March 2, 2012 / 9:55 PM / 8 years ago

James Wilson, co-creator of "broken window" policing, dies at 80

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - James Q. Wilson, the political scientist who helped create a U.S. law-and-order revolution with the “broken window” theory of community policing, has died at 80, Boston College said on Friday.

The university’s Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, where Wilson had been a fellow for several years, announced his death on its website.

Wilson helped spur the move to U.S. community policing in 1982 with an influential article in The Atlantic magazine co-written with Rutgers criminologist George Kelling.

They argued that in community terms, disorder and crime are usually linked. Any sign of disorder — like one broken window — feeds crime, and crime feeds worsening disorder.

“Just as physicians now recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, so the police — and the rest of us — ought to recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows,” Wilson and Kelling wrote.

The article spurred police and politicians to launch such community policing efforts as more foot patrols and meeting with local leaders to solve neighborhood problems.

The author of more than a dozen books, Wilson received a bachelor’s degree at California’s University of the Redlands and a doctorate at the University of Chicago.

He taught political science at Harvard and the University of California Los Angeles and California’s Pepperdine before moving to the Clough Center.

Wilson served in a number of public policy jobs, including chairman of the White House Task Force on Crime, as a member of the Attorney General’s Task Force on Violent Crime.

He was on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1985 to 1991 and headed the American Political Science Association. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

Reporting By Ian Simpson; Editing by Paul Thomasch

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