Broken Windows Theory
The broken windows theory developed by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling advocates that tolerance towards minor infractions and social disorder can induce and encourage violence and more serious crime. In practice, that means that neighborhoods covered with litter and graffiti are more prone to the rise in crime rate.
At the same time, it is important to note that the original broken windows thesis did not put forward a particular policing strategy. However, the effect of Kelling’s and Wilson’s arguments on policing methods was tremendous. Policy makers interpreted the theory in the way that it is the fight with unaddressed disorders (e.g. turnstile jumping) that provokes criminal activity, and, thus, the root of lowering the crime rate lies in combating the former.
As a result, broken windows policing turned out to be quite vigorous and aggressive order-maintenance strategy that followed the benchmarks of increasing the number of arrests. The function emphasized under this approach is the establishment of order, which can, at the first glance, be confused with initiatives of beautification of neighborhoods or raising the quality of life in given communities. In this sense, the broken windows theory did have a role in bringing policing practices slowly but surely closer to community-engagement techniques. However, the aggressive implementation of the theory did not show any empirical evidence as to the underlying thesis that is supposed to help reduce violent and serious crime.
What made broken windows policing different from the then traditional policing was the focus on minor crime and, furthermore, the engagement of law enforcement to fixing disorders previously under the attention of other public services (e.g. panhandling, public urination, and public drinking). At the same time, the means employed in the practice of such policing were very traditional: arrest, criminal charges, and detention. To sum up, the focus of broken windows policing was put on other types of infractions, but the means were typical for traditional policing.
From the other room Mom asked what happened, I hurriedly picked up the china and called back to her "Oh, its nothing!" As fast as I could, I unzipped the container taking each plate out all the while hoping that they would be alright. But when I got to the last plate there it lay broken in half. I took it out, put the others back in, zipped the container, grabbed the broken plate and ran outside to throw it in the trashcan. When I got to the trashcan I thought to myself "What if she decides to go through the trash?" (It was not until years later that I thought about the stupidity of my thought that day!) So, I decided against putting the broken plate in the trash and instead I buried the evidence. I went to the front yard where we had these two huge bushes which we often played under and buried the plate where it lay hidden for many years. When I was 14 we moved to Germany but did not sell the house. When I was 16 we moved back to our old home where the broken plate still lay buried. The renters had not taken very good care of our yard. As soon as spring hit mom began working in the yard, cleaning, gardening and trimming overgrown bushes. In the process of all this work, lo and behold, what did she find? Of course the broken china plate I had buried so long ago. That afternoon when I and my siblings came home from school, mom lined us up in the kitchen, held up the plate and asked who broke it? Well, I held my peace and would not confess. I stood there stubbornly refusing to take the blame even when my brother and sister were punished right along with me. I don't even remember the punishment but the sad part is that they were completely innocent and I let them share in the blame. Years later when I was grown with children of my own, I finally told mom what had happened that fateful day; it was I who had broken her china plate. There are some truths that can be gleaned from this story.
First, if I had told my Mom the truth in the beginning everything would have been fine. She might have been a little upset but it was an accident. I didn't mean to break the plate; I was trying to help. Fear took place in my heart. The actions that I put into motion after I broke the plate were wrong and led me to do things I should never have done. I hid the incident, I tried to get rid of the evidence, I buried the evidence, I lied by not coming forward with the truth and I let others suffer with me in the punishment that only I deserved.
The second thing was that my thinking wasn't rational. When we are deceitful our thinking gets distorted and warped. I believe this is God's way of letting things that are wrong eventually come to light. That is why criminals often make such stupid mistakes; their thinking is not rational. Another truth in this is that God eventually brings all things to light. Our sins find us out whether here or when we stand before Him in eternity. It is better to get things right here while there is time for repentance. If I had put that plate in the trash, in all probability my mom would never have discovered it. The truth would likely never have come out. Most likely, I would have forgotten all about that day and the broken plate. My siblings and I would never have been punished and I would not have this story to tell. But I choose the deceitful path which led to the discovery and punishment.
Lastly, when my deceitfulness was finally found out I continued to deny any wrong. I was still not facing up to my responsibility in the deed. I let others take the blame with me although they were completely innocent. Sin never wants to face responsibility, it always wants to stay hidden in darkness and let others take the blame. When we make wrong choices in life it often leads to others being hurt. It brings much harm in relationships. That day my sister and brother took the blame and were punished along with me. In a small way, this is much the same as what Jesus did for us: The difference being that Jesus knew He was carrying our sin; He knew He was carrying our blame. Yet, He was completely innocent in the whole matter. He shed his blood and died for our sin with full knowledge that He was not guilty. He did this because of His great love for us. We have a redeemer that is well able to redeem us, clean us up and make us His own so that we can be a light in the midst of the darkness.
I was thinking about this story from a different aspect: Just as the plate was broken from an unexpected incident often our hearts get broken either by our own choices or choices others make. We try hide this from everyone, to bury the brokenness in the deepest recesses of our being. Hoping against hope that the brokenness never has reason to surface again. But, all the while this brokenness affects everything we do, say and touch. Brokenness comes in all manner of emotions; sadness, depression, unforgiveness, bitterness, anger, etc. It spills on to those we love and sometimes even those we barely know in our day to day experiences. As we give our lives to God, He desires to clean and prune. He starts digging in areas we thought we had buried deep for no one to find. However, God knew it was there all along. Your broken heart was never hidden from Him. He knew and He saw every hurt, every injury, every burden. He was just waiting for that day when you would be open to letting Him heal instead of running and hiding. When He starts to work in our lives He often brings things to light through the everyday circumstances of our lives. Pointing His finger of love on the area we don't really want anyone to see or touch. He begins to dig into long hidden places because He wants to heal; He desires to mend those broken places. His quest is to make us whole in Christ. The real questions are, “Do we let Him finish the cleaning?” “Do we let Him remove the brokenness from our heart?" Or, "Do we refuse to let Him bring it to the light so that He can heal and make us whole in Christ?" When there are hidden things in our lives that are not pleasing to Christ it affects our relationships in every area of life. It will hinder us from being an effective light for Christ. We may love Him and want to serve Him but if we don't let Him heal, if we don't give Him all our brokenness we will never be all that God desires us to be. He is forever in the process of conforming us to the image of His Beloved Son. We must let Him do the work to become totally conformed to that image of Jesus Christ.
Stop running! Stop hiding! Let God heal in every area! Let Him freely dig in the garden of your heart to heal past wounds. Choose to love! Choose to forgive! Choose to face the truth when God shows you an area that is not quite right. Don’t deceive yourself and try to cover it up. Hurt and pain is not always easy but God is faithful in the midst of everything we go through. As we let Him change us, we learn to know Him in so many ways. The best thing in the world is knowing Christ and His great love for us! It is always worth going through the painful healings to know Christ and to experience wholeness and forgiveness in Him. He takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes them whole again. Remember He loves you. You are special and always in His care. He is always there to mend those broken places if we will just let Him. He wants to make us beautiful for His Kingdom. God Bless you and Keep you always.
Love in Christ, Michele
Photos by Melonie Brister
Columnist: Michele's Musings
Michele began writing notes of encouragement to people God put on her heart which led her in the direction of writing short encouraging stories, letters, essays and analogies. This quickly became a ministry for her.
Michele's vision is to reach people with encouraging messages that will lift their heart and bring joy for sorrow and hope for discouragement. Michele enjoys your feedback so leave a comment in the form at the bottom of the page or email her at