Broken Windows and Community Social Control: Evidence from a Study of Street Segments

David Weisburd*, Clair V. Uding, Joshua C. Hinkle, Kiseong Kuen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: Broken windows theory identifies community social control as a central mechanism for controlling crime. In turn, controlling disorder is seen as the primary method that police or other government agents can use to strengthen community social controls. Our study examined the antecedents of informal community social control, measured as collective efficacy, at street segments. Methods: This article leverages multi-wave primary data collection at 447 street segments in Baltimore, MD including official crime statistics, survey responses, physical observations, and systematic social observations. We used mixed-effects OLS regression models to examine antecedents of collective efficacy at the street-level. Results: We find that social disorder and crime, rather than physical disorder, are the primary antecedents of collective efficacy at the street-level. We also find that fear of crime does not have a direct impact on collective efficacy. Conclusions: Our study suggests that police and city government more generally should not look to controlling physical disorder as a means of increasing community controls. At the same time addressing social disorder is an important mechanism to bolster collective efficacy, though care is needed to avoid bias or backfire effects from aggressive order-maintenance policing.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • broken windows
  • collective efficacy
  • community social control
  • crime hot spots
  • disorder
  • informal social control
  • micro geographic places


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