Broken windows is an influential criminological theory that posits that minor disorderly conditions left unchecked will result in neighborhood decline and increased serious criminal activity. James Q. Wilson and George Kelling originally presented it in the March 1982 issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine. Proponents of the theory credit the order-maintenance policing strategies derived from it with reducing crime in communities across the United States in recent decades. By contrast, critics of the theory submit that it is unproven and has been used to justify overly aggressive police tactics that infringe on individuals’ rights and antagonize large segments of communities. This entry outlines the tenets of broken windows theory. It then presents a concise overview of the empirical research conducted to examine the validity of the ...

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