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Thread: James Q. Wilson, co-author of ‘broken windows’ policing theory, dies in Boston at age

  1. #1
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    James Q. Wilson, co-author of ‘broken windows’ policing theory, dies in Boston at age

    James Q. Wilson, a political scientist whose “broken windows” theory of policing influenced a nationwide move toward community policing, died Friday at a Boston hospital. He was 80.

    A hospital spokeswoman said Wilson died at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Wilson has been treated for leukemia, according to Boston College professor Peter Skerry, a family friend.

    The ideas in his 1982 “Broken Windows” article in The Atlantic influenced successful community policing efforts in cities including New York and Los Angeles. Last month, Detroit announced it was beginning its own initiative.

    “He’s just clearly one of the foremost social scientists of the second half of the 20th century,” Skerry said. “He was a very on-the-ground kind of scholar and brought a great insight and common sense to things.”


    “Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing,” they wrote. The article concluded, “Police ought to protect communities as well as individuals. ... Just as physicians now recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, so the police — and the rest of us — ought to recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows.”

    Police and politicians responded in subsequent years with changed tactics to crack down on minor offenses and bring officers closer to communities and their problems. In the New York subway system, for instance, police cracked down on so-called minor offenses such on graffiti, panhandling and fare jumping and saw dramatic improvements in perception of public safety.

    William Bratton, former New York City police commissioner and Los Angeles police chief, said police need more than a “broken windows” strategy to bring down crime, but the success he’s seen in cities where he worked wouldn’t have happened without it.

    “It could not have been done without using broken windows as almost the linchpin strategy,” said Bratton, now chairman of Kroll, Inc., a risk management company.

    Wilson’s studies weren’t limited to police work. He wrote extensively on topics ranging from marriage to the nature of bureaucracy and even penned a tribute to Bill Watterson when the cartoonist retired his comic strip, “Calvin and Hobbes.”

    In his work, Wilson was preoccupied with studying and restudying the evidence, trying to see only what was in front of him, Skerry said.

    “He didn’t get caught up in abstruse theories or sophisticated methodologies,” Skerry said.
    James Q. Wilson, co-author of ‘broken windows’ policing theory, dies in Boston at age 80 - The Washington Post

    Edit: Trying to keep up with the most recent edit to the entry by the AP.

    Another original neoconservative passes away. He once described neoconservatism as being the lesson in the Law of Unintended Consequences.

    A substantive interview with fellow neoconservative Ben Wattenberg on PBS's Think-Tank
    Think Tank

    Think Tank
    Last edited by Fiddytree; 03-02-12 at 07:21 PM.
    ​"No religion is true, but some religion, any religion, is politically necessary. Law and morality are insufficient for the large majority of men. Obedience to the law and to the morals are insufficient for making men happy. […]Law and morality are therefore in need of being supplemented by divine rewards and punishments."

  2. #2
    a351's Avatar
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    09-22-16 @ 04:47 PM

    Re: James Q. Wilson, co-author of ‘broken windows’ policing theory, dies in Boston at

    Wasn't familiar with him personally until now, although I've heard some of his theories and quotes previously. Seems like a interesting man.

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    09-04-16 @ 09:34 PM

    Re: James Q. Wilson, co-author of ‘broken windows’ policing theory, dies in Boston at

    There is no doubt that the world lost one of the great political scientists of the last few decades with Wilson's passing.

    If you only look at his 'Broken Windows Theory' and ignore every other article he wrote his impact is still substantial. With William Bratton's implementation of Wilson's theory, beginning in New York City and then moving on to Los Angeles, he helped prove Wilson correct that there were effective methods to combat crime in urban environments. Writing as a resident of the Chicagoland area Mayor Emanuel chose Garry McCarthy as the city's new police commissioner, who worked in the NYPD during Bratton's time there. Now he is using similar tactics to combat the recent outbursts of violent crimes the city is going through.

    His passing offers an opportunity to get reacquainted with his works. I read a tribute he wrote for the final strip of Calvin and Hobbes and, even though it was a comic strip, his ability to articulate what it said about society was unmatched. My favorite quote of the piece:
    Why have so many people found Calvin to be so amusing and absorbing? Because, I suspect, there is a part of our minds -- a part Adam Smith called the Impartial Spectator -- that examines our lives. Its inspection reveals in each of us a six-year-old struggling to assert itself. It wins the struggle when we give way to excessive greed, intemperate rage, or preening self-adulation. And with our immense capacities for rationalization, we can justify this with the same excuses Calvin uses -- "everybody does it" or "I am entitled to it." Only in our calmer, more reflective moments do we listen to the inner voice of reproach. For many of us, there is no calmer moment than that afforded by a quiet breakfast and no better perspective than that supplied by the antics of a little boy and his tiger.
    He will be missed.

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