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Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing

4.2 out of 5 stars 11 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

For the past couple of decades, many police departments throughout the United States have utilized the order-maintenance approach. This method of policing has been directly influenced by the well-known "broken windows" theory, which can be traced to James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Their theory suggests that if minor forms of disorder, such as graffiti, litter, panhandling, and prostitution, are left unattended, the neighborhood will decline and more serious criminal activity emerges. Examples of this type of policing include New York City Mayor Giuliani's crackdown on "quality-of-life offenses" and Chicago's antigang loitering ordinance. The order-maintenance approach has received favorable attention in the popular press, scholarly journals, public circles, and academia. Here, Harcourt (law, Univ. of Arizona) challenges the validity of the "broken windows" technique, brilliantly critiquing existing data and offering alternative reasons for the seemingly successful results of this type of law enforcement. Harcourt presents a "wake-up" call to all those who blindly accept the "broken windows" approach to policing. Highly recommended for all criminology and social science collections. Tim Delaney, Canisius Coll., Buffalo
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Harcourt presents a 'wake-up' call to all those who blindly accept the 'broken windows' approach to policing. Highly recommended for all criminology and social science collections. (Tim Delaney Library Journal 2001-06-01)

[In] his new book,
Illusion of Order, Bernard Harcourt argues that the 'broken windows' theory underlying New York's policing strategy doesn't deserve much praise...He suggests that no studies establish a link between neighborhood disorder and crime victimization...Offering a critique grounded equally in public policy and political theory, the book veers widely, from the writings of Michel Foucault and John Stuart Mill to a highly technical analysis of previous statistical studies. [Harcourt's] arguments offer a measured counterbalance to the gung-ho advocates of 'broken windows' policing and a welcome warning about the limits of simplistic social policy. (Seth Stern Christian Science Monitor 2001-09-06)

Legal theorist Bernard Harcourt has written an important, engaging, and provocative work on criminal justice. He criticizes the idea, associated with James Q. Wilson, William Bratton, and Rudolph Giuliani, that determined efforts to punish petty crimes (breaking windows, loitering, squeegeeing windshields) will reduce the rate of serious crimes. (Joshua Cohen
Boston Review 2002-02-01)

A 1982 article by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling introduced the concept of a "broken windows" approach to combating crime: i.e., tolerating litterers, loiterers, and disorderly minor offenders promotes an environment fostering more serious crime. Harcourt exhaustively analyzes the claim that this approach to policing urban neighborhoods merits a significant measure of credit for the decline in crime rates and the improvement in the quality of urban life. He finds an absence of convincing evidence to support claims on its behalf, and explores some reasons for the credit given to it. Many other factors are identified that may more plausibly explain the changes noted. Furthermore, Harcourt exposes some of the harmful consequences of the policies emanating out of the "broken windows" approach for especially vulnerable constituencies. (D. O. Friedrichs
Choice 2002-03-01)

Bernard Harcourt's scholarly examination of the broken windows theory and its influence on present day policing is an important contribution to the debate and merits reading by serious observers of American policing. (Hubert Williams, President
Police Foundation)

The main contributions of this volume include its incisive analysis of the uses and abuses of the concepts of incivilities and disorder, its placement of the order-maintenance rhetoric within the broader economic and political discussions of the New Progressives, and its close attention to the legal and societal impacts of the rise to fame of this theoretical perspective. Harcourt's book represents a sincere, thoughtful, and multidisciplinary effort to demythologize the incivilities thesis...The volume is appropriate for graduate students in criminal justice, criminology, political science, and sociology. I have used it in a communities and crime graduate course with good results. (Ralph B. Taylor
American Journal of Sociology)

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harvard University Press (August 15, 2001)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 304 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0674004728
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0674004726
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.4 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.5 x 1 x 9.75 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.2 out of 5 stars 11 ratings

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Bernard E. Harcourt is the Isidor and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science at Columbia University. The author of several books, including Critique & Praxis (2020), The Counterrevolution (2018), Exposed (2015), and The Illusion of Free Markets (2011), he lives in New York City.

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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5
11 global ratings

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