Ever notice how a broken window that goes unfixed sends a certain kind of message? This window, located on the corner of Golden State Boulevard and Olive Avenue, has cracked further over time.
In the criminal justice field, there is a name for the kind of cycle this can create: the broken windows theory. The notion of broken windows has provided insight into the field of community policing.
The broken windows theory is based on the idea that signs of incivility, like broken windows, signal that nobody cares, which in turn leads to greater fear of crime and a reduction of community efficacy, according to cops.usdoj.gov. This reduction of community efficacy can lead to more serious crimes and greater signs of incivility, repeating the cycle into a potential downward spiral.
For police, the insight of broken windows is that they are called on to address minor quality-of-life offenses and incidents of social disorder to prevent more serious crime, with the primary goal being the development of informal social control mechanisms within the community in question and not merely increased enforcement of minor offenses.
What do you think of the broken windows theory? Do you feel that informal actions by the community speak to criminals?