Broken Windows

This page was last modified: January 14th, 2023


Define broken windows theory based on the lecture and your reading of the original Wilson et al. book chapter. What are the key assumptions embedded in the theory? (In other words, consider questions like: How do the authors define disorder? What do they see as the relationship between crime and disorder? And what do they see as the role and impact of police?)


Broken windows theory states that: β€œvisible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including, and potentially leading up to, more serious crimes.”

I often think of concepts that exist solely in the context of their relationships. Cold, for example, defined as an absence of warmth. Health, another, defined as an absence of disease; to me, through this reading, I believe the author thought of β€œcrime” as an absence. An absence of care, of cherishment, of affection, of love. Through that lens, one can come to understand how the traditional concept of β€œcrime” might be seen as an obstruction to more tangible issues. A completed structure whose individual bricks and sections are disregarded in favor of the more easily understandable abstraction that is the whole. Unfortunately, in doing so, we diminish our ability to identify, analyze, prioritize, mitigate and, ultimately, correct the course that the many little, and sometimes large, individual steps lead to. To me, β€œcrime” was not the focus of the author. Why would it be? When the argument lies in it being a byproduct, a symptom, manifesting as a response to the disorder of apathy.

Beyond that, the reading tackles a challenging topic: What role does the police have to play in a system such as this? When viewing β€œcrime” in its most prevalent form (the one the author argues against) the role of the police, while especially complex in the minutiae, is straightforward: fight β€œcrime”. A prime example of hacking at the branches without striking the root. If apathy paves the way for disorder to propagate, then naturally the role of the police should be to, practically, cull the attitude and, ideally, foster its antithesis. Unfortunately, this goal is no easier feat, heck it might even be harder. But the current reality is that officers are not being cultivated in a culture that would promote such approaches, they are not being trained in reasoning and tactics that employ such strategies and they themselves are almost never the recipients of the very appreciation preserving pristine windows calls for. The cards are stacked against these ideas, but in my experience the most difficult things tend to be the ones most worth doing.


This is an artifact I preserved from my tenure as a “Homework Slave”. While there are many roads to Rome, if you’re interested, mine was as follows:

  1. Go to DISBOARD.

  2. Type “Homework Slave” in the search bar.

  3. Pick an active server and slowly work your way through the ranks of it’s ad hoc social credit system.

What it takes from you… It’s quite the masochistic thrill. There’s nothing worth more than your time.

Prompt Source

Author(s) || George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson

Magazine || The Atlantic Monthly

Article || Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety

Date || March 1982


Response Source

Me & My Bullshit

tags: [“evergreen”]

contributors: [“Me”]

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