Broken Windows Policy Argumentative Essay

Broken Windows Policy Argumentative Essay
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Broken windows policy is a theory of policing which attributes high crime rates to the breakdown of social controls. It was introduced as an academic theory by George Kelling and James Q. Wilson in the early 1980s.The broken window is a representative of laxity in maintaining order and failure to combat socially unacceptable behavior.

 A house with a broken window indicates that the residents are not keen on maintenance, and that the society is permissive of low-level crimes.  

According to the broken windows theory, offenders are emboldened in a chaotic environment, becoming less fearful of possible consequences for the criminal acts committed.

Therefore, the policy focuses on minimizing minor offenses as a means of discouraging the more serious crimes.  The wide application of the broken windows policy has been done in New York City, and thus the evaluation of its effectiveness can be measured using the city and the surrounding are statistics. 

Broken windows policy thesis statement

This paper, by referreing to a number of scholarly articles and sources, argues that broken windows policy is an effective strategy in combating crime in America.

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General Analysis

Lower income areas are more prone to higher crime levels as compared to higher income areas. Based on the broken window theory, such levels of crime can be attributed to the higher levels of incivility and disorder. Consequently, the residents are more fearful and withdrawn from efforts for societal control. They lose control over the running of the neighborhood and petty offenders become bolder in their dealings.

The culture of ignoring disorder creates an environment where actions that would be considered disorderly more permissible.

The acceptability of petty crimes in a neighborhood makes it less likely for residents to report such actions to the authorities. The authorities may also have a general expectation for the neighborhood to be uncivilized and thus tend to be more responsive to serious crimes and not petty offenses.

The gradual disregard for becoming behavior also creates the notion that one cannot be apprehended for wrongdoing.

Therefore, the levels of crime tend to escalate from petty offenses to more serious crimes (Kohler-Hausmann, 2018).

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Argument FOR the Broken Windows Policy  

Policing strategies that focus on maintaining order have been noted to have a significant impact in lowering the rates of all kinds of crimes. In this kind of policing, the law enforcement agencies tend to focus less on serious crimes and more on promoting greater informal social control. The model works on the notion that big problems take care of themselves once steps are taken to curb smaller problems.

When this model was applied to New York, there was a rise in arrests relating to petty offenses such as loitering, graffiti, and public intoxication.

However, there was a subsequent decline in the rates of more serious crimes (Klinenberg, 2018).

This is an indication that dealing with disorder in the neighborhoods stops potential offenders as they are aware of the visibility and possible consequences for their actions.

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Arguments AGAINST the Broken Windows Policy    

Critics argue that the broken windows policy of policing has seen more arrests for minorities as compared to white offenders (Klinenberg, 2018).

They aver that the police are likely to release a white offender with a warning, while jail cells are filled with minorities arrested for very petty reasons. It is also hard to determine what fits the metaphor of a broken window.

For a determination of disorder to made, there must be a model of order from which disorder can be discerned.

What parties may view as disorder may be the culture that brings society together. The notion that residents are withdrawn from the affairs of the community can also be misleading as one cannot purport to equate the social dynamics of each neighborhood with high rates of crime. Finally, forms of crimes differ from petty crimes, violent crimes to white collar crimes.

The policy has not been proven to control white collar crimes.

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Argument FOR the Broken Windows Policy    

Social dynamics play a significant part in shaping the behavior of the residents. A permissive society precipitates the gradual degradation of social controls and eventually tolerability of rule breaking. Though the role of broken window policy in combating white crime may not be apparent, there has been proof of its efficacy in dealing with serious crimes.

Additionally, operating on the notion that offenders who commit serious crimes begin with petty crimes, combating disorder is the most effective of ridding communities of crime.

This method deals with the problem from the source rather than dealing with the result. Any attempt to crack down on serious crime without making efforts to correct the social corruption that exacerbates such behavior is unlikely to be successful.


Kelling and Wilson’s broken window theory of policing has both proponents and critics. A section of analysts find that the policy is applied partially, to the disadvantage of minority youths.

This notion contributes to the opposition that this method of policing has received. However, this criticism is not based on the actual effectiveness of the policy, but focuses on the conduct on enforcement agents.

Therefore, if applied in a just manner, there would be less opposition to it. Most neighborhoods that have low crime rates are neat, well maintained, and there is little sign of idling. However, high crime rate areas are marred with idlers, intoxicated individuals, and the amenities are seldom maintained. This proves the theory that the physical environment of an area coupled with the social dynamics influences the behavior of the residents.

Any policy that would be effective in rooting out crime would have to rely on maintaining the civility of a neighborhood.


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Klinenberg, E. (2018). The Other Side of “Broken Windows”. Newyorker. Retrieved from
Kohler-Hausmann, J. (2018). Misdemeanor land. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

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