Broken Windows Thesis on Crimes in Low Socioeconomic, Middle Class and Affluent Neighborhoods

Subject: Law
Type: Informative Essay
Pages: 10
Word count: 2563
Topics: Crime, Criminal Psychology, Criminology, Microeconomics, Poverty


The theory of broken windows explains how disorder and violent behavior leads to criminal activities. According to James Wilson and George Kelling, the proponents of broken window in crime control, social and physical disorders are the foundation of crime in our societies. Different estates with varying affluence levels experience disorder behaviors and crimes in correlated patterns. The paper explores the contribution of disorder behavior and activities to criminal activities in various neighborhoods; low socioeconomic, middle class and affluent neighborhoods. The article also provides the statistics of illegal activities in the respective areas of residence.

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The low-income neighborhoods are most likely to experience crimes due to the lack of adequate resources and infrastructures to counter physical and social disorders. The rates of crimes vary in the neighborhoods since the law enforcement agencies prejudicially select the areas to protect and respond to criminal incidences. The socially disadvantaged group of people remain the highly vulnerable to criminal activities. With this regard, the poor neighborhoods, which have constrained financial might, social and educational resources, end up in a pool of illegal activities and gangs. Out of the three residential areas used in the research, the residents of the impoverished suburban areas are more likely to be victims of violence and crime.

The social disorders in a society cause upheaval within the people. Since little is taken severe and no one strives to address the issues of insecurity, violence and disorderly groups of people, the low socioeconomic neighborhoods remain the most affected by the high prevalence of disorders and crime. The rates of criminal and disruptive behavior reduce as the affluence level increase. The affluent estates with socioeconomic power experience comparatively few cases of social and physical disorders and thus low crime occurrences in such neighborhoods.

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The occurrence of crimes relates to diverse theories of criminology. One of the theories that describe and explain the incidents of crime in the different neighborhoods is the broken window. The broken window theory reveals that the presence of disorder in a given place and its potential to cause crimes (Szalavitz, 2017). The image of the broken window is applied to demonstrate the lack of attention that authorities, public, and agencies give to such incidences. The pioneers of broken windows theory; James Wilson and George Kelling, proposed that there was a need to change the approach of law enforcement (Citylab. 2015). The two suggested that focusing the law on reducing and averting disorderly activities was the key to reducing criminal activities. The criminals create a disruptive situation which creates a conducive environment for crime perpetration. The broken windows theory suggests that addressing and mitigating the visual signs of disorders in the neighborhoods significantly contribute to the mitigation of criminal activities. The statistics of crime in different communities: low socioeconomic, middle class, and affluent suburbs have varying degrees of violence that create the conducive environment for committing crimes in the United States.

The Statistics of Criminal Activities in Low Socioeconomic, Middle Class, and Affluent Neighborhoods

According to the data from the Justice Department, the people who earn less are more likely to be victims of robbery and other violent crimes. The investigation by the Department of Justice 2010, proved that those with as low as $7,500 income were subject to the highest crime rates. In the report, 200 out of the 1000 households investigated were victims of property crimes. On the other hand, families earning $50,000 per annum were the least expected or victimized by criminals (Department of Justice, 2010).

The Frequencies of Disorder and Crime in Low Socioeconomic, Middle Class, and Affluent Neighborhoods

The low socioeconomic neighborhoods are associated with low income and crime. The people living in low-income communities are more likely to be the victims and perpetrators of crimes. The levels of social disorder are high in low socioeconomic neighborhoods (Roman, 2004). The disorderly activities in the low socioeconomic regions result from the lack of adequate law enforcement agencies and inadequate security. The majority of the people living in these neighborhoods lack the economic power to organize for private security, which is a different case in the affluent suburbs. The security agencies often give little focus in protecting the poor due to the little economic power and resources to protect.

Meinen (2014) claim that the high prevalence of poverty in the low socioeconomic residences create an atmosphere where the youths involve themselves in disorderly activities such as loitering and gambling (Meinen, 2014). The teenagers and other young men spend most of their times idling in the neighborhoods, and the only way they can acquire financial resources is to perpetrate crimes such as robbery. The wandering youth scheme onto opportunities of how to commit crimes. Some of the young people begin with petty theft from their families, but because there is little focus given to such behaviors, they end up becoming thugs perpetrating crime whenever they desire. In such residential areas, the loitering youths organize themselves to vandalize buildings and scoop valuables from shops and other idly lying structures and buildings. The slow or at times no response from the law enforcement agencies to such violent situations breed violent crimes that occur following the disorderly activities.

