The conclusion of The Newark Foot Patrol Experiment, a study to provide funds for foot patrol officers and evaluate their effect on public fear and safety, reflects many of the assumptions that formed the backbone of Broken Windows theory, namely that neighborhood police walking a beat play a critical role in crime prevention, order-maintenance, and behavioral control.

The Safe and Clean neighborhoods program provided funds from the state of New Jersey “for foot patrol officers and for upgrading and stabilizing neighborhoods” across twenty-eight cities between 1977 and 1979. The Newark Foot Patrol Experiment, published by the Police Foundation in 1981, is an evaluation of the foot patrol aspect of the program, focusing on the portion of the experiment conducted in Newark. Foot patrol describes police officers deployed to neighborhoods to walk a beat, a policing strategy that had fallen out of use with the proliferation of police cars after World War II. The results, which were evaluated in terms of “reported crime, arrests and victimization, fear, and satisfaction of residents and representatives of commercial establishments,” were intended to be useful for urban police departments nationally who were considering re-adopting foot patrol.

The evaluation demonstrated that foot patrol did not actually reduce crime. Still, in their publication the Police Foundation recommends increasing the presence of and funding for foot patrol officers, because the strategy assuages citizen fear of crime and improves feelings of safety within neighborhoods and shopping areas. What’s more, according to the study, the increased citizen contact with police that occurs as a result of foot patrol is a useful way of improving citizen-police relationships, and for police to increase their reservoir of neighborhood-specific data and information.

The conclusion to the book is written by George Kelling, who would co-author “Broken Windows: The Police and Neighborhood Safety” the following year. In the conclusion, Kelling argues for foot patrol because the sense of citizen fear that is assuaged by neighborhood police — a fear not of violence, but of unpredictable behavior and petty crime — keeps citizens off the streets and thus creates environments suitable for dangerous, violent crime. This slippery slope into lawless chaos imagined by Kelling forms the backbone of Broken Windows theory, the legacy of which would prove vast over the subsequent decades. Broken windows theory spawned policing models and tactics including community policing, zero tolerance, and stop and frisk; it served as a conceptual model of policing for political administrations ranging from Mayor Rudy Giuliani in New York to President Bill Clinton; and it created a theoretical platform for legislation that dramatically expanded US policing, including the 1994 Crime Bill.

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Buell Center (sz2950)