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Crime, Broken Windows Theory of

Doris Chu

Subject Sociology » Deviance and Social Control, Sociological and Social Theory

Key-Topics community

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Social psychologists use the term broken windows to signify the characteristics of neighborhood deterioration. They argue that if a broken window in a building or in a car is left untended, other signs of disorder will increase. Wilson and Kelling (1982) suggest that an unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares for the neighborhood. They argued further that if the window is left broken, it can lead to more serious crime problems. Philip Zimbardo (1969) , a psychologist, tested the broken window theory with some experiments. He arranged that a car without a license plate be parked in a Bronx neighborhood and one comparable car be parked in Palo Alto, California. The car in the Bronx was destroyed within ten minutes, while the car in Palo Alto was left untouched for more than a week. After Zimbado smashed the car in Palo Alto, passersby started to vandalize the car. In both cases, once the car was damaged and looked abandoned, destruction, vandalism, and even theft soon followed. Signs of neighborhood deterioration or disorder, such as broken windows, can lead to the breakdown of social controls. In stable neighborhoods, residents tend to watch out and care more for their property, children, and public safety. Residents in these neighborhoods are more attached to their neighborhood and more likely to consider their neighborhood as their home. Thus, any broken windows ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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