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Broken Windows - Essay Example

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The ‘Broken Window’ symbolizes the breakdown of the informal controls which regulate public behavior. By maintaining public order, the police can apply this…
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Broken Windows
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Broken Windows The ‘Broken-Window’ theory postulates that public disorder is the slippery slope which leads to serious crime. The ‘Broken Window’ symbolizes the breakdown of the informal controls which regulate public behavior. By maintaining public order, the police can apply this approach to prevent crime.
Broken Windows.
1 What does the term ‘Broken Windows’ refer to in the context of crime and disorder in communities?
The term ‘Broken Windows,’ has its origins in Social Psychology, where it communicates the message that ‘no one cares.’ The ‘Broken Window’ theory is also relevant in the context of crime and disorder in communities. Here, “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing” (Kelling and Wilson, 2, 1982). The theory postulates that when public behavior in a neighborhood is unregulated, it leads to the gradual “breakdown of community controls” (Kelling and Wilson, 2, 1982). The ‘broken window’ here is symbolic of the breakdown of the informal controls through which people regulate public behavior in a neighborhood. The shared civic obligations and mutual considerations of community living act as barriers to crime and disorder. Once these barriers are overcome by the perception that ‘no one cares,’ vandalism occurs. Social controls are weakened and citizens feel that the environment in uncontrolled. This generates fear. Such an area, with its ‘broken windows, is particularly vulnerable to the spread of crime and disorder.  When disorderly behavior remains unchecked, it goes on to become criminal.
2 What is the role of the police when they apply the broken window theory to specific actions on the street?
When police apply the ‘Broken Window’ theory to specific actions on the street, they aim to “elevate --- the level of public order” in the neighborhood (Kelling and Wilson, 1982). The role of the police is to maintain order. It is acknowledged that disorder and crime are interconnected in a community. The police’s role is founded on this link between order-maintenance and crime-prevention. Their role is based on the premise that “serious street crime flourishes in areas in which disorderly behavior goes unchecked” (Kelling and Wilson, 2, 1982). It is a reflection of the police’s role in earlier periods, when the main responsibility of the police was to maintain order. Actions such as keeping drinking away from the main intersections, questioning strange loiterers, preventing panhandlers and vagrants from bothering pedestrians and begging at bus-stops, keeping noisy teenagers in check, and settling disputes between customers and businessmen are geared towards the maintenance of public order. Arresting a single drunk or vagrant acts as a deterrent to thousands of others, and conveys the message that the police are actively involved in maintaining order in the neighborhood. The unchecked drunk is the first ‘broken window.”
3 Are so called ‘Broken Windows’ something that police officers can address alone?
The ‘Broken Windows’ approach works best if the local community cooperates with the police officer on the beat. The officer makes himself familiar with the ‘regulars’ on the street and formulates certain regulations which are tailored to that particular locality. The ‘Broken-windows’ approach has the greatest chances of success when these rules are “defined and enforced in collaboration with the "regulars" on the street” (Kelling and Wilson, 1, 1982). The expected level of public order is expressed by the people. Community relations are an important aspect of this approach. The patrolling officer is accessible and is positioned to reinforce “the informal control mechanism of the community itself” (Kelling and Wilson, 2, 1982). However, the final burden of maintaining order falls on the police, as individual citizens do not accept personal responsibility for the security of the community.
Kelling, George L. and Wilson, James Q. (March, 1982). Broken Windows. Atlantic Magazine.
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