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Joshua Conard Hinkle, Doctor of Philosophy, 2009 Directed By: Professor David Weisburd Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice The broken windows thesis has had a profound impact on policing strategies around the world. The thesis suggests that police can most effectively fight crime by focusing their efforts on targeting disorder—minor crimes and nuisance behaviors such as loitering, public drinking and vandalism, as well as dilapidated physical conditions in a community. The strategy was most prominently used in New York City in the 1990s, and has been often credited for the crime drop observed in the city over that decade.

Despite the widespread influence of the broken windows thesis, there has been relatively little rigorous empirical research which has sought to test the validity of its theoretical propositions.

This dissertation aimed to address this shortcoming by using structural equation modeling to test the relationships between perceived disorder, fear of crime, collective efficacy and perceptions of crime suggested by the broken windows thesis using survey data collected during a randomized, experimental evaluation of broken windows policing in three cities in California. The results are supportive of the broken windows thesis, but also raise some challenges. Perceptions of disorder were found to increase fear of crime, reduce collective efficacy and lead to crime as suggested. However, fear of crime was not significantly related to collective efficacy as suggested, and the direct effect of perceived social disorder on perceptions of crime was the strongest effect in every model.

Nevertheless, the findings do suggest that a reduction of disorder in a community may have positive effects in the form of reducing fear and promoting collective efficacy, and suggest the limitations of studies which only test for direct effects of disorder on crime and/or do not examine the variables at the perceptual level. Future research needs to further examine the broken windows thesis, ideally involving a prospective longitudinal study of crime at place.




By Joshua Conard Hinkle Dissertation submitted to the Fac

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Advisory Committee:

Professor David Weisburd, Chair Professor Sidney Brower Professor Gary LaFree Professor Jean McGloin Professor Alex Piquero © Copyright by Joshua Conard Hinkle Acknowledgements At the end of seven long and eventful years of graduate school, I feel very fortunate to have had such a rewarding experience. During my time at Maryland I have worked with wonderful mentors and made a number of great friendships which will last a lifetime.

I came into the Master’s program in 2002 fresh out of an undergraduate degree in Journalism and knowing very little about criminology or research in general. As jarring as that change should have been, it went smoother than I ever could have anticipated thanks to the wonderful faculty in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice. I am very grateful to all of them for their passion and enthusiasm with the subject, and for always being willing to help their students.

In particular I owe a great deal of thanks to Dr. Gary LaFree. His Comparative Criminology class was one of my first courses in graduate school and got me off to a great start in the field as it gave me a crash course on criminological theory, and most importantly on conducting research and drafting research proposals. Dr. LaFree subsequently was an invaluable asset on both my Master’s thesis and dissertation committees. In that regard I also have to thank Dr. Sidney Brower, Dr. Jean McGloin, and Dr. Alex Piquero for also being wonderful dissertation committee members.

Most of all, I cannot thank Dr. David Weisburd enough for being a wonderful mentor. I had the pleasure of working with him on research projects from the summer of 2003 through my graduation. He always allowed me to hit the ground running and do substantive work right from the start, and was always available for invaluable input and guidance. As I leave Maryland and prepare to start my own career in academia, I feel very confident that I have the skills it takes to succeed. My sincerest gratitude goes to David for playing such a large and important role in my personal and professional development.

As supportive as the faculty members at Maryland were throughout my time here, I would not be where I am without the friends I made during grad school. To Laura I say thanks not only for being a wonderful friend and always being there for me, but also for being a wonderful mentor! I miss working on projects with you, and hope we can collaborate again in the near future! To Brad, I say thanks for being a great friend and always being there for a cold beer after long days of comp studying and dissertating! To Jaclyn, I say thanks for being a great friend and concert buddy! To Cody I say thanks for being a great office mate, friend and colleague! To Rachel I say thanks for being a great friend and roommate! And finally, to Sue-Ming, I say thanks for everything! You mean the world to me and I could never have done it without your love and support! And of course thanks to my cat Mooshie, for always being at the door to welcome me and cheer me up after a long day at work.

Finally, my deepest gratitude goes to my family. I would never be where I am to day without the love and support of my parents and my younger brother. I love you all very much, and I am forever indebted for all you have done for me over the years.

iiTable of Contents


Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures

Chapter 1: Introduction

Summary and Outline

Chapter 2: Literature Review

Theoretical Development of the Broken Windows Thesis

Broken Windows Policing

Testing the Broken Windows Thesis

Does disorder cause fear of crime?

Does fear of crime lead to withdrawal?

Does withdrawal/lowering of social controls lead to crime?

What Does All of This Mean?

A Direct or Indirect Relationship between Disorder and Crime?

