Skip to content

Researchers Debunk “Broken Windows Theory” After 35 Years

Over 35 years ago, researchers theorized that graffiti, abandoned buildings, broken windows, and other signs of disorder in neighborhoods lead people to commit more crime. This phenomenon came to be known as “Broken Windows Theory.”

Now, Northeastern University researchers Daniel T. O’Brien, Brandon Welsh, and Chelsea Farrell have debunked it. Through a meta-analysis of nearly 300 studies, the group identified two flaws that led previous researchers to overstate the impact that elements of neighborhood disorder had on crime and health. The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is a proud of the ongoing, impactful interdisciplinary research with the Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. Read the full story on Northeastern News.

Daniel O’Brien is a professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, and co-director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. Brandon Welsh is a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and director of the Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study. Chelsea Farrell is a doctoral student and teaching assistant in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

More Stories

Pair-Matching With Random Allocation in Prospective Controlled Trials: The Evolution of a Novel Design in Criminology and Medicine, 1926 – 2021

Can We Really Spot and Stop Mass Killers Before They Strike?


Different Places, Different Problems: Profiles of Crime and Disorder at Residential Parcels

Faculty Stories