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Rewriting the Rules on How to Fight Crime

COLUMN ONE

James Q. Wilson's 'Broken Windows' launched the revolution known as community policing. Once on the fringe, it's in use from New York to L.A.

November 27, 1996|JIM NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To get there, Wilson said, the prerequisite is strong leadership, leadership willing first to consolidate power, then to force it back out into the field, leadership determined to make captains and other officers take responsibility for a program that some will not like. That, he added, takes time and determination. It involves nothing less than the transformation of a culture.

And yet, neither Wilson's lukewarm impression of today's LAPD nor his recognition of the challenge in adopting community policing cause him dismay.

"It's a tough process," he said. "But I believe it can be done."

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Profile: James Q. Wilson

* Age: 65

* Education: University of Redlands; PhD from University of Chicago

* Career highlights: 1961-86, Henry Lee Shattuck professor of government, Harvard University; 1987-present, James A. Collins chair in management, professor of strategy and organization, UCLA; author or co-author of more than a dozen books. Among the most influential books: "Thinking About Crime," "Crime and Human Nature" and "The Moral Sense." The most unorthodox: "Watching Fishes--Life and Behavior on Coral Reefs" (with his wife, Roberta Wilson).

* Interests: Scuba diving

* Family: Married; two children, three grandchildren.

* Quote: "The citizen who fears the ill-smelling drunk, the rowdy teenager or the importuning beggar is not merely expressing his distaste for unseemly behavior; he is also giving voice to a bit of folk wisdom that happens to be a correct generalization--namely, that serious street crime flourishes in areas in which disorderly behavior goes unchecked. The unchecked panhandler is, in effect, the first broken window."

--From "Broken Windows," by Wilson and George L. Kelling, Atlantic Monthly, March 1992

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BACKGROUND

The Los Angeles Police Department, under then-Chief Edward M. Davis, pioneered a precursor of community-based policing in the 1970s, when Davis invented the "basic car plan" and "team policing," two programs intended to bring police closer to the community. Those programs gradually fell into disrepair in later years, victims of budget cuts and lack of top support. In 1991, the Christopher Commission studied the LAPD and concluded that it should, among other things, "adopt the community-based policing model and implement it fully, albeit carefully, throughout the department." Police Chief Willie L. Williams, hired in the wake of that report, has enthusiastically supported community policing but cautioned that it will take seven to 10 years to implement fully. Williams recently estimated that the LAPD was "probably 30% to 40% of the way [toward achieving community policing], which isn't bad."

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On the Internet

The landmark article "Broken Windows," written by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling, is available via the Internet:

http://www.theatlantic.com/atlantic/policing.htm

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