‘Broken Windows’ Author Rebuts Criticism


Writing at NationalReview.com, William Bratton and George Kelling mount a spirited defense of criticism of Kelling’s “Broken Windows” law enforcement strategy. They write, “We’ve argued for many years that when police pay attention to minor offenses – such as prostitution, graffiti, aggressive panhandling – they can reduce fear, strengthen communities, and prevent serious crime…Yet despite the demonstrable success of this theory, some criminologists and sociologists continue to attack it, with arguments that are factually and philosophically false. Policymakers should not be misled by these misrepresentations into returning our cities to the failed police policies of the past.”

The authors single out a recent Boston Globe article reporting that “scholars are starting to question whether fixing broken windows really fixes much at all.” Bratton and Kelling write, “The most sustained attack on broken windows and NYPD achievements has not been practical or factual, but political and ideological. Many social scientists are wedded to the idea that crime is caused by the structural features of a capitalist society – especially economic injustice, racism, and poverty. They assume that true crime reduction can come only as the result of economic reform, redistribution of wealth, and elimination of poverty and racism…It’s easy for academics to claim that they have ‘disproved’ broken windows. It fits nicely into a sound bite. More carefully considered evaluations of the theory, which we welcome, require complex and subtle reasoning, less easily formulated for general readers.”

Link: http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/bratton_kelling200602281015.asp

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