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Illusion of Order: The False Promise of Broken Windows Policing
This is the first book to challenge the "broken-windows" theory of crime, which argues that permitting minor misdemeanors, such as loitering and vagrancy, to go unpunished only encourages more serious crime. The theory has revolutionized policing in the United States and abroad, with its emphasis on policies that crack down on disorderly conduct and aggressively enforce misdemeanor laws.
The problem, argues Bernard Harcourt, is that although the broken-windows theory has been around for nearly thirty years, it has never been empirically verified. Indeed, existing data suggest that it is false. Conceptually, it rests on unexamined categories of "law abiders" and "disorderly people" and of "order" and "disorder," which have no intrinsic reality, independent of the techniques of punishment that we implement in our society.
How did the new order-maintenance approach to criminal justice--a theory without solid empirical support, a theory that is conceptually flawed and results in aggressive detentions of tens of thousands of our fellow citizens--come to be one of the leading criminal justice theories embraced by progressive reformers, policymakers, and academics throughout the world? This book explores the reasons why. It also presents a new, more thoughtful vision of criminal justice.
From Library Journal
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
[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)
- 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
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Although the book was prepared essentially as a peer review of the earlier works of the proponents of the `Broken Windows' theory, the real value may be in its recognition of the shallowness of strictly quantitative analysis. " The important methodological point is that, once we have taken the `social meaning turn' - and I believe we must- quantitative correlations between enforcement and crime will no longer be sufficient. ...The study of social meaning calls for the integration of qualitative and quantitative methods, and integration which is being increasingly reflected in the social sciences today. From political science and sociology to program evaluation in psychology, there is a growing movement to overcome the traditional paradigm war, and to increase the amount of information brought to bear on hypotheses." Pp 110-114.
This is an essential read for the serious student of modern police methods.