from this.


DS out
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PostSubject: Re: The Broken Window Theory    Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:14 am

Mystery Man,
That's good.

DarkShadow,
Yes, you're right about that. And it doesn't apply only to crime - but also many other areas in life as well. However, with our knowledge of this, it is good that there is a theory that proves that our very existence can change the world, and make it safer from crime. And also, the more of us that there is, the more of us that there will be. People will be less nervous about doing this if they know that there are others who are doing it as well. And also, will feel a bit safer with the numbers, and also a consistent flow of communication that keeps everyone in contact with each other is what also serves as a constant reminder to each other that we're needed, and why and how we're needed as well.
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PostSubject: Re: The Broken Window Theory    Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:10 am

Very interesting!Thank you
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Tothian
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PostSubject: Re: The Broken Window Theory    Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:30 am

No problem. Glad you found it useful.
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