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Fixing Broken Windows Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities

By George L. Kelling, Catherine M. Coles
Free Press 1996 ISBN: 9780684837383

About the Book

When sociologists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling introduced their “Broken Windows” thesis in 1982, it gained immediate attention from academics and policy makers alike. “Broken Windows” finally acknowledged the connection between disorder, fear, crime, and urban decay that has been playing out in America’s cities for decades. Kelling, an Adjunct Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, has co-authored his latest book, Fixing Broken Windows, with Catherine M. Coles, a lawyer and urban anthropologist. In it they explain in detail their prescription for solving the pervasive problems of crime and decay in our nation’s urban centers: control disorderly behavior in public places generally and a significant drop in serious crime will follow.

Rather than relying on the commonly cited, often politicized “solutions” of the day (a tough death penalty, more prisons, “three-strikes-you’re-out”), Kelling and Coles offer fresh new strategies for restoring order to our communities. Indeed, they challenge the very tenets of modern law enforcement orthodoxy, suggesting that police get out of their cars and into the neighborhoods in partnership with private citizens and local civic organizations. Instead of reacting to crime, Fixing Broken Windows champions crime prevention.

But it is not a passive, “midnight basketball” approach to prevention. Kelling and Coles advocate an aggressive, get-tough confrontation of public disorder in its various forms: vagrancy, vandalism, panhandling, etc. Their approach worked in New York City’s subways, where felonies have fallen by 75% in the 1990s, and all across New York City as former Police Chief William Bratton implemented many of Kelling’s and Coles’ policy recommendations.

As Mayor Rudolph Giuliani enters his 1997 reelection campaign, his outstanding record on crime may be the Mayor’s strongest asset in a contest many expect him to win. Across the nation, from San Francisco to Seattle to New Haven, cities have been implementing the Fixing Broken Windows approach to crimefighting and meeting with tremendous success. The impact of Kelling’s and Coles’ ideas will only multiply exponentially as Fixing Broken Windows gains national recognition.

About the Authors

George L. Kelling, an Adjunct Fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, was a key member of the New York City Transit Police Team that worked to clean up the New York City subway system. He earned his doctorate in social welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is a Professor at Rutgers University's School of Criminal Justice, as well as an Adjunct Fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Kelling has also consulted on crime prevention projects in numerous cities including Newark, Kansas City, Seattle, San Francisco, and Baltimore.

Catherine M. Coles is a research associate in the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. Dr. Coles earned her J.D. from Boston College Law School and her M.A./Ph.D. in social anthropology from the University of Wisconsin. Her research interests lie in constitutional and criminal law, prosecution, the courts, and public policy related to these areas.