For years, scholars, policy developers and law enforcement agencies have supported the idea of having police officers concentrate their efforts on preventing minor crimes, in the belief that it will prevent more serious crime from flourishing. Their argument rests on the fact that reducing fear in a neighbourhood will strengthen the community’s resolve against criminal activity becoming acceptable. This concept is commonly referred to as the “Broken Windows Theory”.
Whilst not all acts of anti-social behaviour are considered to be criminal, the majority are, and such behaviour is damaging both socially and economically. Anti-social behaviour is a worldwide issue and whilst numerous methods have been initiated to address the behaviours, it still remains a significant problem. To give you an idea as to the extent a report by the Anti-Social Behaviour Unit (ASBU), set up in 2003 by the Home Office, revealed that on a single day 67,107 reports of anti social behaviour were reported by participating organisations, such as Environmental Health, Local Authority Housing, The British Transport Police and the National Probation Services in England and Wales. This is equivalent to 13.5 million reports per year or 1 report every two seconds. This count alone cost agencies in England and Wales approximately £14 million, which equates to around 3.4 billion a year.
Notwithstanding the cost, anti-social behaviour can destroy lives and communities and if left unchecked, can lead to more serious crime being committed. It is hoped that in successfully addressing the issue, quality of life within affected urban and rural communities will be significantly improved and people can feel safe and live in an environment free from fear of crime and disorder.
The Broken Windows Theory is a potential model that could serve to address the extent of the problem and it is my aim to review the model and evidence available in order to see if the Broken Windows theory can offer a solution to the problem.