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Thursday, March 30, 2006

broken windows (done, but nothing special)

In 2006, the Boston Globe ran an article called "The cracks in 'broken windows'", that demolishes that view on fighting crime:

[University of Chicago law professor Bernard] Harcourt and [Georgetown University public policy professor Jens] Ludwig also use the results of a Department of Housing and Urban Development program to suggest that neighborhood disorder has no effect on criminality. In the HUD program, public housing tenants from cities including New York and Boston were moved from inner-city projects to safer, more orderly neighborhoods. Contrary to what broken windows would suggest, there was no decrease in criminality among the relocated public-housing tenants: They continued to offend at the same rates in their new, more orderly neighborhoods as they did in their disorderly ones.

''There's no good evidence that disorder causes crime [or] that broken windows policing reduces serious crime in a neighborhood," Harcourt says.

Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson and University of Michigan education professor Stephen Raudenbush argue that even if you agree with Kelling and Wilson that disorder begets crime, it doesn't mean there's anything the police can do about it. Their research, they believe, shows that perceptions of a neighborhood aren't so much determined by things like graffiti as they are by race.

In their study, researchers toured a set of Chicago neighborhoods in an SUV and counted, literally, all the physical signs of decay. They then compared this data with interviews of residents about how disordered they believed their neighborhoods to be. They found that the actual level of physical disorder-the number of boarded-up buildings, for example-wasn't the most important factor in making people think their neighborhood was disordered: It was the number of black, and to a lesser extent Latino, neighbors. And it wasn't just white residents who felt this way-black and Latino residents exhibited the same racial bias.

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