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Discouraging Window Breakers: The Lagged Effects of Police Activity on Crime

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 41 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2013 Pages: 18-23
Jonathan W. Caudill; Ryan Getty; Rick Smith; Ryan Patten; Chad R. Trulson
Date Published
February 2013
6 pages
This study tests the "Broken Windows" theory (Visible disorder in a neighborhood creates fear in neighborhoods, which undermines informal social control) by examining whether a police emphasis on enforcement against disorder - traffic and non-traffic citations for neighborhood behaviors - was linked to a reduction in more serious crimes.
The findings indicate that increases in non-traffic citations have a deterrent effect on property crime, but not violent crime. Although the study was unable to determine the length of the deterrent effect on property crime, there is evidence that it extended for at least 3 months. These findings suggest that police agencies can conduct time-limited, proactive issuing of traffic and non-traffic citations with the expectation that property crime will be significantly reduced for at least 3 months before another emphasis on traffic and non-traffic citations is needed to sustain the reduction in property crime. The study was conducted with the cooperation of the Dallas Police Department (DPD). The city was divided into seven divisions, and each division into five sectors. Data were collected from four sources from November 2007 through December 2009. Officer beat assignments were collected from the shift-detail meetings, identifying the number of officers per sector per shift. Arrest data were collected from the official jail records maintained by the DPD. Officer activity data were obtained by combining dispatch records with in-car computer records. There were 870 observations in the full database. Data on police activity in the various sectors were compared with monthly reported violent and property crime. 4 figures, 2 tables, and 45 references