“Broken Windows” originators offer approaches to maximize limited state resources

As violence from Mexico threatens to spread into the United States, law enforcement will need to rethink policing methods to ensure their protective role, according to a new report from the Goldwater Institute. George Kelling and Catherine Coles, who together developed the “Broken Windows” approach to policing, have coauthored “Keeping Americans Safe: Best Practices to Improve Community Policing and to Protect the Public.”

The emphasis is on proactive criminal prevention methods that bring order and accountability in communities. The idea is for police officers to operate in partnership with private citizens to push back against disorderly behavior that could translate into higher crime rates. “Broken Windows” is closely associated with, and perhaps responsible for, reducing crime in New York City throughout the 1990s. Over a two year period, reported murders declined by 39 percent, auto theft by 35 percent, robberies by 33 percent, and burglaries by 25 percent.

Since state budgets are strained and resources limited, the report also offers proposals for how government officials can better target and priortize policing efforts. For example, Kelling, in an interview with the Pelican Institute, expressed support for a New Orleans initiative that would allow police to issue court summonses and citations for minor offenses instead of incarceration.

Kevin Mooney is an investigative reporter with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. He can be reached at kmooney@pelicanpolicy.org. Follow him on Twitter.