[Durham INC] [pac2] Story on "broken-window" theory in Boston Globe
TheOcean1 at aol.com
TheOcean1 at aol.com
Sun Feb 8 15:28:20 EST 2009
Excellent reading! Thank you Diane.
In a message dated 2/8/2009 9:06:19 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
didaniel at aol.com writes:
Since this is something we've discussed frequently, I thought I'd share this
interesting story on "broken-window" theory in today's Boston Globe. I've
put the first several paragraphs of story below, and here's the URL. Globe
online is free, but you do have to register to read it. Lowell, by the way, is 30
miles northwest of Boston.
Diane Daniel on Clarendon
By Carolyn Y. Johnson
LOWELL, MASS. - The year was 2005 and Lowell was being turned into a real
life crime-fighting laboratory.
Researchers, working with police, identified 34 crime hot spots. In half of
them, authorities set to work - clearing trash from the sidewalks, fixing
street lights, and sending loiterers scurrying. Abandoned buildings were
secured, businesses forced to meet code, and more arrests made for misdemeanors.
Mental health services and homeless aid referrals expanded.
In the remaining hot spots, normal policing and services continued.
Then researchers from Harvard and Suffolk University sat back and watched,
meticulously recording criminal incidents in each of the hot spots.
The results, just now circulating in law enforcement circles, are striking:
A 20 percent plunge in calls to police from the parts of town that received
extra attention. It is seen as strong scientific evidence that the
long-debated "bro ken windows" theory really works - that disorderly conditions breed
bad behavior, and that fixing them can help prevent crime.
"In traditional policing, you went from call to call, and that was it -
you're chasing your tail," said Lowell patrol officer Karen Witts on a recent
drive past a boarded up house that was once a bullet-pocked trouble spot. Now,
she says, there appears to be a solid basis for a policing strategy that
preemptively addresses the conditions that promote crime.
Many police departments across the country already use elements of the
broken windows theory, or focus on crime hot spots. The Lowell experiment offers
guidance on what seems to work best. Cleaning up the physical environment was
very effective; misdemeanor arrests less so, and boosting social services had
no apparent impact.
Such evidence-based policing is essential, argues David Weisburd, a
professor of administration of justice at George Mason University. "We demand it in
fields like medicine," Weisburd said. "It seems to me with all the money we
spend on policing, we better be able to see whether the programs have the
effects we intend them to have."
And this particular study, he said, is "elegant" in how clearly it
demonstrated crime prevention benefits.
The broken windows theory was first put forth in a 1982 Atlantic article by
James Q. Wilson, a political scientist then at Harvard, and George L.
Kelling, a criminologist. The theory suggests that a disorderly environment sends a
message that no one is in charge, thus increasing fear, weakening community
controls, and inviting criminal behavior. It further maintains that stopping
minor offenses and restoring greater order can prevent serious crime.
That theory has been hotly debated even as it has been widely deployed.
Diane Daniel, freelance writer
Blog: www.placeswegopeoplBlog: www.
NC guidebook: www.farmfreshnc.NC
Everything else: www.bydianedaniel.Eve
1221 Clarendon St., Durham, NC 27705
919-286-9293; diane at bydianedaniel919-
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