The Complicated Legacy of “Broken Windows” Policing in CommonWealth Magazine

George Kelling, an American criminologist who spent several years teaching at Northeastern University, passed away this spring at age 83, as told by CommonWealth Magazine. Former Boston and New York City police commissioner William Bratton called Kelling “the most profound influence on American policing in the last 40 or 50 years.” Kelling’s contributions to community policing stem from his Broken Windows Theory, which states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes.

As for the connection between broken-windows policing and reduced crime rates, the evidence is “very mixed,” said Anthony Braga, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, who worked closely with Kelling. “Some of the anti-broken windows criticism is rooted in the problematic application of the approach, and is well-deserved.”

Despite controversy surrounding Kelling’s publication, his work opened conversations about disorder, quality-of-life problems in neighborhoods, and the complex role of police leadership.

Published On: August 13, 2019 |
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