Twenty-seven years ago, James Wilson and George Kelling published “Broken Windows” in The Atlantic. It proposed that even “untended disorder and minor offenses” would lead to serious crime and the decay of an urban environment. While responses to the article were wildly mixed, New York City had a seemingly undisputed crime drop in the nineties. But the theory and approach has never been proven with any level of confidence.
Yet this all changed recently. Two studies last year, published in Science and in Criminology, had convincing results (emphasis mine):
While these studies do not settle, once and for all, the question of the relationship between disorder and serious crime, they do provide a substantial body of experimental evidence that fixing broken windows ought to be an integral part of any community’s response to crime. In fact, it’s hard to think of a policy option for fixing a major social problem that is as strongly supported — by both experience and solid research — as is Broken Windows.