What does "broken windows" policing mean?
Nobody agrees — and that’s why we don’t know if it works
I like to write about cities. In recent years, this has meant writing a lot about crime and policing debates in which the concept of “broken windows policing” looms large.
On one side of these debates are people who are absolutely convinced that the problem of urban crime has been solved, conceptually, and that the solution is a set of policies called “broken windows policing.” Those on the other side are equally convinced that “broken windows policing” comprises a set of policies whose merits have been decisively refuted by empirical evidence.
I don’t think either side is correct, because I don’t think “broken windows policing” or “broken windows theory” clearly refers to a specific set of policies. There are strong feelings and affective polarization around the general idea of toughness on crime. But going back to the specific original claims of broken windows theory and the various empirical tests that have been proposed, the whole thing is a mess. I think totally ignoring this ter…