What Impact has the Broken-windows Theory had on Policing? What about the Future? 02/18/2010 Question Response pg. 118 Broken-windows theory is the thought that when low levels of crime and disorder and deviance are not held in check, then more serious crime is likely to follow (Roberg, Novak, Cordner pg. 102). It was a theory proposed by J. Q. Wilson and Kelling in 1982. The broken-windows theory has had an effect on policing in the past, and will play a role in how policing is done in the future. First let’s look at how the broken-windows theory has impacted policing in the past.
Broken-windows theory suggested a way of thinking in the community. Citizens felt safer when police departments conducted more foot patrols in the neighborhood, and felt the police were more aware of the crime that occurred. As time progressed into the adaptation of the motorized patrol, some people felt that the police had lost touch with the community and were not aware of the small underlying issues of the bigger crimes that occurred (pg. 66). Through the theory of broken-windows, a zero-tolerance style of policing was developed.
Some police departments, such as New York, implemented the zero tolerance style and claimed that it lowered their crime rates in the mid 1990’s (pg. 103). The police became more arrest oriented and focused on a more aggressive approach to crime control. They would increase their traffic citations, arrests, and increase their contacts with citizens. However, one of the issues with the zero tolerance style of policing is that it can cause some undue harm to citizens. By being to aggressive, it leads officers to become more suspicious of some people even though they may not deserve it, and can to lead to false arrests or abuse (pg. 04). In conclusion, the broken-windows theory has created the zero tolerance style of policing, and has lead some citizens to believe that the police are not in touch with their neighborhood due to the lack of foot patrol. As cities continue to grow and expand, most police departments will not have the resources to devote some offices to foot patrol, while having others in vehicles to respond to other calls for service in other areas. Therefore under the broken-windows theory, departments will have to address the issue of the community not feeling safe without foot patrols.
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Also, understanding that if minor crime is not addressed, the potential for larger crime may follow; this will lead departments to find new strategies to address these issues. Departments will look to work with the community (community policing) in an effort to resolve the issues without delay (zero tolerance). Broken-windows theory has affected the way police departments operate since it was developed, and only through new and creative strategies can it be correctly implemented. Reference: Roberg, R. , Novak, K. , & Cordner, G. (2009). Police & society. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.
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