Criminology Theories: Do Police Matter?

Criminology theories have been researched to offer factual data on the elements thought to account for crime and delinquency. Researchers have integrated the ideas in an effort to explain a bigger proportion of crime and delinquency because no single explanation can effectively account for all the causes causing crime and delinquency. This article will review study instances that used the shattered windows theory to explain criminal behavior, juvenile delinquency, and crime. Inadequate physical order in informal social controls results in more serious crimes being committed (Kelling and Sousa, 2001). From this perspective, the police were to focus on low-level and small magnitude offences to prevent more significant and more severe crimes. This view was adopted by William Bratton, the head of Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City. He later carried to New York Police Department in the Mid 1990s when he became commissioner. He credited the reduced crime in the city to the adoption of Broken Windows theory. Arrests for violent crimes dropped to 75000 from 150 00 between the years 1989 and 1998. More interesting was the drop in homicide crimes during the same period. Kelling & Coles (1996) point out that as a result of its success in New York City, others cities like Chicago, San Francisco and Boston integrated the broken windows theory as its part of their strategic plans to combat crime.

Meta-Analysis of Articles

Numerous scholars based their argument of broken windows theory on an evaluation of New York police patrol program in the mid-1970s. This program brought the introduction of Safe and Clean Neighborhoods Acts that gave cities funds to test the empirical effectiveness of foot patrol. To test the viability of the crime researchers used official statistics and also collected data from surveys on residents "fear of victimization", police job satisfaction and residents "perception of the police (Sousa and Kelling, 2006)

The results showed that residents were less fearful and consequently took less self-protective measures in neighborhoods that were foot-patrolled, and the police who foot-patrolled the streets reported positively regarding police job satisfaction compared to the police who patrolled in cars. However, it was noted that the official crime statistics were not affected by the foot- patrolling. (Sousa and Kelling, 2006)

This study cast doubts on the other tactics tested empirically in the 1960s and 1970s. The foundation of professional model of policing which was a rapid response and randomized car patrol were found to be ineffective. Findings revealed no correlation between more police patrol and crime rates. Citizens rarely noticed the increase in patrol levels in their neighborhoods (Kelling and Bratton,1998)

Kelling and Sousa(200l) in their study attempted to identify the contributions of demographics, the economy and drug use in New York. They argued that previous studies lack adequate comparison for New York City. They noted that previous researchers used unsuitable comparisons or failed to use any comparison at all. Kelling and Sousa suggested the comparison groups by splitting the city into 75 separate groups corresponding to 75 police precincts. The research design statistically compares the correlation between violent crime and four dependent variables which are; broken-windows policing, economic indicators, young male population shifts, and the decline in drug and substance abuse within the 75 sub-groups. The research finds a strong negative correlation between misdemeanor arrests and violent crime.

Harcourt and Ludwig, (2005) attempted to replicate Kelling and Sousa results but were hindered by the fact that in their results the authors do not spell out the exact estimating equations for analysis. Their table which presented their key results did not give some sense of how the analysis is structured. However, from reading over Kelling and Sousa, their dissertation, ascertain that it would appear they were estimating a two-level hierarchical linear growth model.

Ralph Taylor of Temple University researched sixty-six neighborhoods in Baltimore using longitudinal data. He attempted to determine the relationship between neighborhood crime and what he termed as physical and social and “incivilities"—panhandlers, public drunks, trash graffiti and vacant lots, among other things. What he found was that, while certain types of incivilities were associated with crime or urban decay, others were not. He wrote in his book, Breaking Away from Broken Windows, that different types of incivilities may require different policy approaches. he further notes “Researchers and policy-makers alike, “need to break away from broken windows and vary widely the models upon which they rely, to predict and to preserve safe and stable neighborhoods with assured and committed residents." Kelling and Sousa concluded from the results that broken windows is highly effective crime-fighting strategy. They argued that the NYPD precincts expected to suffer one less violent crime for approximately 28 misdemeanor arrests made (Harcout and Ludwig, 2005)

However, the conclusion from these results is different from any study conducted on what influences American crime patterns during the period 1985-2005 was complicated by the massive period effects that have year-to-year changes in crime in America. Proliferation in crime rates shot up from the mid-1980s through the early- to mid-1990s, which is thought to have mainly been largely influenced by the by the growth in drugs abuse such as cocaine and involvement of guns in the street markets for cocaine (Harcout and Ludwig, 2005)

The Corman and Mocan (2002) Study has provided an analysis of broken windows policing in New York by analyzing monthly time series data for the city as a whole. For many researchers, the massive drop in crime in New York City coincident with the integration of broken windows theory provides a strong support base for the efficacy of the argument. However, even putting aside these precinct comparisons, for many observers, the major drop in New York City's crime rate during the 1990s, which coincidentally came with the onset of broken-windows policing in the city; provides compelling proof for the efficacy of this policing strategy.

