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Legitimacy, Fear and Collective Efficacy in Crime Hot Spots: Assessing the Impacts of Broken Windows Policing Strategies on Citizen Attitudes

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2010
209 pages
This study examined the impacts of "broken windows" policing at crime "hot spots" on the public's fear of crime, ratings of police legitimacy, and reports of collective efficacy among residents of targeted "hot spots."
The "broken windows" thesis (Wilson & Kelling, 1982) suggests that the benefit of eliminating visual signs of social disorder and neglect in "hot spot" areas (areas where particular types of crime are concentrated) is that residents will over time feel safer and be empowered to exercise informal social controls that control disorderly and criminal behavior at "hot spots." In order to test this theory, this study examined the impact of a 6-month "broken windows" policing style, which involved a crackdown on disorder in the targeted areas. The objective of these efforts was to achieve an extra 3 hours per week of police presence in each of 55 targeted street segments. This goal was met over the majority of the study period. Participating officers were instructed to intervene in any instances of physical or social disorder in target areas; they were given broad discretion in deciding how to address disorder problems. A post-intervention survey was conducted among 489 residents and 347 businesses. The survey was conducted immediately following the police intervention, which covered January 2009 through April 2009. The survey preceding the intervention was compared with the post-intervention survey. Each survey measured fear of crime/perceived risk of victimization, police legitimacy, collective efficacy, and perceived social and physical disorder. The findings do not support the belief that "broken windows" policing at "hot spots" will significantly reduce levels of feat of crime among people who live on the targeted streets. Neither was there an improvement among residents regarding police legitimacy, but neither did it undermine views of police. There was no impact on collective efficacy (improved community involvement in crime prevention). Extensive tables and figures and approximately 100 references

Date Published: November 1, 2010