Broken Windows and Victimology

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Broken Windows and Victimology
Regina Murphy
PBS 431-Victimology
Colorado State University – Global Campus
Dr. Nicola Davis Bivens
July 24, 2014



Broken Windows and Victimology
When I think of crime and victimology I wonder, are you more likely to be a victim of crime if you are in a certain neighborhood? Are people more likely to commit crimes if they think that no one cares? If there are no consequences for small crimes and disturbances will that eventually lead to bigger crimes? We are all familiar with an area of town that you drive through with the windows up and the doors looked. The neighborhood where you do not want to get out of the car. Are people more likely to be a victim of crime in these neighborhoods? The spatial syntax theory supports the idea that you are more likely to be a victim of a crime in certain areas (Nubani, 2006), and the broken window theory of crime victimization supports the idea that people are more likely to commit crimes if they think no one cares. Small crimes can lead to bigger crimes in areas where people are used to disorder and a lack of consequences for the smaller crimes (Kelling & Wilson, 1982).

The broken window theory was introduced in a 1982 article titled broken windows by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. In the article they discuss psychologist Philip Zimbardo’s experiment with an abandoned car. The experiment was done to show how even good people that usually do not commit crimes will commit a crime under certain circumstances (Kelling & Wilson, 1982). Zimbardo did many experiments that involved elements of good people doing evil things. He may be best known for his Stanford prison experiment, where he wanted to explore situational variables on human behavior. The prison experiment remains one of the most well-known psychological experiments (Rubinstein, 2013). Zimbardo served as the president of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. My great respect for Zimbardo’s work got me interested in the broken window theory. The broken window experiment showed how even in a nice neighborhood where people would not usually commit crimes they did



vandalize and damage the abandoned car after Zimbardo broke the window on the car. The experiment set the stage for the broken window theory. According to the broken window theory crime will be more prevalent in areas that are run down and uncared for. If a building has one broken window that has not been fixed it gives the impression that no one cares enough to fix the window. When people think that no one cares they will break more windows in the building just for fun. As the neighborhood deteriorates and gets more vandalism the more crimes will be committed in that area. According to Kelling and Winslow community deterioration and crime are inextricably linked (Kelling & Wilson, 1982).

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was motivated by the broken window theory to clean up New York. Together with the chief of police Willie Bratton they took a very strict stance on graffiti, pan handling, prostitution, and other petty crimes. They proved that by cleaning up the neighborhoods and taking care of the petty crimes it had a big effect on the bigger crimes as well. There were 2,801 murders were committed 1994 the year that Giuliani took office and by 2003 the murder rate was down to 537, the lowest murder rate since 1963 (Adams, 2006). Another study done by a college student on the broken window theory in 2011 also produced positive results (US Fed News Service, Including US State News, 2011). The student cleaned up neighborhoods near campus to decrease the crime rate and to test out the validity of the broken window theory. The work that she did had a positive impact on the residents of the areas that she cleaned up.

Opposition to the broken window theory state that there is no real evidence to prove...
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