According to Citylab (2015), in the low socioeconomic neighborhoods, the police, homeland security along with other law enforcers take time to respond to violence and disorderly activities (Citylab, 2015). Some of the theories that explain the biases witnessed in the law enforcers’ responses to criminal activities in the different neighborhoods hint on social and racial prejudices. The minority reside in most of the low-income residences due to their inability to rent or purchase houses in highly affluent areas. In the United States, the low-income earners are mostly Blacks (Pattillo, 2005).  The African Americans earn significantly lower than the Whites. Due to the racial discrimination in the delivery of services to the Black minority, the police department and other law enforcement agencies often reluctantly attend to calls on unrest and disorders in the poor neighborhoods. The unwillingness of the law enforcers to eradicate social upheavals in the low-income residences lead to intense violence and disturbances that consequently lead to violent crimes in these neighborhoods.

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Roman (2004), claims that due to the ethnic segregation of neighborhoods often lead to violent behavior. The young people express their disenfranchisement through the violent actions that they adopt (Roman, 2004). The racial marginalization leads to a situation where the poor residents feel abandoned and uncared for in their lives. The young people then begin to gamble, loiter, break windows and fight for the little resources they can acquire. The violent situation hardens them even further, preparing the youths for the perpetration of violent criminalities (Meinen, 2014). The other residents of the low socioeconomic quarters perceive the violent crimes to be normal as they have lived with all their life. The situation seems like its permanent and unchanging and with the reluctance of the law enforcement agencies to respond, the residents of poor quarters remain the highly vulnerable to violent crimes.

In most cases, the investors do not feel the need to invest in the low-income residences due to the difficulty to make profits from their investments. With the underdevelopment, the streets remain calm, people face financial shortages and youths become violent as they commit crimes such as robbery, rape, arson, and murder (Pattillo, 2005). As the investors stay, the government will not direct resources to attract the investors in such regions, making them perennially unproductive. The people feel marginalized due to lack of security and general care similar to those provided to the citizens residing in affluent neighborhoods. In the disenfranchised situation, the residents in the low socioeconomic residences end up expressing themselves violently and are likely to partake crime as the violent environment is conducive for crime perpetration (Roman, 2004). The violence and social and physical disorderliness results from the need to express their disappointments and express their situations. Therefore, those living in the impoverished neighborhoods are more likely to be criminals than those in affluent residences.

Pattillo (2005) explains that due to the inadequate security in the low-income residences, these neighborhoods are likely to be the places where criminal activities are organized and executed (Pattillo, 2005). The criminals have all the time to organize crime which interprets to the high levels of violent behaviors and crimes in these neighborhoods. In most cases, most of the criminals or gangs emerge from these residential areas and perpetrate crimes either within or in other districts. The infrastructural development in the poor neighborhoods is comparatively pathetic and disorganized. Due to the poor investment conditions, the government, private sector, international agencies, and locals have little insight to structurally develop the places (Szalavitz, 2017).The poor infrastructural conditions in the low socioeconomic neighborhoods inhibit the public’s ability to counter the incivilities. The social and physical disorders in the region, in most cases, go unreported to the law enforcers. The public face challenges in executing a common mandate of counteracting the criminals who first engage in violent and disorderly activities in the residential places.

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The government through the law enforcement agencies should address the challenges of crime by mitigating the social and physical disorders (Meinen, 2014). The security in these poor neighborhoods should be increased so that the police are ever present in the places before any violence can occur. Mitigating these disorders in the low socioeconomic communities, criminalizes the criminal mentality and thereby ensuring that the rowdy and disorderly young people do not see crime as an option in life. The alleviation of social and physical disorders in these neighborhoods inhibits the development of criminal groups in the area.

According to Webster & Kingston (2014), the disordered behavior changes people’s behaviors in the society. Just like in the case of the low-income neighborhoods, social and physical disorder shift the people’s actions and habits. In the regions where the young people are involved in graffiti culture and break windows lead to violent behavior of the subject population (Webster & Kingston, 2014).  In poverty prone residential areas, people are more likely to turn into criminals as compared to the middle class and affluent neighborhoods. One of the reasons that explains why there are high rates of crimes in poor neighborhoods as compared to affluent estates, is that there are little infrastructures and services for countering violent behavior (Meinen, 2014). The intensity of violence translates to high crime rates in the poor backgrounds. Since violence and disorderly behaviors turn to criminal activities; the poor neighborhoods remain the highest incubator for criminal acts.

