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'Broken Windows' Political Scientist Wilson Dies

This article is more than 7 years old.

James Q. Wilson, a prominent political scientist who helped transform community policing in Boston and other cities, has died. He was 80.

Wilson taught at Harvard University for 26 years, from 1961 to 1987. In 1982, he co-wrote an article for The Atlantic Monthly called "Broken Windows." It argued that if you don't fix broken windows by vandals, it will lead to more broken windows and, ultimately, other, larger crimes.

The idea motivated criminal policy reforms in Boston and across the country. Police and politicians changed tactics, such as increased foot patrols, to bring police closer to communities and their problems.

Peter Skerry, a Boston College political science professor and former student of Wilson's, says he was one of the more important thinkers on how to solve urban crime.

"Wilson had a quite remarkable and notable impact on our public policy about how we think about the social order of cities, crime, how we think about large bureaucracies and public organizations," Skerry said.

Wilson died Friday at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Wilson, who lived in North Andover, most recently was a distinguished scholar in Boston College's political science department.

With reporting by the WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press

From The Archives:

This program aired on March 2, 2012. The audio for this program is not available.

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