Crime Analysis for Problem Solvers

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Crime Prevention and Control Broken Windows Theory and CPTED

Broken windows theory is a criminological theory of the norm-setting and signaling effects of urban disorder and vandalism on additional crime and anti-social behavior. The theory states that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a well-ordered condition may prevent further vandalism as well as an escalation into more serious crime. The title comes from the following example, “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, and if it's unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.” A successful strategy for preventing vandalism is to fix the problems when they are small. Repair the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week, and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate, or for the rate of littering to be much less. Problems do not escalate and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood. The theory thus makes two major claims: that further petty crime and low-level anti-social behavior will be deterred, and that major crime will, as a result, be prevented. Criticism of the theory has tended to focus only on the latter claim. Humans constantly monitor other people and their environment in order to determine what the correct norms for the given situation are. They also monitor others to make sure that the others act in an acceptable way. People do as others do and the group makes sure that the rules are followed. But when there are no people around, as is often the case in an anonymous urban...
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