Corman and Mocan's (2002), analysis provided a more formal version of this same insight, by analyzing monthly time-series data for the New York City as a whole. Controlling for city-wide measures such as real minimum wage, unemployment, police deployment and incarceration rate, find a negative relationship between city robberies and city-wide misdemeanor arrests rates. They were unable to find a link between the latter and other types of crime. Corman and Mocan's time used data between 1970 and 2000; their data represented graphically represented implied that the relationship between misdemeanor arrests and crime appear to be influenced by the large proliferation in misdemeanor arrests that occurred in New York from 1994 to late 90s.

In their research Corman and Mocan used data compiled from various sources. This include Crime Analysis Unit of the New York City Police Department and the five FBI index crimes. Crimes were measured as reported complaints. To capture the varying nature of policing policies in the 90s in relation to the broken windows hypothesis, Corman and Morcan (2002), included misdemeanor arrests in their analysis. Their study showed that misdemeanor arrests fell in the early 1970s and somehow rose in the1980s.In 1994, they experienced a large sustained increase.

Unit root tests were applied to investigate the trend behavior of the variables using standard augmented Dicker- fuller tests. It was found that misdemeanor arrests have a significant impact on robberies and thefts of motor vehicles. This implies that holding constant their arrests, prison population and the size of the police force, the growth rates in robberies and motor vehicle thefts had a direct relationship with the growth rate of misdemeanor arrests. The results support the broken windows hypothesis in case of these two crimes. However, is arguable that the impact of misdemeanor arrests on robbery and motor vehicle theft can be attributed to incapacitation effect (Harcourt, 1998).

In 1994 the Housing and Urban development in the US launched the MTO (Moving to Opportunity) experiment. The idea was to test the effects of disorder alone on criminal behavior. A sample of people living in very socially disordered settings was selected. Randomly, these families would then be assigned to less disorderly places. So much less disorderly that families experience from neighborhoods would be large enough to statically yield detectable impacts on behavior. The participants would later be observed for many years to measure their involvement in criminal activities in ways such as with self-reports and administrative arrest records. The participants were required to stay at the place moved for at least one year. (Harcourt, 1998).

The results of the summarized by Corman and Mocan, 2005), using survey data and administrative arrest records. Adults surveyed were not asked about criminal behavior hence adult criminal activity can only be measured using official arrest records. Descriptive statistics showed that consistent with the random assignment of families to MTO groups; there are no statistically significant differences across MTO groups in the fraction of male/ female adults/ youth who have ever been arrested before the random assignment or for other baseline characteristics.

It was demonstrated that MTO reduced a wide variety of self-reported measures of neighborhood physical and social disorder as well for both the experimental and groups relative to controls. This includes 20–30% increase in the fraction who felt safe in their neighborhood at night, one-quarter reductions in the share who saw drugs in their neighborhood; those who report problems with litter, trash, graffiti, or abandoned buildings in the neighborhood declined by 10-15%. There was15–25% declines in the share of those who report problems with public drinking and 10–25% increases in the share who are very satisfied/satisfied with their neighborhoods (Kelling and Bratton, 1998)

MTO rigorously tested what happens to individual's criminal behavior when they move to neighborhoods characterized by less disorder. The experiment also induced changes in which program participants lived, including low crime rates, fewer low-income residents and residents with high levels of schooling. Findings reveal a test of the combined effects of reducing community disorder increasing neighborhood affluence (Harcourt and Ludwig, 2005)

Empirical Tests of BW Policing and its Relation to Serious Crime

Given the assumption of windows broken success in New York City, other police departments across the country implemented policies based on same (Kelling & Coles, 1996). In response to this, scholars began empirically assessing the effectiveness of the strategy Results from these studies has been seen to be mixed. Some research has shown these policies to be effective at reducing serious crime, while others have found that broken windows policing does not affect or has an insignificant effect on the crime rate. Many of the studies focused on the crime decline in New York City during the 1990s (Corman and Mocan, 2005).

Kelling and Sousa (2001) did evaluate the rate of the crime drop in New York City from 1989-1998, taking into account factors likely to be influential in this decline. They investigated the change in policing strategy, economic changes, drug trends, and demographic changes in relation to changes in an index of official homicides, robberies and felonious assaults rapes.

Corman and Mocan (2005) analyzed monthly time series data from 1974-1999 to assess the effect of broken windows policing on serious crimes. They used complaints for all index crimes with the exception of arson. Economic conditions were measured using the real minimum wage and unemployment rate. The number of uniformed officers, felony arrests, and the prison population were also included in the analysis. The studies provide a sample of empirical research on broken windows policing and points to a general observation. The results do not answer whether the broken windows approach works. This is why Meta-analysis comes out as the best approach for such.

