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by Peter Moskos

February 9, 2009

Broken Windows Works

Researchers, working with police, identified 34 crime hot spots. In half of them, authorities set to work - clearing trash from the sidewalks, fixing street lights, and sending loiterers scurrying. Abandoned buildings were secured, businesses forced to meet code, and more arrests made for misdemeanors. Mental health services and homeless aid referrals expanded.

In the remaining hot spots, normal policing and services continued.

Then researchers from Harvard and Suffolk University sat back and watched, meticulously recording criminal incidents in each of the hot spots.

The results, just now circulating in law enforcement circles, are striking: A 20 percent plunge in calls to police from the parts of town that received extra attention. It is seen as strong scientific evidence that the long-debated "bro ken windows" theory really works - that disorderly conditions breed bad behavior, and that fixing them can help prevent crime.

Read the whole story in the Boston Globe. I'll try and get my hands on the actual report.

[Update: The article is Braga, Anthony A and Brenda J. Bond. 2008. "Policing Crime and Disorder Hot Spots: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Criminology. Vol. 46(3).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"We demand it in fields like medicine," Weisburd said. "It seems to me with all the money we spend on policing, we better be able to see whether the programs have the effects we intend them to have."

This part of the story is key. Policing, which has made gradual strides towards becoming a profession over the years, needs to make the leap at some point. Evidence-based policing, progressive academies/FTO periods, and more stringent educational requirements may combine to make policing more like the other professions. Thanks for this post, Peter.