The "Broken Windows" Debut

Broken Windows: The police and neighborhood safety (March 1982)

“The broken windows idea does two things, one indisputably good and the other probably effective: It encourages the police to take public order seriously, something that the overwhelming majority of people ardently desire, and it raises the possibility that more order will mean less crime. The first goal requires no evidence. The second does, and so far most studies suggest that more public order (along with other factors) is associated with less predatory street crime. With all this in mind, we believe that it remains a strategy worth pursuing”[1]

 Wilson and Kelling sent shockwaves through the policing world with their publication of “Broken Windows: the police and neighborhood safety” in the March 1982 issue of The Atlantic. Prior to this publication, both men had encountered each other’s work as professional affiliates of the Police Foundation and Harvard University. However, Wilson and Kelling had yet established a formal collaborative relationship. In his recollections of Wilson and the making of broken windows theory, Kelling recounted how Wilson first made contact with him about the possibility of co-authoring a piece on order maintenance and crime control after reading Kelling’s Newark Foot Patrol research report. Kelling remembered feeling surprised and honored by his request to collaborate. After Wilson insisted on Kelling’s help with drafting the paper, the two men fashioned together a Zimbardo study inspired concept of broken windows from a metaphor that James Wilson initially suggested. Kelling commented, “the broken windows metaphor was Jim’s idea…when finished, the metaphor of broken windows went like this: just as a broken window left untended is a sign that no one cares and lead to fear of crime, serious predatory crime, and urban decay – in sum, minor offenses matter.”[2]

 George L. Kelling & James Q. Wilson. "A Quarter Century of Broken Windows." The American Interest A Quarter Century of Broken Windows Comments. Sept. & oct. 2006. Accessed March 23, 2017.

[2] Kelling, George L. Recollections of James Q. Wilson and Broken Windows. TS.