Chapter 3: Theoretical Models To Be Tested


Chapter 4: Description of the Study Cities and Street Segment Selection Process.... 45 Unit of Analysis

Selection of Study Street Segments within the Three Cities

Selection Criteria

Selection Process

Selection of Redlands Study Sites

Selection of Ontario Study Sites

Selection of Colton Study Sites

The Overall Sample

The Overall Sample and Issues of Bias


Chapter 5: Data Collection Methodology

Resident and Business Survey Data Collection Methodology

Survey Sampling Methodology

The Final Sample

Creation of Variables

Perceived Disorder

Fear of Crime

Collective Efficacy

Perceptions of Crime


Chapter 6: Findings

Latent Variable Path Analysis

Do the models vary by city, whether respondent was business owner/manager or resident, or by gender or race?


iii Chapter 7: Discussion and conclusions


Implications for the Broken Windows Thesis

Implications for Broken Windows Policing


Appendix A: Broken Windows Policing Experiment Pre-Intervention Household Survey Instrument

Appendix B: Missing Value Analysis


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Table 4.1 Descriptive Statistics for Redlands Sample (N=30) 56 Table 4.

2 Descriptive Statistics for Ontario Sample (N=60) 57

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Table 6.1 Estimates (standard errors) and z-statistics for Model 1 81 Table 6.

2 Estimates (standard errors) and z-statistics for Model 2 82 Table 6.3 Estimates (standard errors) and z-statistics for Model 3A 84 Table 6.4 Estimates (standard errors) and z-statistics for Model 3B 86 Table 6.5 Estimates (standard errors) and z-statistics for Model 3C 87 Table 6.6 Estimates (standard errors) and z-statistics for Model 4 89

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Figure 3.5 Model 3C-Perceived Disorder, Fear of Crime, Collective Efficacy and Perceived Crime—with Direct Effect of Perceived Disorder on Collective Efficacy and Perceived Crime

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It is hard to imagine that even James Q. Wilson or George Kelling (1982) foresaw the impact their nine page “Broken Windows” article in the Atlantic Monthly would have in the world of policing and in criminology more generally. Interest in the thesis proposed in this article still rages in debates in scholarly journals in the 21st century, and the idea has had a tremendous impact on policing strategies around the world. In the policing arena, broken windows has remained popular after being widely credited for the crime drop in New York City in the 1990s (Bratton & Knobler, 1998; Giuliani & Kurson, 2002; Karmon, 2000; Kelling & Sousa, 2001; Maple & Mitchell, 1999; Silverman, 1999).

From the “quality of life policing” in New York to “Zero Tolerance” in England (Dennis & Mallon, 1998) police agencies around the world have adopted the idea that focusing on less serious offenses can yield important benefits in terms of community safety and crime prevention(see Kelling & Sousa, 2001).

Yet despite this continued academic interest and the great impact the article has had on police practice, the broken windows thesis itself has received relatively little empirical research. Indeed, even the impacts of the broken windows policing strategies derived from this thesis have received relatively little direct study, and these studies have been heavily criticized for methodological and other shortcomings (for example, see Harcourt, 2001). This gap between research and policy is jarring, especially for a police strategy which critics say widens the net of police contacts, may lead to overly harsh punishments for minor offenses, leads to increased complaints against the police (Greene,

1999) and could disproportionately affect minorities (see Golub, Johnson & Dunlap, 2007; Harcourt, 2001; Herbert, 2001).

While there is, as noted, also a lack of quality research on the impacts of broken windows policing strategies there is an even more jarring dearth of research on the propositions of the broken windows thesis itself. In short, we have little knowledge of whether the theory behind this prominent policing strategy has any validity. To have a police innovation gain the popularity of broken windows policing with so little research on either the theory behind it or the effectiveness of the policing strategy itself is a prime example of the barriers facing the evidence-based crime prevention movement (see Weisburd & Braga, 2006; Sherman, Farrington, Welsh, & MacKenzie, 2002).

This dissertation aims to address this shortcoming by testing the relationship between the key variables in the broken windows hypothesis using data collected during an ongoing randomized, experimental evaluation of broken windows policing. While much past research has examined the impacts of observed levels of disorder on crime rates (i.e. Sampson and Raudenbush, 1999; Taylor, 2001) this dissertation aims to explore the broken windows thesis at the individual, perceptual level. This is key as from its introduction the broken windows thesis has been a social-psychological theory which argues that people’s perceptions of disorder and crime in their neighborhoods affects their behavior by increasing fear of crime and causing residents to withdraw from this community. Objectively measured disorder (i.e. systematic social observations) is no doubt useful, and studies using such measures remain important, but at the same time the level of disorder in a community will not have the hypothesized impacts if residents do not perceive and react to cues of untended disorder. As such, this dissertation’s central contribution is shedding light on the impact of perceptions of disorder on fear of crime, collective efficacy and perceptions of crime. Long-term impacts of disorder on crime rates in communities is also an important issue related to the broken windows thesis, but addressing that topic is not the goal of the present study. The broken windows thesis is outlined briefly below.

In their seminal article, Wilson and Kelling (1982) argued that minor crimes and nuisances (hereafter called disorder) such as litter, graffiti and public drinking could be a starting point for neighborhood decay and eventually even crime. They suggested this happened through the followings set of events. The cycle first begins with disorders going untended. That is to say, for example, graffiti is not painted over, trash is not picked up and drunkards are allowed to drink in the street. In turn, residents perceive these acts flourishing with no repercussions and become fearful. The fact that these disorders are not dealt with leads them to conclude that social controls have broken down, and that their community is less safe. As such, they spend less time outside, keep their kids inside and take other cautionary measures. “Good” residents may move away, while “bad” residents may move in. This process thus has the net effect of further lowering neighborhood surveillance and social control.

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