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Advantages and Unaccounted Side Effects of Broken Windows Theory

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The broken windows theory is a criminological theory, the essence of which is that explicit disorders such as crime, anti-social attitude, and civil disorder auspiciously effect on an urban environment which induces even more crime and disorder, including serious crime (Wilson & Kellin, 1982). From the time the theory was announced, it has shown success. So, the theory has clear advantages, Nevertheless, the theory could have been implemented improperly, developing negative effects, and it still has unrevealed features. 

Firstly, the theory of broken windows deals with smaller crimes such as vandalism, jaywalking, jumping turnstiles, littering and so forth, either by special directions from authorities or by attention from the community. This should undoubtedly be taken into account by the authorities: iIt is clear that the violation of social norms can grow like a snowball, and the struggle must be dealt with the very first manifestations because anti-social behavior can quickly become habitual for many. By preventing small indications of disorder, a chain reaction can be stopped and serious crimes precluded. The example for that is crime decline in New York City in 1980 – 1990s when the city’s administration adopted some principles of broken windows theory. Subway quickly changed state of affairs when New York Transit Authority hired George L. Kelling as a consultant (Davies, Fagan 2000). Subway cars were cleaned each time someone drew in them, litter was removed, turnstile jumpers were caught by police and arrested, and because of that, subway service became clean and safe. Therefore, the change of the policy in relation to the subway resulted in crime decline and required fewer resources in comparison to catching criminals one by one. 

Besides, policies based on the theory of broken windows can make neighborhoods more tourism favorable; rally community; develop real estate, and therefore cause gentrification, as well as premeditated gentrification can cause crime decline. By fixing broken windows, regions will become less criminal, more attractive for wealthy people, and more investment-friendly. In As a consequence of these, city’s economy will rise (Harcourt, Ludwig 2006). For example, Ceccato and Wilhemson (2011) suggest in their article that feel of safety increases prices of apartments and houses. On the example of Stockholm, study shows that increase in total crime rate in particular area by 1 percent, results in fall of apartment prices by 0.04 percent. 

Furthermore, theory of broken windows was introduced improperly, because it caused rather negative effects, hence, positive effects, which were assumed by the theory, were not achieved, and policies should be directed in other ways. For many years, theory was considered as a special instrument for crime prevention, by giving police more authority. As a result, police became violent in a relation to minorities, especially black people, since they were considered as criminals, and they were treated like criminals without distinction. Because of that, persistent stereotype about black people came to be, and they were discriminated. Adoption of this specific policy now is considered wrong, because it was not effective. Alternatively, another policy of the theory should be implemented. According to Kleinenberg (2018), government should fight with possible causes of crimes, as poor neighborhoods, abandoned buildings, overgrown, littered with rubbish territories. Prevent actions, that are against the law, so even the average law-abiding citizen is not seduced to commit it. For instance, if there are few people who throw cigarette ends near the bus stop, others will pick up and not continue littering this bus stop with cigarettes, plastic, etc. If there are many abandoned buildings in the neighborhood, city, region, the crime rate and everything related to it is very likely to be high. Also, Kleinenberg (2018) states that such places are convenient for homeless, drug dealers, drug addicted, people with unlicensed guns, murderers, so they attract criminals, and possibly multiply their amount. Contrariwise, law abindment abidance should be inculcated and a sencesense of social responsibility should be instilled from the childhood, where people are most likely to pick up and keep the attitude further. Therefore, small disorders in behavior, causes of crimes need to be removed, urban environment should be changed, and generations need to be raised properly. 

To sum up, theory of broken windows prevents serious crimes and deals with minor crimes. Also, the thing that does not need to be clarified is economic development of the regions where policies of the theory could be implemented. Nevertheless, theory has shown side effects, but some ideas that may not possibly be pernicious could be imposed and different approaches established. 


  • Harcourt, B. (2001). Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing. Cambridge: Harvard university press. 
  • Harcourt, B., Ludwig, J. (2006). Broken Windows: New Evidence from New York City and a Five-City Social Experiment. Chicago: The Chicago university press.
  • Sridhar, C. ( 2006). Broken Windows and Zero Tolerance: Policing Urban Crimes. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(19), 1841–1843. 
  • Fagan, J., Davies, G. (2000). Street Stops and Broken Windows: Terry, Race, and Disorder in New York City. Fordham Urban Law Journal, 28(2).
  • Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people: how social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. Retrieved from
  • Wilson, J., Kelling, G., (1982). Broken Windows: The police and neighborhood safety. The Atlantic.
  • Essays, UK. (2018). Broken Windows Theory Analysis. Retrieved from
  • Ceccato, V., Wilhelmsson, M. (2011). The impact of crime on apartment prices: evidence from Stockholm, Sweden. Geografiska Annaler Series B, 93(1), 81 – 103

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