Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Salute to the Innovator of the 'Broken Windows' Theory

As an organization, we were saddened to hear of James Q. Wilson's passing last week from complications of leukemia. He was a groundbreaking social scientist, co-founding the Broken Windows Theory, upon which many of our management practices for Bryant Park and our sister organizations, the 34th Street Partnership and Chelsea Improvement Company are based.

Broken Windows Theory: Crime and other social ills can be prevented by giving places a well taken care of feeling. Introduced by Mr. Wilson and criminologist George L. Kelling in a 1982 article.

Something as simple as a broken window or a spot of graffiti signals potential ill-doers that no one is watching, and that crime is permitted in an area. By the same theory, criminals will be deterred from committing petty crimes in a well maintained space. At the same time, the public will feel safe and watched over.

The Broken Windows Theory is a founding tenet of Bryant Park's success in reclaiming the park from vagrants and drug dealers in the 1980’s. Along the lines of this approach, we place a great amount of importance on upkeep and maintenance to our existing resources. We are careful to replace broken furniture, keep the fountain and lights in good working order, remove graffiti, replace any inadequate flowers or plantings, and most importantly, employ a team of friendly, helpful security officers to maintain appropriate public behaviors.

So next time you're in the park, and you hang your purse on the back of your chair, feel free to take a nap on the lawn, or set your belongings down while you play a match of ping pong, remember to thank Mr. James Q. Wilson!

If you're curious to learn more, we suggest Fixing Broken Windows by George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles, which details this innovative method for crime prevention.


  1. The broken window concept is a novel idea. When people feel safe in a public place they can relax and entertain without fear of any petty crimes. It is good that you have taken care to create a good stress relaxing environment by properly maintaining the water fountains, lights and other sources.
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  2. Broken Windows Theory sounds very interesting, I'm indeed curious about and will definitely check it out.

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