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The essence of Wilson and Kelling’s broken windows theory is the idea that small crimes not only break the atmosphere of order, peace, and lawfulness, but also increase the rates of serious crimes. Nowadays this criminological theory is the subject of numerous controversies and debates. The aim of this research paper is to explain the logic, relevance, and effectiveness of Wilson and Kelling’s theory. In addition, the paper will evaluate the correspondence of this criminological theory to the realities of arrests and crimes over the period of the last two decades.
Many researchers are proponents of the idea that the broken windows theory is very effective in prevention of serious crimes. Many police officers defend the efficiency and logic of this theory maintaining that it may prevent various types of crimes, and contribute to the creation of healthy communities (Bratton & Kelling, 2015). Bratton and Kelling (2015), who investigate the benefits and positive consequences of broken windows policing, assure that application of this criminological theory has saved “countless lives” in New York.
The authors of the article Why We Need Broken Window Policing stress that this theory is extremely important because it will not only decrease the crime rates, but will give the chance to maintain order, and improve the quality of life of ordinary people (Bratton & Kelling, 2015). However, the biggest advantage, as the researchers suggest, focuses on the lessened opportunities for more serious and threatening criminal acts. Although there are many critics who insist on the inefficiency of this theory, the authors of this study state that broken windows policy is tremendously important because it motivates te police and the public not to ignore minor criminal acts, including public drinking, fights, and other minor offenses (Bratton & Kelling, 2015). In addition, statistics prove that significant percentage of residents support these small “order-maintenance” policies and activities because everything in this world, especially chaos, starts small and then gradually becomes bigger, and sometimes even exceeds its boundaries. Therefore, the results of scientific investigations prove that broken windows policing makes sense, because disorderly behavior stimulates more serious and dangerous crimes (Bratton & Kelling, 2015). Thus, the researches come to conclusion that this criminological theory may decrease the number of arrests and crimes. The abundant 20-year NY City’s experience serves as a vivid proof of the fact that broken windows policies are very effective; although they do not prevent crime altogether, they help governmental and legal entities to control crime and disorder in cities (Bratton & Kelling, 2015).
Braga et al. (2015) who investigate the effectiveness of policies that prevent serious crime and disorder in New York state that broken windows policies should be implemented because they reduce serious crimes (Braga, Welsh, Schnell, 2015). Moreover, the results of systematic reviews prove that police officers who pay attention to minor social and physical crimes achieve reduced percentage of serious crimes in their neighborhoods (Braga, Welsh, Schnell, 2015). Thus, the researchers summarize that these policies are successful programs as they have increased public safety in large cities, especially New York, over the last two decades (Braga, Welsh, Schnell, 2015).
The contribution of Jane Jacobs to the origin and development of broken windows policies is tremendous because the researcher identified and assessed the factors that “make the neighborhood work” (Jacobs, 1961). In addition, she described why the police failed to preserve peace and welfare of residents in many cities (Jacobs, 1961). Jane Jacobs believed that police do not play the key role in maintaining public peace and security. On the contrary, the researcher emphasized that conscious decisions, responsibility, and, finally, voluntary control are the key elements that give the chance to maintain peace, and reduce crime rates (Jacobs, 1961). Although it is the primary responsibility of the police to respond to incidents immediately, every person should participate in promoting conscious behavior, tolerance, and responsibility (Jacobs, 1961). Finally, according to the ideas promoted by Robert Peel, who is the creator of the first effective police force in London, the police should be “directed”. In other words, Peel created and developed a set of ethical principles that police officers should follow in order to improve their performance (Jacobs, 1961). His position towards public peace and reduction of crime is similar to Jane Jacob’s ideas, as he believed that the police are the public and, at the same time, residents are the police as well (Jacobs, 1961).
Consequently, having identified and evaluated the essence of broken windows policing, having reviewed its logic and the attitudes of other researchers towards its efficiency, it would be right to conclude that this criminological theory is effective because it reduces crime rates and fosters public safety. In general, many researchers agree that not only the police, but the public too should maintain order and help prevent crime.
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