Monday, August 11, 2014

Kelling defends "broken windows" policing

Along with the late James Q. Wilson, George L. Kelling is one of the authors of the broken windows theory of crime and policing.  Kelling defends the theory in this article (excerpts below).

"Today, controversy over their metaphorical “broken windows” theory is reverberating again after Eric Garner, a Staten Island man, died of a chokehold last month while being taken into custody for illegally selling cigarettes.
Critics denounce the theory as neoconservative pablum resulting in overpolicing and mass incarceration for relatively minor offenses that disproportionately target poor, black and Hispanic people. Moreover, they say it was not derived from scientific evidence and its connection to the city’s drastic decline in major crime remains unproven."
Part of Kelling's response:
"While he was aware of how loitering laws were used to contain and exploit blacks in the South, he said it was only logical that with black and Hispanic New Yorkers suffering the highest rates of victimization and fear of crime, targeting high-crime areas would produce a disproportionate share of black and Hispanic arrests.
“It’s not the police’s fault,” he said. “It’s not whites that are terrorizing those neighborhoods; it’s African Americans.”
And broken-windows policing produces another benefit beyond reducing crime, Professor Kelling added: “In an urbanized society, in a world of strangers, civility and orderliness is an end in itself.”


  1. Back in the 1960s/1970s, Volma Overton was the leader of the NAACP in Austintatious. Chief Miles was the top cop. There was a meeting in Miles' office with Overton and others of the NAACP there, complaining of over-policing in east Austin.

    Chief Miles pointed to a map of the city. He explained that the red pins were the source of a call for assistance from APD.

    The majority, the densest of the red pins was in the largely-black segment of Austin.

    Seems to me that the majority of arrests would logically come from the areas of the most calls from assistance.


  2. Remember the old saying, an armed society is a polite society. When residents are forced to go unarmed, violent crime increases.

  3. Gentlemen: Thanks for the posts. Art: funny how common-sense escapes people driven by ideological motives. 44: Like the saying. You may be right about sentence 2.