On “Broken Windows” Policing

Worth a read from SlateBroken Windows Policing Doesn’t Work.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Quick Takes
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. While broken windows policing was ostensibly the motivation for the confrontation, the way the police behaved is the issue here, not broken windows policing. If anything, broken windows policing has not, to my knowledge, resulted in other deaths so from a probability point of view, this assertion is nonsense.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Isn’t this the exact opposite thought you had when it came to the cigarette taxes?

  3. @Neil Hudelson:

    Since I apparently wasn’t obvious enough in my sarcasm, I was quoting Taylor’s own words from his last post back at him.

  4. @Neil Hudelson:

    That is, I happen to agree that Broken Windows Policing is a bad idea. I’m just pointing out that Taylor was making an argument he had earlier in the day dismissed as “nonsense”.

  5. @Stormy Dragon: Well, I suppose I would assert two things: 1) I simply posted a link and did not make an argument in this post as opposed to the other. Having said that, 2) there is actually an important distinction to be made between policies about enforcement and the laws themselves. If a particular set of policies specifically creates a particular type of confrontation, then that set of policies is worthy of criticism (as such I think your sarcasm in this case is misplaced).

  6. @Steven L. Taylor:

    Laws are only laws when they are enforced (otherwise they’re merely suggestions), so I don’t think the distinction between policies about enforcement and the laws those policies are intended to enforce is quite as clear cut as you want to make them.

  7. @Stormy Dragon: There is an important distinction to be made between the laws and what policies are used to enforce them. These are distinct issues.

    Some examples:

    -there is nothing in the laws about cocaine possession that require no-knock raids.

    -there is nothing in drunk driving laws that require checkpoints.

    -there is nothing in the traffic code to require speed traps.


  8. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’ll make the same comment I posted at Dave’s blog: The difference in law and policy is a matter of economic class. Sell a cigarette and be choked to death. Rig global markets and the President calls you his favorite banker.

    Policing and prosecution are for those who commit crime while poor.