George L. Kelling, a criminologist whose “broken windows” theory, conceived with James Q. Wilson, revolutionized policing in America by targeting lesser infractions that stoke fear and unrest in urban neighborhoods, died on Wednesday at his home in Hanover, N.H. He was 83.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Catherine M. Coles. The cause was complications of cancer.
Drawing on earlier research and his own field studies in Newark and Kansas City, Mo., Professor Kelling popularized “broken windows” in a 7,000-word article he wrote in The Atlantic magazine in 1982 with Professor Wilson (whom he credited with coming up with the term).
The premise of the article was that even “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares” in a community, and that such neglect could lead to unbridled disorder. Maintaining order and preventing crime, the two argued, go hand in hand.
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