The broken window theory in India written by Pooja Ganesh, a student at SASTRA Deemed University
The need for reform in society should come from an individual. The broken window theory is a metaphor popularly used in the field of criminology and psychology. If a disturbance in an environment is not corrected, such disturbance leads to disaster. Crimes, small and small, are the ones that pave the way for heinous crimes. Such small crimes should not be ignored or neglected. Minor problems have to be tackled by people in society in order to understand their duties and responsibilities towards the environment. In an urban setting, few visible signs of crime should be considered a major problem, as this type of antisocial behavior can encourage more serious crime. This theory was introduced in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling.
The field study
The psychologist Philip Zimbardo initiated a field study in 1969. He wanted to analyze the behavior of people who live in a different environment. He left two cars in two different places. A place is the place where people are very poor and a criminal place in New York City. The other place is a wealthy place in California. These two cars were parked with no license plates and the hood up. In New York City, a passer-by started wrecking the car within minutes. He pulled out the car and broke into its pieces. The car was destroyed. But in California the car was left untouched for many days. So Zimbardo took another unusual step in analyzing this study. He took a sledgehammer and smashed the pristine car. After a few minutes, a passerby tore the car to pieces as was done in New York. This study shows some things that are:
• If petty crimes are neglected, it leads to serious crimes.
• When one person commits a crime, others are misled by it. As we can see, the car in California was left untouched, but if one person has already damaged the car, it will serve as a model for others to copy the same thing.
• If a disorder is prevented in the early stages, it brings order and legality to society.
George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, after 13 years of this field study, wrote the article for the Atlantic, based on this broken window theory. They believed that the results of these studies could be applied to society as a whole on a larger scale. This theory was popularized in New York by the police policy of William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani in the 20th century. They believed that applying this theory in real life resulted in a drop in crime rates. They also introduced severe penalties for minor crimes. Bratton and Kelling firmly believe that this theory should not be given a zero tolerance effect, but this method requires careful training and supervision.
The relationship with the neighborhood differs from a person’s behavior. The deviation in properties occurs when a person is influenced by the neighborhood in which he lives. The effects of a neighborhood can be seen in the production of crime. A quarter with high rates of poverty, unemployment and instability tends to result in high crime rates. One of the reasons for this unobservable individual sign deviation. If a person misbehaves, he or she needs to be watched and measures to prevent crime be taken. But people do not usually observe or ignore such disturbances in their neighborhood. The social process and condition vary from area to area, resulting in social disorganization. The only solution to this problem is to take informal social control to prevent such crimes. There is a link between disorder and criminal activity, if one increases, the other increases too. As a person’s disruptive behavior increases, so does criminal activity. This is a kind of development sequence. Minor social disorders are:
• Drinking or using drugs in public
• Pan handling
• Abandoned car or building
These types of minor problems are a signal of a serious problem that may arise. If there are dirty sidewalks in the neighborhood, this should be done by yourself at the beginning. The wrongdoers should be severely punished to prevent serious crimes. The broken window theory is that if a broken window is not repaired, it will prompt other windows to break with it. In the end, all windows break the same way, and the minor disruption that is left behind without notice leaves the community vulnerable to crime. The neighborhood area becomes vulnerable to criminal invasions. Any variation in neighborhood disruption explains the variation in crime in that area. The perception of contagion clearly explains the broken window theory. When a person is infected, it becomes contagious and spreads throughout their area. Every person in the neighborhood should be watched, and if a conduct disorder occurs, strict legal action should be taken to prevent serious crimes.
Social control in the broken window theory is an effective strategy for informally limiting deviations. The informal nature of police action is far more effective than legal sanctions. Any disorderly behavior has no tolerance effect.
This type of control helps keep order. There are four steps to enforcing these controls:
First of all, the entire area should be observed, deviations or disordered behavior must be communicated and monitored. Many people believe that regulating their area is not their duty or responsibility. Due to a lack of concern, some people do not help and ignore such deviations that occur in their residents. Wilson and Kelling believe that “community engagement” will help create difference and that this can be a key to maintaining order in society.
Sometimes the broken window theory is described as zero tolerance surveillance. They say that these guidelines impose a rigid standard on the behavior of people from different cultures. But it’s not, it’s a discretionary practice that requires training and oversight in the communities and neighborhoods they live in to ensure order and maintenance. They argue that the police should punish child offenders leniently. The goal is for the punishment to prevent them from committing the crime in the future.
Broken window theory in India
So far India has not implemented the broken window theory. Given the large population and high crime rate, they have not taken any step to control the abnormal behavior in humans. The social disorder in India can be easily prevented by this theory. To stop a major crime, the first thing to do is to get rid of the minor crimes that are easily visible. However, a lot of hard work is required in India to implement this theory. There are great cultural differences in our country. People’s social awareness should be spread to control the crime rate.
Problems in the broken window theory
Each coin has a different side, just as there are few downsides to the broken window theory. This theory always regards the poor and homeless as disordered people. They judge people by their clothes and their way of life. Homeless people are always marked as criminals. Socio-economic status is seen as the only cause of crime. This human mentality cannot be changed. This is not a permanent solution to the crime rate. It can only be used for temporary purposes. Anyone who behaves in a disorderly manner is considered a criminal. The whole purpose of the presumption will no longer apply in the future, but only for a short time. The theory discriminates against minority communities in society, it resumes that the crime is committed by people who belong to the minority community. The zero tolerance policy will increase the number of people in prison and they will be classified as criminals in society despite the fact that they have committed petty crimes.
We can conclude that the broken window theory is the best tool to control crime rates as it solves the problem at the early stages. A deviation in a person’s behavior is noticed and corrected at the beginning so that he cannot commit the same crime again. The zero tolerance policy puts pressure on people to behave well. Contagious behavior in the neighborhood can be stopped by applying this theory. Lowering the crime rate would be the best alternative in India. The only need is “community engagement” in society to successfully implement this theory.