Broken Window Theory

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When comparing the two most common methods of contemporary police department strategies, community policing and the broken windows theory, it is easier to show their differences rather than their similarities. The most obvious difference being that broken windows deals with conditions not people, whereas community policing depends strongly on the citizens to be an effective tool. The broken windows theory states that it is easier to solve a small problem before it becomes a big problem. “Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building…” (George L. Kelling). The second part of the theory is that by repairing the broken window, further petty crime will be deterred thus as a result a major crime will be prevented. The claim that this theory actually prevents major crimes is what has been criticized the most harshly. University of Chicago law professor Bernard Harcourt is among those and states “There’s no good evidence that disorder causes crime [or] that broken windows policing reduces serious crime in a neighborhood” (Boston Globe 2/19/06). Harcourt feels it was the crack epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s that influenced the rise and fall of crime rates. Because of the tremendous amount of money being made in the beginning of the crack surge, it was worth the fight for turf resulting in higher crime, but as it became more available dealers thought twice about the risk for less profit. Other criticisms of the theory involve everything from the legalization of abortion in the 70’s (the feeling being with less unwanted males in society there were fewer potential criminals in the 80’s and 90’s) to simply stating “Newton’s Law of Crime: what goes up must come down” (Boston Globe 2/19/06). Community policing on the other hand, focuses on crime and social disorder by implementing police services that include traditional law enforcement, mixed with community engagement, problem solving, and partnerships within the community. Community policing requires police and citizens to join together as partners in the course of recognizing, reporting, and effectively solving these issues. Along with community policing is the concept of community court, which can take on several forms but all strive to create relationships between the justice system and the citizens, merchants, schools, and church groups within that community. These are ways to address local problems on a smaller scale. Started in New York City with one such court in 1993, there are now over 30 in operation across the country. Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper is the commanding officer of the NYPD’s 76th precinct which was recently ranked #1 in crime reduction over the last two years. The community in which the 76th is housed is one of three precincts served by the Red Hook Community Justice Center, a so called “community court”. According to him, the community court and better community policing are the main reasons for the reduction of crime. “I break it down into three factors. First and foremost, the police officers and the supervisors assigned to this precinct are working harder and smarter than ever before. Technological advances have led to computerized systems being placed in precincts throughout the city, and now police officers can track crimes being committed almost immediately. As a result of this, resources can be moved and shifted in order to address any crime trends observed. The precinct is also assisted by outside units such as Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, the Narcotics Bureau, and the Vice Enforcement Unit. Second, I believe in building a good solid working relationship with community members, the people who reside or work here. It’s very important that the community we serve trusts us and that we work together as a team. And we often rely on community members to supply us with information and point us in the right directions...
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