New Academic Study: “Broken Windows” Theory Is “Wrong”


Bernard Harcourt, a University of Chicago law professor, is publishing this month a provocative new study that finds no evidence to support the popular theory that “broken-windows” policing actually reduces crime, reports the University of Chicago Chronicle. Titled “Broken Windows: New Evidence from New York City, and a Five-City Social Experiment,” the study is co-authored by Jens Ludwig, associate professor of public policy at Georgetown University. It appears in the latest issue of the University of Chicago Law Review. The article can be read online at: http://lawreview.

Harcourt and Ludwig challenge the central premise of James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in their 1982 article in The Atlantic Monthly suggesting that targeting minor disorder, such as broken windows, could help reduce more serious crime. Now the three most populous U.S. cities, New York, Chicago, and most recently, Los Angeles, all have adopted at least some aspect of Wilson and Kelling's theory, primarily through more aggressive enforcement of minor misdemeanor laws. This year Boston and Denver have signed on. Harcourt and Ludwig argue that the popular crime-fighting strategy “is, well, wrong,” said Harcourt. “We don't deny that the 'broken windows' idea seems compelling. The problem is that it doesn't seem to work as claimed in practice.”


Comments are closed.