Broken Windows Article

The broken windows is a criminological theory proposed by two New York City police officers George Kelling and James Wilson in 1982. The theory is that visible signs of crime, civil disorder and anti-social behaviour cause more and worse crime. “Broken Windows” is the metaphorical name to justify what the police wanted to fix, the broken windows are the public disorder amongst communities. Crime has always been looked upon through the amount of seriousness for a victim, an example of murder is one of the most consequential crimes for a victim. George Kelling and James Wilson thought about crime in an alternate way, they theorised that the “extreme crimes” were a result. It was the final result in a chain of events, therefore eliminating the chain of events by fixing the broken windows and moving groups of people from public areas for example, will reduce the “extreme crimes” from happening.

The method to carry out and prove this theory of “broken windows” requires guidelines, training and supervision. Many police officers were put on foot patrol which was often seen as a punishment or for lower standing officers. The police were sent to work by patrolling heavily public areas that might make people feel uneasy due to the unfriendly nature, such as a subway station. But to carry out supervision and change to the way things were was hard for police officers, often some people saw no threat from them or that they couldn’t do anything to change the environment. It became a lot about creating positive relationships within the community.

It was proven that this theory works in most situations. “An automobile was placed with its bonnet up, number plates off in two places in America. Both areas were very different, one was lower class the other was middle to upper class. In the lower class area the “vandals” came within the first ten minutes of the car being placed. Within twenty-four hours almost everything was taken out of the car. The other car however sat untouched for almost a week. So the experimentalist smashed one window. Not long afterwards passersby were joining in and a few hours later the car was upside down.” -(Summarised extract from Broken Windows Article). It seems that it is human nature to want to destroy something. “Untended property becomes fair game for people out for fun or plunder and even for people who ordinarily would not dream of doing such things and who probably consider themselves law abiding.” -A Physcologist from the University of Stanford. One episode of informal social control leads to another. Just like one kid in a classroom littering, it allows the next four students to think it is okay and then for another idea of destruction or disorder to occur. Police officers often asked the people who loitered around if they had any means of business, perhaps students should be asked the more difficult question of what their interests are of being in a classroom or an area on the school grounds  and causing destruction or grief. This may challenge their thoughts about the situation they have caused.

Personally I feel that Mount Aspiring College, lacks the effort to police poor behaviour in students. The theory assumes that the environment around people communicates with them. For example the informal social control that children and teenagers cannot be in an environment at school without being corrupt or destructive. Time after time, teachers, staff and other students who are using the classrooms after interval or lunch break are disgusted by the sight of the classes. Although many complaints are often made, the effort to change the way students act towards their environment is unsatisfactory. Either the attitude about fixing the problem of destruction within the classrooms is wrong or teachers are not using their authority properly. Something about the way the problem is dealt with needs to change. Instead of just verbally telling the students they have disrespected the class, they need to have a punishment. A punishment should not just be sitting in the late room at lunchtime, it could be more like making students write an apology letter to the teacher of the classroom and having to do “community service” within the school grounds. In the adult world people do not tolerate poor behaviour and students need to realise this. As an example to explain how students should realise that in society there is always rules of authority. For example the police were charging or arresting  “persons of public drunkenness, vagrancy, or suspicious acts” not because society wanted them to be punished or judge but because it showed that the police had the tools to remove these outliers. It shows that there is always someone with authority.

As much as my school needs to improve the appropriate actions to get students to understand the value of a classroom, the board of trustees have created a plan to continue improving the layout, and structure of the school. This is a key role in the upbringing of our school as a current survey shows that fixing the “broken windows” and attending to the appearance of the school buildings and rooms can increase student and teacher productivity and success. Whereas leaving this alone shows that it is more likely to create a downward spiral of poor factors within the school environment. In education this Broken Windows theory can have amazing changes within the attitudes of students as they learn to appreciate and value classes, teachers and the school. Eliminating disorder or rule-breaking is like the elimination of disorder, informal social control and crime on the streets. It allowed the people at the train station for example to feel safer and more secure the they were moving through to home or work as the disorder was eliminated and the informal social control was diminished.

If respect is a school value then why is there no appreciation for it? We have zero tolerance for bullying but we can accept trashing the environments we are working in? I question what our school is choosing to do about this problematic situation of students displaying large amounts of informal social control. Looking into this theory of Broken Windows could potentially be the start of a change.

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  1. A very interesting article to choose, Madi. Also, well done for being bold by including your thoughts about the “broken windows” you see around you and the changes that you think should occur. In this personal discussion, do not be afraid to consistently connect your ideas to those specifically presented in the article – this creates clear correlations between the text and your experience.


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