When police use the “broken window” strategy to fight crime, they’re not actually doing anything destructive, but instead trying to keep neighborhoods safe.
The model of policing was described by James Wilson and George Kelling first in 1982, according to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy
. Their article described the role of current disorder, known as broken windows, in fomenting more serious crime. The theory states disorder causes fear in residents, making them resigned to fear, permitting more crimes to occur. By focusing on small acts of criminals, police hope to encourage residents to create informal social control, allowing them to take control of their neighborhood and prevent more serious corruptions.
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There are both pros and cons to the strategy.
1. Troublesome juveniles may learn to clean up their act.
By searching for smaller crimes, such as vandalism, jumping turnstiles, and littering, police could catch young troublemakers early, allowing them to realize the implications of illegal behavior while they are young, which may save them from making worse decisions in the future, according to the Pacific-Standard
. Communities may also develop programs and activities in which students and children can get involved to keep them off the streets.
2. Crime rates drop.
While controversy developed over the strategy, both petty and serious crime dropped when the broken window policing system was implemented in New York City during the 90s, according to Everyday Sociology
. Murders decreased 19 percent and car thefts fell by 15 percent in the first year. A decrease in crime, however, was a trend throughout the whole country at the time.
3. It provides for motivated leadership in communities.
With the implementation of the broken windows policing, city leaders and law enforcement can be focused on keeping communities safer and cleaner from all sorts of crimes, not just the larger misconducts.
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1. Juveniles who get caught and punished may have a hard time later.
Sometimes minors make mistakes, and those who are punished severely for vandalism or littering will get a record that could hurt their prospects of getting into college or finding a job. This could place them in a situation of getting into worse activities, according to Randall Sheldon from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the Pacific-Standard reported.
2. People’s perceptions of social and physical disorder differ from each other’s.
The Pacific-Standard cites an argument from criminologists Joshua Hinkle and Sue-Ming Yang against the broken windows methodology as they wonder who decides what is an acceptable amount of litter or what is normal behavior in a neighborhood.
“People with different demographic backgrounds and life experiences might react to the same environment in very different ways,” the Pacific-Standard reported. “Social disorder is a social construct, rather than a concrete phenomenon.”
3. Individual rights may be abused.
Given the authority to enforce the smallest rules, police may be tempted to cross a line in performing their duties. It may go so far as to harass individuals, especially minorities and the poor, and foment police brutality, according to Everyday Sociology.
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