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In my review, i intend to briefly cover the material which is mentioned in the article. Generally, the article focuses on the theory of 'broken window' proposed by George L Kelling and James Q. The article begins by outlining the theory and then goes onto discuss in more detail the role of police officers and how they are perceived by the public. The authors discuss the importance of the police in certain situations and also discuss how the public feel about what the police do or don't do. They also have incorporated surveys carried out by universities and research conducted by Zimbardo (1969) in order to illustrate in a clear and precise manner the fundamental principles of the 'broken windows' theory. In the past, many communities introduced a 'zero tolerance' policy to try and prevent problems such as vandalisation, but such problems aren't simply a result of 'broken windows' but actually a much more complex problem of a breakdown in communication between members of a community.
'Safe and Clean Neighbourhoods program' is a program which was designed in the mid 1970's in order to try and improve safety in 28 cities. As part of this programme police, who would usually look after the city via patrolling cars, were encouraged to designate a number of officers to walking beats duties which involved them patrolling the streets by foot. Many members of the police force were hesitant in doing this as they suggested it reduced their mobility and caused difficulties in responding to emergency calls. They also protested that this routine was tiring and difficult as it kept them out in the cold in all sorts of weather conditions to such an extent that the duty was considered a punishment. The police force was adamant that police in quads or patrol cars are just as effective as those on foot. An evaluation of foot patrolling concluded that foot patrol had not actually reduced crime rates. However, residents of these foot patrolled areas felt 'more secure' than residents of non-foot patrolled areas. It was proved that these residents had a better opinion of the police in general and although statistics revealed otherwise, they were under the illusion that crime rates had actually decreases. Members of the public has expressed that an officer on foot is much more approachable than one in a car. In addition, officers who carried out this duty reported much higher job satisfaction.
The article goes on to address a question proposed by a number of critics; how can a neighbourhood be safer if crime rates have not gone down? Further research by the authors of the article found that the primary concern of citizens of big cities was being attacked by a stranger. This further inquisition showed that not only was the safety of such areas important to those living there, but also to passers-by. One of the authors spent a day with a foot patrolling officer and found that in in the city of Newark the people were mainly black whilst the officer on patrolling duty was white. Observations Showed that there were many people around who were referred to as 'strangers', be they drunk or suspicious, and the officer felt it their duty to keep a close watch on these 'strangers'. It appeared that this city had its own set of rules which had to be abided by by everyone. Such rules ranged from things like where people could drink, right to whom they were allowed to talk to, taking into account the fact that strangers talking to or bothering people at a bus stop was forbidden. If a stranger was seen 'hanging around', they were approached by the officer and questioned on what they were doing. If a satisfactory answer was not given, they would be arrested for vagrancy. Clearly, these set of rules were devised by 'regulars' who were residents and regular passers-by, and then enforced by the officer. But then again, what constitutes to an undesirable or strange person. The article continues by questioning why drunken people should be criminalised and why all people were not being treated fairly. The article also interrogated whether behaviour that doesn't hurt another person should be illegal? Arresting an individual just because they are drunk seems unfair as they have not harmed anyone but in spite of this, not doing so could result in a group of drunks who continue to get drunk and eventually destroy a community. The article suggests that it needs to be ensured that whilst most are in agreement that a particular behaviour can make a single person undesirable, age, neither skin colour should be used to distinguish between desirable and undesirable persons. Police have voiced that this isn't the job of the police. The police have a job to 'regulate behaviours, not to maintain the racial or ethnic purity of a neighbourhood'. The article outlines a few case studies in relation to this, including thee case of The Robert Taylor Homes in Chicago, one of the largest public housing projects in the country for nearly 20,000 black people. Soon after it opened, police were described to be 'insensitive and brutal' whilst police complained of unprovoked attacks on them. More recently, police citizen relationships have appeared to change.
Progressing further into the article, it is recognised that many members of the public stated that they have recently refrained from calling the police in particular situation as they feel that the police won't do anything, however the police are determined to prove them wrong. But in reality, there is only so much they can do. Although they can arrest a member of a gang who breaks the law, this doesn't stop gangs from meeting up and recruiting new members. In many of these situations, police feel helpless whilst residents hold the view that the police do nothing. In some situations and circumstances, citizen action without police intervention can be useful. For example, an adult who wants to corner and young teenagers to likes to hang out on that particular corner may talk and come to an agreement on how many people are allowed to congregate, when and where. Not so long ago, a boy stole a purse and ran off. A number of youths volunteered information of the theft to the police on the identity of the boy. However, if this is not possible citizen patrols are used. Including, volunteered watchmen used to guard their community, a technique which was extremely popular in the past. This was done without any use of force. The simple presence of such watchmen resulted in less disorder.
The main focus of the article is a proposition proposed by social psychologists and police officers that if a broken window is left unrepaired, it attracts more attention to be vandalised. One unrepaired window on a property or a car is a signal to other people that in effect, no one cares, which makes it 'acceptable' for another person to vandalise. Zimbardo (1969) conducted a study to investigate the 'broken window theory' further. The study involved 2 cars, one without number plates, and one in good condition. The first car was attacked within 10 minutes by people who smashed the windows and stole everything of value inside. It was then used a playground for children. The other car remained in pristine condition for over a week, until Zimbardo vandalised part of it using a sledgehammer, which attracted other to do the same. In both cases, most of the vandals were respectable whites. This suggests that once vandalism has occurred, a barrier is removed which was previously stopping others from wrecking others property. This theory can also be applied to the streets. If adults stop retaining their children from doing bad things, the children will start to gather on street corners, littering, and consuming of alcohol which will inevitably lead to confrontations between themselves and with other residents of a constituency. In turn, this means that residents and members of public feel unsafe. Furthermore, due to feeling unsafe, residents will be under the illusion that crime rates are rising and therefore take more precautions in order to stay safe, including not going out into the streets as often because of the fear of being attacked. Areas such as these described will clearly be more susceptible to criminal invasion.
The article continues to tackle a misconception by many people. We assume that elderly are more at risk of being attacked and therefore a number of security measures are often put in place to protect the 'vulnerable' when statistics show that in actual fact, more likely to be attacked are young men rather than elderly women as they are out in public on a more regular basis. Research from Harvard law school showed that 3 in 4 adults will cross the road if they see a group of teenagers on their side and half adults asked will cross over to avoid a single teenager. When asked where they feel most unsafe, members of a housing project described an area where youths gather to drink and play music, despite no crime had occurred.
The article concluded by reiterating the role of police within society. The police and residents should protect the whole of the community; it should remain undamaged, without broken windows in order to prevent larger scared problems. I feel that this article is extremely well written and has the right balance of both sides of the argument. The authors have carefully incorporated relative research to support the points they have made, and the layout of the article makes it easy to follow. Overall, i would recommend the article to any interested reader.