According to Szalavitz (2017), the possibility of crimes in all the three different neighborhoods differ based on the vulnerability of the victims. The poor quarters have the highest number of vulnerable people to criminal activities. In the low socioeconomic residential areas, the people are economical, educationally, psychologically, and mentally disadvantaged and have comparatively insignificant capacity to counter violent activities and criminal behavior (Szalavitz, 2017). The middle class are more advantaged and may rarely fall victims of illegal activities than those living in the poor estates. The middle class enjoys improved access to resources, infrastructural development and preparedness to counter criminal and violent behavior in the United States. The residents of the affluent estates are highly secure and almost immune to crimes due to the availability of services and security personnel to counter criminal behavior in the region. The rich spend to improve their infrastructures and security at the personal and basic levels. The government also allocates more resources to address the security challenges that they may face.

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MacDonald (2009), explains that with the disparities in the access and provision of social services and infrastructural development in the three neighborhoods, it is apparent that the poor neighborhood residents are more vulnerable to criminal and violent acts than the middle class and affluent estates residents (MacDonald, 2009).  In the deprived estates, the police along with other security agencies take a longer time to respond to violent activities than in the middle class and affluent neighborhoods. The criminals are more comfortable perpetrating crimes in these low socioeconomic neighborhoods due to a series of their past successes (Pattillo, 2005).  The criminals feel safe and secure offending the people and violently committing crimes in robbery, burglary, rape or arson in the poor quarters of the society. Because the security and chances of executing the offense in the middle class and affluent neighborhoods get slimmer as the level of affluence increases, the criminals frequently commit violent and disorderly crimes in the least wealthy estates.

The prevalence of crime in the low socioeconomic neighborhoods relates to the inability to abandon criminal behavior. The criminals have no place in the society to perform other duties professionally (Webster & Kingston, 2014). The criminal records that the perpetrators acquire over time render them unemployable. Even after serving their terms of sentencing, the criminals remain tainted and untrusted to help in any professional positions in the society. Without employability, the offenders end up returning to crime. Whenever they respond to crimes, they become violent and aggressive as well as influential. In most instances, they would sway others to join the gang as they narrate their experience in the prisons. The young people in these neighborhoods, due to poverty and lack of adequate education end up emulating the veteran criminals as role models. They begin to pursue the violent path and end up in violent crimes.  The experienced criminals convince them that being violent, disorderly and the ability to acquire whatever they want is the way to go.

U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (2016), records that hold that more than 53 percent of the prisoners presently earned less than $10, 000 per annum before they were taken behind bars (U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2016). The statistic relates crime with poverty which exists in the low socioeconomic regions. In the low socioeconomic neighborhoods, the youths commit four times more violent crimes than in the middle class. The teenagers in the weak areas perpetrate violent crimes to survive, and that’s their way of life (MacDonald, 2009). They require the money to purchase drugs and maintain their lifestyle but lack. So they do anything possible to create havoc and commit crimes for sustenance. The excellent backgrounds in the poverty-stricken residential regions make the youth very violent. The violent behavior of the youths translates to severe crimes such as burglary, rape among others.

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The violent and disorderly practices often lead to violent crimes in various neighborhoods. According to the broken windows theory, social and physical disorders cause violent crimes. The three different areas; low socioeconomic, middle class and the wealthy experience the extreme behaviors and communicative disorders on different frequencies. The low income estates experience more violence and social disorders leading to violent criminal activities. In the low socioeconomic quarters, there are no infrastructures, facilities, and resources to counter disorders and violent crimes. The government does not invest in the infrastructures to aid in counteracting crimes. In the middle and affluent estates, the levels of violent crimes are low and extremely low respectively. The government, investors, and the law enforcement agencies focus on their security due to the availability of many companies and social amenities in these areas. From the statistics, the low-income earners are more prone to violence and related severe crimes due to their social disadvantages. Social and physical disorders are frequent in poor neighborhoods but reduce as one moves towards the wealthy estates.

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  1. Citylab. (2015). Private Conflict, Not Broken windows.
  2. DOJ, (2010). Property Crime Rates by Income Levels. Department of Justice.
  3. MacDonald, J. M. (2009). Neighborhood effects on crime and youth violence: The role of business improvement districts in Los Angeles. Santa Monica, CA: RAND..
  4. Meinen, T. (2014). Neighborhood disorder, crime, and the Broken Windows Theory: An examination into the relationship between neighborhood disorder and crime in the city districts of Rotterdam (Master’s thesis, University of Twente).
  5. Pattillo, M. (2005). Black middle-class neighborhoods. Annu. Rev. Sociol.31, 305-329.
  6. Roman, C. G. (2004). Schools, neighborhoods, and violence: Crime within the daily routines of youth. Lanham, Md. [u.a.: Lexington Books.
  7. Szalavitz, M. (2017). The surprising factors driving murder rates: income inequality and respect. The Guardian.
  8. U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (2016). Neighborhoods and Violent Crime.
  9. Webster, C. $ Kingston, S. (2014). Poverty and Crime Review: Anti‐Poverty Strategies for the UK.
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