Applying the Broken Windows Theory to Domestic Violence and Gangs

In my Public Administration class the other day, we were reviewing a case that played a role in the lead up to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passing in 1994. Reading about a man killing a woman when he was supposed to be in jail is heartbreaking. The case leads us to believe that bureaucracy played a role in the man not being in jail when he was supposed to be. I hear that argument, but I think it’s weaker than it lets on.

Anyway, during the ensuing discussion of this case (as viewed through the lens of Max Weber and bureaucracy), I was reminded of the broken windows theory:

The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime.

Meaning, if a window is broken, instead of waiting for months to fix it, fix it right away. In this way, it demonstrates to the surrounding area that this community is a place that takes care of itself — and by extension — isn’t a breeding ground for crime and unsightly behavior. The broken windows theory — on its own — doesn’t really apply to bureaucracy and VAWA. Remember that Mayor Giuliani made a big push in NYC to implement this theory. My thought was: why don’t we apply the principles of the broken windows theory to an order of magnitude above broken windows?

To expand: another reason offered as to why the man in the case above was able to kills his ex-girlfriend was because the authorities were busy focusing on the gangbangers. So, to apply the broken windows theory: focus on the domestic violence cases or those crimes that are perceived to be as lower priority than gangbangers and maybe the gangbanging will take care of itself? I want to emphasize that I’m not judging as to which is more important (gangbangers or domestic violence), but in the way that the priority is given to the gangbangers, I wonder if instances of domestic violence (or similar crimes) were focused on, would that then cut off the “supply” of those people who join gangs?

Published by Jeremiah Stanghini

Jeremiah's primary aim is to provide readers with a new perspective. In the same vein as the "Blind Men and the Elephant," it can be difficult to know when one is looking at the big picture or if one is simply looking at a 'tusk' or a 'leg.' He writes on a variety of topics: psychology, business, science, entertainment, politics, history, etc.

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