Fixing Broken Windows

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The broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the normsetting and signalling effects 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 prevent 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.

The broken windows theory has received support from several empirical studies. At the same time it has also been the subject of a large body of criticism.


Article and book

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.[1] The title comes from the following example:

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 Cole, 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.[2]

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