Experiments Validate Broken Windows Theory

The controversial theory that social and physical disorder is a cause of neighborhood crime has been successfully demonstrated with a series of six experiments.
November 27, 2008, 9am PST | Tim Halbur
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A recent series of experiments in the Netherlands has shown some dramatic evidence in favor of the so-called broken windows theory. This theory predicts that neighborhood social and physical incivilities will incite people to engage in criminal behaviors. Examples of incivilities include litter, graffiti, loitering, and public intoxication. One experiment gave passers by the opportunity to steal a €5 note from an open mailbox. The portion of people who decided to pocket the money doubled when the area was littered with trash or covered in graffiti. The results of this study are compelling evidence that city governments should respond to signs of physical disorder early.

Thanks to Nick Helmholdt

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Published on Thursday, November 20, 2008 in The Economist
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