Broken Window Theory

When examining the state, dangers, or attractions of a designated space we break down and investigate the details of that area and our interpretations of those details. Quiet, red brick neighborhood streets with neatly rowed, brightly colored houses evict feelings of comfort, safety and community. In contrast with this, we perceive derelict buildings, littered streets, and broken windows to be features which adorn more dangerous, stressful environments specifically to live around. These built spaces deteriorate due to the Broken Window Theory, termed by social scientist James Q. Wilson, which outlines how petty crimes lower the standard for safety within a community the more frequently they can occur, “…serious street crime flourishes in areas in which disorderly behavior goes unchecked.” (Dunham & Alpert)

Taken by user “thebigATL” on May 21st, 2014

Within an established community, broken windows represent more than just unchecked property damage. The unruly group of teenagers, the panhandler, and the drunk all represent broken windows within an environment; those that do not uphold order only have the capacity to deteriorate it and lead way for further degradation. Serious crimes are only the final result from a much longer chain of petty crimes, vandalism, and general social disarray which enables the likelihood of life threatening dangers in an environment.

Taken by Zlatko Unger on May 31 2010

In practice, the Broken Window Theory can be applied when comparing the neighborhoods of West Atlanta, such as Bankhead, with neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area from the north and east like the Midtown and Piedmont Park spaces. Both exhibit extremely different environmental factors; Bankhead being littered with gang activity, street tags, and litter, while Midtown features clean streets, vibrant and innovative building designs, and little to no obvious social disorder.

Avramidis, Konstantinos, and Tsilimpounidi, Myrto, eds. Graffiti and Street Art : Reading, Writing and Representing the City. Florence, US: Routledge, 2016. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 24 March 2017.
Copyright © 2016. Routledge. All rights reserved.

Dunham, Roger G., and Geoffrey P. Alpert. Critical issues in policing: contemporary readings. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press, Inc., 2015. Print.