Understanding the Mechanisms Underlying Broken Windows Policing: The Need for Evaluation Evidence

David Weisburd*, Joshua C. Hinkle, Anthony A. Braga, Alese Wooditch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Objectives: We argue that the model underlying broken windows policing requires a developmental sequence involving reductions in fear of crime and eventual enhancement of community social controls. We investigate whether existing evaluation studies provide evidence on these mechanisms. Methods: Drawing from a larger systematic review of disorder policing, we identify six eligible studies. We use narrative review and meta-analytic methods to summarize the impacts of these interventions on fear of crime and collective efficacy (a proxy for community social controls). Findings: Disorder policing strategies do not have a significant impact on fear of crime in a meta-analysis of six studies. In the one study measuring collective efficacy, there is also not a significant outcome. Conclusions: Existing broken windows policing programs do not show evidence of influencing the key mechanisms of the broken windows model of crime prevention, though evidence is currently not persuasive. We outline four key directions for improving research in this area, namely, (1) explore the mechanisms underlying the model, not just test crime outcomes; (2) use measures of disorder distinct from crime; (3) employ longitudinal designs to better fit the developmental nature of the mechanism; and (4) include observational analyses to examine the complex nature of feedback mechanisms.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)589-608
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number4
StatePublished - 6 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2015.


  • broken windows policing
  • collective efficacy
  • disorder
  • fear of crime
  • informal social controls
  • meta-analysis


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding the Mechanisms Underlying Broken Windows Policing: The Need for Evaluation Evidence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this