'Broken Windows' Theorist Dead at 80
James Q. Wilson had huge influence on police work in big cities
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2012 10:05 AM CST
In this 1972 file photo, Harvard government professor James Q. Wilson is shown in Boston.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – James Q. Wilson, who came up with the influential "broken windows" theory of policing and crime prevention, died yesterday of leukemia at age 80. A sample of the obituaries:

  • Los Angeles Times: He "helped launch a revolution in law enforcement" with the windows theory—"the idea that eradicating graffiti, public drunkenness and other signposts of community decay was crucial to making neighborhoods safer."
  • New York Times: His theory "holds that when the police emphasize the maintenance of order rather than the piecemeal pursuit of rapists, murderers and carjackers, concentrating on less threatening though often illegal disturbances in the fabric of urban life like street-corner drug-dealing, graffiti and subway turnstile-jumping, the rate of more serious crime goes down." Cities such as New York, Los Angeles, and Boston embraced it.

  • Associated Press: He "helped trigger a nationwide move toward community policing."
  • Original 1982 article: Wilson pitched his theory in the Atlantic 30 years ago with coauthor George Kelling. A key line: "(I)f a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. ... One unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing. (It has always been fun.)” Read it in full here.

More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
'Broken Windows' Theorist Dead at 80 is...
3%
9%
18%
51%
18%
3%
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Comments
Showing 3 of 42 comments
ExceleRater
Mar 4, 2012 8:18 AM CST
The guy is exactly right. When I lived in NY many, many years ago, it was an armpit at best. Then Giuliani came in and cleaned it up using exactly those tactics.
Gonzo_Wilhelm
Mar 3, 2012 10:32 PM CST
The spread of idiots to this site is much on par to a moth to a flame as of late.
finkster
Mar 3, 2012 3:07 PM CST
Naked Gun http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TqIHlnfGKV0