Broken Windows, Crime Prevention, and Community Policing

Community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing, and “broken windows” policing have been created to aid American police departments in crime prevention within communities these departments serve.  In my opinion, community policing is best defined by the Department of Justice (2003), where it states that community policing is “a policing philosophy that promotes and supports organizational strategies to address the causes and reduce the fear of crime and social disorder through problem-solving tactics and police-community partnerships.” Although the initiative of some of these policing procedures was to prevent crime, not all members of the community responded positively to such initiatives.  There are differences amongst these policies, and while some where harsher than others, the effectiveness of crime prevention was either unnoticed or drastically changed.

Community-oriented policing is designed to put police officers as liaisons into the communities they serve and protect.  With the advent of a new millennium, major departments across the country have implemented “community-based” policing in order to ‘build trust’ within their communities (Roth, 2005).  Furthermore, University of Alabama states that

“Community Oriented Policing is a philosophy of full-service, personalized policing where the same officer is assigned to a specific geographical area on a permanent basis, working in a proactive partnership with citizens to identify and solve problems.”

This concept is a little different from the problem-oriented policing and “broken windows” policing, as it involves participation from officers in all communities versus targeting specific ‘hot spots’ and cleaning up crime ridden areas only (Roth, 2005).

Problem-oriented policing was founded greatly in part by Professor Herman Goldstein.  According to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (2006)

“Problem-oriented policing is an approach to policing in which discrete pieces of police business (each consisting of a cluster of similar incidents, whether crime or acts of disorder, that the police are expected to handle) are subject to microscopic examination (drawing on the especially honed skills of crime analysts and the accumulated experience of operating field personnel) in hopes that what is freshly learned about each problem will lead to discovering a new and more effective strategy for dealing with it.”

This type of policing works with the citizenry and local businesses in order to allow police to create innovative ways to fight crime.  From what I discerned from the readings, I see problem-oriented policing as a specific crime fighting tool.  Unlike community oriented policing it focuses a lot more on the singular issue at hand.  Additionally, it seems to me that this policy is enforced much harder (with harsher tactics) than the “broken windows” policy as it focuses on the deed in a geographical location and not the geographical location and the ‘evil doers’.

Like the aforementioned policies, the “broken windows” policing has a compelling idea of improving police relations in the community.  Roth (2005) states that this model of policing is methodically placed for the police to get “the cooperation of citizens if they intend to reduce fear and successfully fight crime” in areas with burdened “physical deterioration” such as “broken windows” and “deteriorated housing,” which cause “concern for personal safety” (p. 312).  The departments that utilize “broken windows” policy may utilize foot patrols or bike units in areas that fit the specific physical criteria listed.  These methods of ‘patrol’ within communities are also used in community-oriented and problem-oriented policing as well.

All these policies are set to help police, and the citizens they serve and protect, to do exactly so: serve and protect.  Many departments utilize one or all three policies and have some, a lot, or little success.  But, all is not lost.  As the times change and improvements flourish we will see a better community based policing in a neighborhood near us, if we don’t start seeing such changes already.


Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. (2006). What is Problem-Oriented Policing? Retrieved on June 1, 2007 from:
Roth, M. (2005). Crime and Punishment: A History of the Criminal Justice System. Belmont: Thomson-Wadsworth
U.S. Department of Justice. No date.  What is Community Policing? Retrieved on June 1, 2007 from:
University of Alabama. No date.  Community Oriented Policing. Retrieved on June 1, 2007 from:

Article written by Radek Gadek

Radek holds a Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Boston University. He is currently doing consulting work and runs this blog to provide relevant information on criminal justice degrees, colleges and related careers.

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