Broken Windows

The problem with community policing.

Police search a man following a drugs raid in Quarles Street, Washington, 19 July 1985. Linda Wheeler/The Washington Post/Getty Images.

In 1982, George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson published an article in the Atlantic which transformed policing in the United States. Titled ‘Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety’, it argued that city police should aggressively clamp down on low-level street disorder – panhandling, prostitution, loitering ‘youths’ – in order to prevent more serious crime. Responding with enthusiasm, police departments across the US began implementing their own ‘broken windows’ or ‘zero tolerance’ strategies, saturating poor neighbourhoods with police and dramatically escalating their arrest rates for minor offences. 

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