Broken Window Theory

Posted on in Todd Talks by Todd Johnson

There is a theory that if a building has a broken window that goes without repair, it will result in more windows getting broken. The theory is appropriately called The Broken Window Theory.

I heard this and thought, "Yeah, I guess that makes sense." Hearing about the theory led me to investigate it in more detail. What I found is that this isn't a new theory, and that some cities have used the concept to develop ways to deter crime and police the population. The results varied from case study to case study, with people applauding or criticizing elements of the findings and how different populations were policed.

I don't really want to get into the weeds, so to speak; I just think that the main concepts are sound. I have seen buildings with broken windows, and it sure does seem like the next time I saw that building, more windows were broken. I believe that if vandals break a window but suffer no consequences, and then see that no one seemed to care because not only did they not get in any trouble, but also no one fixed the window, it will certainly lead to more windows getting broken. Let's face it, breaking things is fun. It can even be therapeutic. There have been businesses that opened that their only service is to allow people to break things.  These are called, "Rage Rooms" or "Rage Cages" and they have been popping up all over the country.

Something else I learned when I looked into this is that it's not only windows that matter. It's the overall appearance of the community that seems to play a part when it comes to deterring crime. Studies found that things like graffiti and litter have an affect on crime statistics as well.

The perfect case study would be the very building I am sitting in. A few years ago, we replaced all the windows in our building and repainted the entire exterior of the building as well. Before all this work was done, we would occasionally see new broken windows, some graffiti, and the occasional nighttime trespasser. Since all of the improvements have been made to our building, we have not had a single incident to report.

I think this just solidifies the old saying of "It takes a village." It's not only up to the police to reduce crime in our communities. We should all do our part by making sure we clean up litter quickly, replace or eliminate broken things, mow lawns and weeds, paint buildings, and show a general pride by maintaining the appearance of the community. These efforts are incredibly rewarding, while the consequences of doing nothing are detrimental to the community.