Top header graphic with link to CSUS Home Page california state university, sacramento
Header Graphic
sac state homeuniversity affairspublic affairs
 

   search CSUS
     website


   main news page
media resources graphic
   news releases
   news and events
     archive

   fact & stats
   experts guide
   news by e-mail
   contact news
     services staff


publications graphic
   Capital University
     Journal

   CSUS Bulletin
   Newslink
   CSUS Catalog
   Viewbook (pdf)
   How-to Guide (pdf)

calendars graphic
   events this month
   search events
   academic
   athletics
   commencement

people graphic
   outstanding     
     teachers

   new faces
   in the news
   professional     
     activities

   in memoriam

additional news graphic
   Capital Public Radio
   alumni association
   crime alerts
   construction
   CSU system
   CSU campuses

visitors resources graphic
   ceremonies and     
     visitor relations

   commencement
   CSUS ticket office
   campus directory
   campus tours

contact us graphic
   news services
     staff directory

   submit news
     & events

   feedback

August 5, 2002

Researchers link 'broken windows' policing
with drop in serious crime

Full report (pdf)

There is a significant link between targeting minor crime and a drop in serious crime, even when community factors such as unemployment and the number of young people are considered, according to a study from the California Institute for County Government at California State University, Sacramento.

The study, "Does 'Broken Windows' Law Enforcement Reduce Serious Crime?" examined all California counties from 1989 to 2000.

It found for the first time a generalizealble statistical tie between so-called "broken windows" policing and a drop in felony property crime while also controlling for so many social and economic factors. It's also one of the few studies to look at the strategy on a large scale, rather than a neighborhood or community level.

Broken windows policing assumes that serious crime can be reduced by strongly enforcing minor crimes such as graffiti, property damage, prostitution, public drunkenness and the like. It has been the subject of heated debate, with many police agencies adopting it and critics charging it leads to police harassment.

Previous studies have tended to focus on single jurisdictions, and haven't been able to discount numerous other possible factors when they discovered drops in serious crime.

This new study compared both misdemeanor arrests and misdemeanor
charges filed to the overall number of arrests and charges. More misdemeanor arrests and charges were taken to indicate a local law enforcement tendency to engage in broken window policing. That tendency was then compared to the felony property crime rate to see if a link existed.

"We've tested the spirit of the broken windows theory, and we've found a relationship between targeting misdemeanors and reducing serious crime," says John L. Worrall, the CSU San Bernardino criminal justice professor who authored the study.

Worrall cautions that the focus of this study was finding a statistical link between enforcing minor crimes and a drop in serious crime. So it doesn't conclusively prove a cause and effect relationship, and it doesn't estimate how much of a drop in crime is seen when a community pursues a broken windows strategy.

"What makes this study unique is all the other factors we controlled for, and that even after we did that we still found a strong statistical relationship between broken windows policing and a reduction in serious crime," Worrall says. "This is by no means the last word on the broken window theory, but it is an important contribution."

The study controlled for a number of other factors known to influence the serious crime rate, including: 1) deterrence - the probability of being arrested for a property crime and the percentage of people currently in custody, 2) economics - the per-capita welfare and unemployment rates, and 3) demographics.

More information is available by contacting John Worrall at (909) 880-7741 or Matthew Newman, director of the California Institute for County Government, at (916) 324-0796. The report is available online at the institute's website at www.cicg.org.

Additional media assistance is available by contacting CSUS public affairs at (916) 278-6156.

Full report (pdf)

####

 
Bottom bar graphic back to top


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 • infodesk@csus.edu