Broken Window Theory
The broken window (theory) refers to a criminological theory devised by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. The theory states that monitoring and maintaining urban environments in a structured and well-ordered condition can stop vandalism. The theory investigates the effects of social disorder such as anti-social behavior as it relates to community life. Additionally, it correlates vagrancy, social norms and quality of community life. It is imperative to define social norms and disorder in order to efficiently examine how the broken windows concept requires both police and neighborhood participation.
Disorder and Social Norms
According to Keizer and Lindengard (2008), social norms and disorder refer to:
 the perception of regular approval or disapproval of a specific behavior in general (e.g., the idea of not dumping litter) or one general in a particular surrounding (for example, littering in an already littered area). There is no agreement between the two types of social norms. For instance, while littering may be allowed, there could be much litter in a specific location. Scientists define disorder as an existing conflict between these two different types of social norms.
Using the definition, the broken windows theory explores how a single broken window can lead to more broken windows; how social behavior influences a region in particular. Social disorder is usually impacted by how the neighborhood or citizens consider a particular behavior; either as destructive or non-destructive. When the neighborhood determines what behaviors are tolerable or non-tolerable, they can abate to regulate behavior and significantly improve the area with an active police presence.
Effect of Violation of General Social Norms
The broken windows theory postulates that a maintained, ordered and cleaned environment sends the signal that the region monitors the area and that any criminal activity will be thwarted. Conversely, an environment that is not maintained (graffiti, excessive litter, and broken windows) and disordered sends signals that the region is rarely monitored and one can engage in criminal behavior without being easily detected. The theory assumes that the landscape communicates to people. A broken window is a symbol of vulnerability and defenselessness by the community and is a sign of cohesiveness (or lack of it) of the individuals within (Taylor, 2001). Neighborhoods with a strong sense of cohesion will fix all broken windows and display social responsibility upon themselves. The theory put emphasis on the built environment, but the human behavior should also be taken into serious consideration.
Under the impression that unfixed broken windows will lead to problems in the future, residents will start to change the way they see their neighborhood. In a desperate attempt to be safe, a formerly cohesive community will begin to crumble as people start to spend less time within the communal space to avoid violent attacks by strangers. Finally, avoiding the communal space culminates in breakdown of community control. Drunks, rowdy teenagers, addicts and prostitutes gradually make their way into the community because the community could not assert its social control. The outside disrupts the social fabric, thus creating a rift between regulars and strangers within the community. Consequently, something that was considered normal becomes uncomfortable as the community carries a new feel.
Broken windows theory is a way of elucidating people and their interactions with space. The theory shows that the community can deteriorate over time with influence of unwanted people. However, policing efforts to eliminate unwanted people is in favor of regulars in the community as it helps determine how individuals are supposed to behave in the community. The organization or disorganization of a community predicts the likelihood of criminal activities taking place within a particular neighborhood.
Crime Displacement Theory
Crime displacement, in simple terminology, refers to the act of relocating criminals. It is one of the strategies adopted (in order) to prevent crime. According to the theory, when criminals are barred in a particular area, they will move to commit the crime in other areas (Lowry and Lavigne, 2011). When it comes to the practical bit, the theory encourages geographic police programs that include the assigning of a police officer to particular districts so that they can familiarize with both the residents and their problems. In essence, the idea is to create cooperation between members of the society and the police.
The theory (also referred to as situational crime prevention) is criticized as it merely states that crimes move in five ways. It can take many forms including temporal displacement that means that crime moved from one time to another. It can also take the form of geographical displacement, meaning that a crime moved from one location to another. There is also tactical displacement, which refers to a specific method of crime substituted for another. It can also involve crime type displacement whereby a crime is substituted for another. Lastly, there is target displacement whereby crime is directed from one form to another (Felson and Clarke, 1998).
Research on Crime Displacement
Research done is on the extent and nature of crime displacement, examples suggest that there have been displacements; however, some reports show that a displacement does not occur. Studies reveal that little to no displacement takes place. In 1994, Holland's minister of Justice gave Professor Rene Hesseling a task to analyze available data on crime prevention measures where displacement was specifically used to combat crime. The task took fourteen months and involved systematic review of 45 published articles. Sixteen studies were from U.S., twenty from Britain, ten from Netherlands and the remaining nine articles were from developed countries across the world. Twenty two of the articles found no case and point evidence of displacement, six studies found beneficial evidence that a displacement took place. Thirty three articles found some form of limited displacement. No study found absolute displacement of crime.
The findings were positive, but there was no variation between different crimes. For example, drug dealing was susceptible to displacement. However, the asserted belief that the drug addicts behavior is impervious and fixed to change was not confirmed. After 30 interviews with burglars and drug addicts Hesseling found out that the prevention does not typically lead to displacement. His research was positive for residential burglary, but there was no explicit evidence of displacement being discovered.
Displacement theory needs to be considered in crime reduction, but there are a number of strong theoretical reasons for believing it far from inevitable. Even if displacement is shown to occur, it is usually not total displacement. Crime displacement theory as crime prevention is contradictory; further developments have to be put to ensure maximum results. For instance, if a community is experiencing an increase in mugging, as a situational crime strategy, the area can invest in brighter street lights. Additionally, the law-enforcement agencies can advise residents about hot spot areas. Measures such as these decrease theft and displace crime to the adjacent and neighboring communities.
Felson, M., & Clarke, R. V. G. (1998). Opportunity makes the thief (Vol. 98). Home Office, Convenctional Research, Development and Statistics of Policing and Reducing Crime Unit
Keizer, K., Lindenberg, S., & Steg, L. (2008). The spread of disorder.Science, 322(5908), 1681-1685.
Lowry, S. S., & Lavigne, N. (2011). Measuring potential diffusion crime displacement near public surveillance systems. Geography and Public Safety, 3(1), 10.
Taylor, R. B. (2001). Breaking away from broken windows in Baltimore neighborhoods decline (pp. 286-287). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.