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Broken Windows Theory
Foster health rether than treating illness


In March of 1982, conservative theorists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling published an article in the Atlantic Monthly introducing a new crime fighting theory known as "broken windows." The theory states:

If the first broken window in a building is not repaired, then people who like breaking windows will assume that no one cares about the building and more windows will be broken. Soon the building will have no windows.

The theory endorsed the belief that crime was the result of lax police efforts and that stricter law enforcement policy is the primary ingredient to promoting safer communities. Wilson and Kelling theorized that if rude remarks by loitering youth were left unchallenged, they will be under the impression that no one cares and their behavior will likely escalate to more serious crimes.

As crime became a major political issue during the 1980s and 90s, many politicians quickly echoed the commonsense nature of the "broken windows" theory. Nowhere has "broken windows" become more prominent than in New York City. Upon his election in 1994, Mayor Rudolph Guiliani instituted sweeping changes in his police department adopting a zero tolerance approach stressed by "broken windows." Guiliani ordered his police to enforce even the lowest level offenses including jaywalking, vagrancy and public intoxication. Coinciding with these policies was a dramatic drop in overall crime, particularly serious crime. These declining crime rates catapulted Mayor Guiliani into the national spotlight as his policies seemed to confirm the assumptions of conservative commentators and law enforcement advocates.