Data collection methods and Statistical Analysis

The Development of explicit sets of inclusion criteria is an important step in the analysis process. Criteria should be explicitly stated to understand and replicate decisions fully. Several scholars have discussed a wide range of criteria in what they termed as „study eligibility‟ criteria. Which must all be well articulated before the population of studies is gathered. Most of the articles discussed above used data collection methods from surveys and official statistics from the justice and criminal department. Google was used to search journals and articles from other researchers. Statistical formulae were used to analyze the data. Kelling et al. (1981) is the hypothesized relationship between visible forms of disorder, their impacts on residents and in addition to the effect of attracting offenders from outside of the neighborhood.

In particular, measures of physical disorder included reports from residents of litter, prostitution, graffiti, and vandalism (Sampson and Raudenbush, 2004). These are taken as indicators of the breakdown of the local social order. Such measures have been developed through community-based surveys, neighborhood audits and interviews. These methods capture data in a cross-sectional fashion, thereby excluding longitudinal analysis at smaller temporal scales. In the recent years, big administrative data that show longitudinal features have been developed to generate measures of broken windows. Building on the econometrics approach by Raudenbush and Sampson (2004), a measure of physical disorder was developed and validated. They used a large database from Boston's Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system used by locals to request city services, many of which were referenced to physical incivilities removal.

Summary and Conclusion

Since the introduction of broken windows theorem by Wilson and Kelling in 1980s, academic scholars have been skeptical about its efficacy. Published empirical literature has convincingly demonstrated that increased police activities do not necessarily reduce crime. It does not sufficiently demonstrate that targeting police resources against areas with high crime rate can lead to a decline in criminal activities. The Kelling and Sousa analysis sought to find out if the police focusing on minor and misdemeanor crime as in broken windows policing can lead to a decline or prevent bigger violent crimes. Our analysis provides no sufficient empirical evidence to support the perspective that divergence of police targeting minor disorder offences would improve the efficiency of police spending and consequently reduce violent crime (Kelling and Sousa, 2001).

This paper has been written to assess the best available evidence for the broken windows theory and to rethink the research design most effective in the study of the broken windows hypothesis (Kelling and Sousa, 2001). We observe that crime pattern changes across New York City precincts during the 1990s that Kelling and Sousa (2001) attribute to broken windows. Neighborhoods that received intensive broken windows policing reported largest increased crime levels during the New York city drugs and cocaine epidemic. Data from MTO experiment reveals that moving to a less disadvantaged and less disorderly community does not appear to reduce criminal activities among the MTO program population. If indeed there was a relationship between disorder and crime, any such effects would be so small enough to be overshadowed by whatever pernicious effects on criminal behavior may arise from increases in neighborhood socioeconomic status (Sousa and Kelling, 2006)

Understanding the relationship between disorder and crime as in broken-windows policy is important for legal and scientific purposes. Harcourt and Ludwig (2005) note, "there appears to be no good evidence that broken windows policing reduces crime". Several scholars have questioned how much, if any, of the decline in crime, can be attributed to order maintenance policing". While the common perception is that enforcement strategies (primarily arrest) applied broadly against offenders committing minor offences lead to reductions in serious crime, research does not provide support for this proposition."


Corman, H., & Mocan, N. (2005). Carrots, sticks, and broken windows. Journal of Law and Economics, 48(1), 235-266.

Harcourt, B. E. (1998). Reflecting on the subject: A critique of the social influence conception of deterrence, the broken windows theory, and order-maintenance policing New York style. Michigan Law Review, 97, 291-389.

Harcourt, B. E., & Ludwig, J. (2006). Broken windows: New evidence from New York City and a five-city social experiment. The University of Chicago Law Review, 73(1), 271-320.

Harcourt, B. E., & Ludwig, J. (2007). Reefer madness: Broken windows policing and misdemeanor marijuana arrests in New York City, 1989-2000. Criminology & Public Policy, 6(1), 165-182.

Kelling, G. L., & Bratton, W. J. (1998). Declining crime rates: Insiders‟ view of the New York City story. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 88(4), 1217- 1231.

Kelling, G. L., & Coles, C. M. (1996). Fixing broken windows: Restoring order and reducing crime in our communities. New York: Free Press.

Kelling, G. L., & Sousa, W. H. (2001). Do police matter? An analysis of the impact of New York City’s police reforms. New York: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Skogan, W., & Frydl, K. (Eds.). (2004). Fairness and effectiveness in policing: The evidence. Washington, DC: National Academic Press.

Sousa, W. H., & Kelling, G. L. (2006). Of “broken windows,” criminology, and criminal justice.

Sampson, Robert J, & Stephen W Raudenbush.(2004).Seeing Disorder neighborhood stigma and the Social construction of Broken Windows :Social Psychology Quarterly.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price