HINDSIGHT

Broken Windows Creator Admits Race Issue

One of the professors who created the “Broken Windows” approach to policing says he feared all along it would potentially lead to abuse of minorities. George Kelling coined the term “broken windows” in 1982 with fellow professor James Wilson to desribe a theory that cops could reduce overall crime by monitoring minor ones, like breaking windows, more closely. “We were fearful of [negative consequences] from the very beginning," he said this week. "The history of the use of loitering laws and vagrancy laws is a very sad history. It was used during the post-Civil War period and into the 20th century to keep many African-Americans in virtual slavery. We understood that it had enormous potential for abuse." While he stands by the approach due to the subsequent drop in crime, he admits the theory has failings. “It’s a sad commentary that it’s come to this, because we’ve made so much progress.”