Broken Windows and Policing

There have been three primary phases in the recent history of U.S. policing. The political era (1840–1930) was characterized by close ties between police and politicians with an emphasis on appeasing politicians. The reform era (1930–1970) attempted to cope with police corruption and lack of professionalism, and law enforcement strived to develop a professional crime-fighting force with police resources focused on arrests; it was reactive in nature. Yet, as police leaders sought to impact and minimize the amount of crime produced, the third phase emerged: the community problem-solving era (1970–present), characterized by a proactive attempt to fight crime through partnerships between police agencies and communities.1 Problem-oriented policing and “Broken Windows” are two key approaches of this phase. The Broken Windows theory postulates that the better the urban conditions (i.e., less disorder), the less likely the occurrence of crime.2 The assumption is that ignoring minor crimes will send a message that the area is not under control, which will lead to more serious crimes in the area.