In the 1940s, a theory arose concerning urban development, stating that a building with a broken window sent out the message that the building was not properly cared for. The theory also stated that one broken window would inevitably lead to other broken windows. The theory became known as the Broken Window Theory and serves as a metaphor for vandalism and crime in urban areas.
The Broken Window Theory can serve as a motivation for city leaders and officials to clean up neighbourhoods and take control of local crime. It can also motivate a city or neighbourhood to put funds toward youth programs that will give unsupervised teens and children a fun, activity-filled place to go. Parents may also be influenced to keep a better eye on their kids and the activities that take place outside their home.
This theory suggests that perception of disorder always matches actual disorder. For example, there may be some people who would describe their neighbourhood as crime-ridden and unkempt, but it's possible that further research would indicate the particular area was free of crime and vandalism. The theory does not address how to handle misconceptions of others.
If community members decide to make an effort to restore rundown buildings and to paint over graffiti, it does not necessarily mean that vandalism will stop. If police officers decide to crack down on crime, violence may still take place. The Broken Window Theory makes it seem that taking care of a community will ensure the community will stay in order, but that isn't necessarily true.