Research Paper Help on Present Impacts of Broken Window Theory

Present Impacts of Broken Window Theory

Long before the development of various criminal theories, most law enforcement focused on serious crime that is, crimes that were perceived by the society to be more serious such as rape and murder. Most sociologists and criminologist believe that the serious crimes emanate from some existing social disorders that are not fully addressed. Proposed in the year 1982 by sociologists James Wilson and George Kelling, the broken window theory asserts that a building with several broken windows is more likely to have more windows broke through vandalism if the windows are not repaired on time. This was a metaphorical statement implying that serious crime emanates from a chain of other events mostly social and physical disorders in the community that are not dealt with over time and that if the disorders could be eliminated in time, other serious crimes may be avoided. The broken window theory also posits that dominance of disorders is likely to create fear in the minds of people and eventually consider a place unsafe thus weakening social controls among criminals. This paper is intended to discuss the present impacts broken window theory in the society.

The broken window theory has had several impacts on the law making and enforcement in the society over the past two decades. One major impact of the theory is that unlike other criminology theories, the broken window theory has enable the initiation of criminal justice policy to pioneer change instead of reliance on social policies. The broken window theory works quickly in crime control compared to solutions provided by some other theories that may be challenging both socially and economically. In the 1990s, during the reign of William Bratton as the police commissioner of the New York police department, the impacts of the broken window theory was experienced. During the 1990s, the subways in New York City were considered insecure considering the significant number of the destitute people that were living in the subways. In addition, social misconduct such as fare evasion was increasingly becoming common. Bratton instituted the broken window theory to effect changes that enabled the police department to reclaim control of the subways. That was the main point of reference in dealing with the social misconducts in the city that included prostitution, truant children and homeless people living in the streets and under bridges. This kind of scenario instigated fear among people, which was likely to materialize into serious crimes. Bratton believed that by dealing with such minor misconducts, future criminal activities would reduce basing the argument on the broken window theory. The procedure affected by Bratton of making New York City safe has so far been adopted by various cities across the America more particularly in the police department.  

Another major present impact of the broken window theory is the fact that the theory has drawn criticism among various scholars that include sociologists, criminologists, and policy makers among others and as a result has contributed to a lot of research and scholarly works. The criticism arising from the theory has resulted into numerous studies to determine its credibility and as such, other criminology theories have been adopted to deal with the day-to-day challenges. For instance, Pass and Veenstra (2006) conducted a study to investigate the relationship between the perceived disorder in a community and the fear factor emanating from disorders, which is the pillar of the broken window theory. According to Pass and Veenstra (2006), the broken window theory does not hold and the two researchers conclude that other factors rather than social misconducts contribute greatly to criminal activities. This is just one among several research studies that have been conducted based on the broken window theory. On the other hand, there have been other studies that have supported the broken window theory and generally one may conclude that among the present impacts of broken window theory is that it has really contributed to numerous works and studies in criminology and thus influencing policymaking.

Since the introduction of the broken window theory over two decades ago, the controversial theory has influenced community and crime justice policy making. From the numerous research activities that have emanated from the broken window theory, the theory has influence a number of policies either directly or indirectly. The broken window theory has greatly influenced the community courts approaches that lay emphasis on addressing disorders to make the community safe (Pratt, Gau and Franklin, 2011). For illustration, the zero tolerance policing was adopted from broken windows theory. The zero tolerance policing implied that all crimes whether serious or mere disorders should be dealt with accordingly to help make the cities safe for all residents. The zero tolerance policing is simple the broken window theory in that it has enabled the law enforcement department to deal with disorder and thereby restoring order in the cities while fighting crime as well. Even though the broken window theory continues to draw criticism across the divide, it is also important to note that the theory has really contributed much to policy making especially in the policing and crime justice department.

The police departments across the United States of America have incorporated the broken window theory in restoring order in the cities. Today, most people who lived in New York City in the late 1980s and early 1990s acknowledge the great impacts the theory had on the strategies used in the early 1990s to restore order. Presently, police patrols continue in almost all cities across America, and the seriousness with which minor disorders are handled are still based on the broken window theory. The author of broken window theory argues that most police departments have used the broken window theory to restore order in towns despite the criticisms that have surrounded the theory (Roberts, 2014). The author of the broken window theory further asserts that in a modern and diverse society, civility is paramount and it is the argument that has kept the cities safe (Roberts, 2014). Most of police reforms that apply in various cities today are based on the broken window theory either directly or indirectly. In most cities where the broken window theory has been adapted, the crime rates have reduced significantly. With reduced crime rate, the community neighborhoods become safe and thereby conducive for business.

Adoption of the broken window theory by law enforcement department has ensured a safe neighborhood and thus making the cities conducive for business activities and thereby contributing to economic growth. There are records of business growth in cities where the police department have adopted the broken window theory. The growth of small businesses creates job opportunities to the locals and thus contributes positively to economical growth in the cities. The broken window theory also played a fundamental role in the business improvement district, a plan to make the city neighborhood safe for business (Pratt, Gau and Franklin, 2011). By dealing with social misbehaviors, the broken window policy has added momentum to the business improvement district and hence contributed towards improving the economic status of the cities across the USA (Pratt, Gau and Franklin, 2011). It is important to note that social misbehaviors and disorder hinders business and that the broken window theory addresses such issues. Today, statistics show that business activities and economic growth are higher in cities that are perceived to be safe, and this can be attributed to the broken window theory. In addition, the broken window theory also has economic benefits to the law enforcement agencies since, the resources required to enforce the broken window policy may not be as much as the resources that may be required to fight serious crime emanating from unresolved social misbehavior.

In conclusion, the broken window theory has contributed a lot in criminology by opening windows for numerous crime researches and helped reduce crime significantly in cities. The impacts are greatly felt in the scholarly works, policy making in both the police and crime justice departments. Order in a city is fundamental for the city’s social and economic growth and thus the theory despite the controversies surrounding it has enabled law enforcement to reduce crime in cities by making the cities safe. William’s identification of the fact that social misconducts, disorganization, and minor crimes if remains unresolved may pose danger of increasing crime rate has played a significant role in criminology.


Pass, J. & Veenstra, R. (2006). Broken Window: The Effect of Disorder on Fear. Web. Retrieved from

Pratt, T., Gau, J., & Franklin, T.(2011). Key ideas in criminology and criminal justice. Los Angeles: SAGE.

Roberts, S. (2014). Author Of Broken Windows Policing Defends His Theory. The New York Times. Retrieved from