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Assessment of the Impact of Quality-of-Life Policing on Crime and Disorder

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 18 Issue: 4 Dated: December 2001 Pages: 825-876
Date Published
December 2001
52 pages

This study examined the impact of quality-of-life policing on crime and disorder in Chandler, Arizona.


Specifically, the study attempted to learn more about the effects of enforcing order-maintenance laws and zoning ordinances on crime and disorder. This paper first outlines the "broken windows" hypothesis and the empirical support for the theory. This theory, touted by Wilson and Kelling (1982), argues that if social disorder (e.g., public drinking, street-level drug dealing, prostitution) and physical disorder (e.g., vandalism, neighborhood dilapidation) are left unchecked by the community, an environment is created that attracts serious crime; however, remarkably little research has examined the relationship between disorder, fear, and serious crime. After outlining this theory and empirical support for it, this paper discusses the implications of the theory for policing strategies and reviews the research on policing crime and disorder. This is followed by a description of the nature and content of the intervention examined in the current study. In order to examine a policing strategy based in quality-of-life targets, data on calls for service (CFS) were obtained from the Chandler Police Department's crime analysis unit for April 29, 1996, through September 16, 1999. This included data for a period of 363 days preceding the first intervention and 361 days following the last intervention. The dependent variables were the number of CFS for 10 offense categories: person crime, property crime, drug crime, suspicious persons, assistance, public morals, physical disorder, nuisance, disorderly conduct, and traffic. The findings suggest that the quality-of-life initiative exerted the strongest effect on two categories of crime and disorder, i.e., public morals and physical disorder. Diffusion of benefit and displacement effects were also observed in nearby areas. The study concludes that limited support is provided for the operational strategy suggested in the "broken windows" theory. These findings, combined with other recent related research suggest that researchers should further evaluate the relationship between crime and disorder and should examine the effects that the police can exert on crime by policing social and physical disorder. 3 tables and 73 references

Date Published: December 1, 2001