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Understanding the Broken Window Theory: How Small Neglects Can Lead to Larger Problems

Sep 22, 2023

In the realm of social science and urban planning, the Broken Window Theory stands as a compelling concept with significant implications for understanding community safety and crime prevention.

The Broken Window Theory


The Broken Window Theory was first introduced by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in a 1982 article titled "Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety." This theory offers a unique perspective on how visible signs of disorder and neglect in a community can lead to an increase in crime and antisocial behavior.


The core idea behind the theory is that an unrepaired broken window, left unchecked, sends a signal that no one cares about the area. This neglect, in turn, attracts more vandalism and criminal activity. It suggests that small signs of disorder and neglect can create an environment where more significant problems are likely to thrive. In essence, if a building appears abandoned, it is assumed that there is no ownership and no potential or capable guardian to witness potential misconduct. The aggressor is presented with the belief that their actions will go unchecked


The Broken Window Theory has been influential in shaping urban policing strategies and community development efforts. It underscores the importance of maintaining visible order and addressing minor offenses as a means of preventing more serious crime.

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