This book offers a dry but convincing argument for community policing and other approaches to civic order that pay attention to small incivilities like aggressive panhandling and fare-beating. The book's title derives from an influential 1982 Atlantic Monthly article by criminologist Kelling and James Q. Wilson, which argued that obvious neighborhood decay?like unattended broken windows?furthered criminal behavior. The authors cite several factors?including the rise of individualism, the decriminalization of drunkenness and the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill?that contribute to public disorder. Many of the homeless, they note, are not merely down on their luck but suffer serious behavioral problems. They explain how civic reforms during the 1950s that professionalized police services shifted police work from crime prevention to crime response, thus creating some of the unintended consequences that more recent reforms have had to address. Beginning most notably with the New York City Transit Police, for whom Kelling consulted, police departments have recently focused on minor offenses, capturing a large number of serious criminals in the process. Other police departments, with the assistance of civic groups, have begun similar work. The authors provide cogent advice, backed by copious endnotes, on how to implement similar strategies. They say too little about the challenges in recruiting and training police for community strategies, however, although they do acknowledge that some New York outreach workers have been accused of abusing street people. Coles is a lawyer and anthropologist.
If you want to know anything about broken windows, community oriented policing, and the start of the movement, this is THE definitive book. Most criminal justice or policing students will read this at least once in their life. I can't count how many times I have read it. It's very approachable for a text book as well.