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The Effectiveness of the SARA Model and the Broken Windows Theory in Policing

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In 1983, the four-step approach ‘SARA’ was initiated. It served as a “problem-oriented” approach to combat crimes. Community-oriented policing is a way for law enforcement officials and neighborhood leaders to work together for the good of the community, in which it would help identify and find solutions to problems occurring within that community. The first from the acronym ‘SARA’ is scanning. Scanning looks at reoccurring criminal activity, victims involved, common areas where crimes take place, and the kinds of crimes that take place. The communities that have the greatest levels of crimes are urbanized communities. The 8 major felonies are more likely to occur, which include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. The issues are evaluated and further analyzed. Analyzing is the next step in this approach, which looks at the severity of the issues occurring within a community, and collects information from all ends from members of the community. Due to criminal behavior being so complex, many different motives could lead to or cause crimes. In addition, there are many possibilities as to what could lower crime rates. This includes factors such as increased incarceration, more community policing, a decrease in the use of crack cocaine, the economy being better, etc. After analyzing comes the response. The response implements methods that could serve as solutions for the issues that were analyzed. Further, they are assessed to make sure the solutions were effective and find alternatives to improve them. After, data is collected once the outcome is presented. This data can serve for statistical purposes when looking for “problem-oriented” approaches and new alternatives. Aforementioned, ‘SARA’ involves the police and the community working together. The purpose of this may not always work out because not every community has a good relationship or perspective on law enforcement. Many urbanized communities where crimes occur, do not have the best relationships with law enforcement officers so there are chances of minimal interaction or cooperation from community members.

The objective of ‘SARA is to work with the community to deter crimes like murder, rape, larceny-theft, etc. The outcome of this approach has been successful in some cases, and unsuccessful in others. It has also served as a “more cost-effective [method] and beneficial than addressing issues after the fact” (“Police”, n.d.). Policing strategies can be successful in reducing crime and disorder, in which they “all build on the best criminological research, involve careful planning, are data-driven, and are focused on particular crimes, places, or suspects” (Walker, 2015, p.110). An example is a POP project. A POP (Problem-Oriented Policing) project can focus on “hot spots and have a focused deterrence orientation” (Walker, 2015, p.110). These new methods take away from the notion that police cannot decrease crime rates. The Kansas City and Newark studies suggest that increased patrol does not decrease crime rates. Looking at the bigger picture, the outcome is different when looking at the innovative strategies used by the police (Walker, 2015, p.111).

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In 1982, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling proposed the Broken Windows Theory. The Broken Windows Theory suggests that signs of disorder or misbehavior lead to criminal behavior. Wilson and Kelling argued that “one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing” (“Broken Windows Theory”, n.d.). The name of the theory is derived as a metaphorical way to describe “[signs] of disorder in an environment that goes unattended” (“Broken Windows Theory”, n.d.). This consists of minor crimes such as vandalism and disorderly conduct.

George Kelling believes the theory has not been applied properly by police departments. Kelling argues that “zero tolerance” policies have derived from the misuse of the broken windows theory. Zero tolerance policies “metes out predetermined consequences regardless of the severity or context of a crime” (“Broken Windows Theory”, n.d.). Further, these policies have negatively affected minority communities due to the “stop and frisk policies” that were set forth. This has led to years of police misconduct complaints by the minority community (“Broken Windows Theory”, n.d.). However, studies suggest that the broken windows theory has been deemed effective depending on how it is implemented. A study construed by Dr. Charles Branas back in 2016 led to the reparation of abandoned premises and the transformation of vacant lots into parks for the community in neighborhoods of high crime rates in Philadelphia. Dr. Branas concluded in his study that there was a 39% decrease in gun violence. This established a safer environment to live in and supported that crime can be reduced in taking action to improve the conditions of communities (“Broken Windows Theory”, n.d.).

In conclusion, the SARA model has been deemed effective in police work. The implementations of the SARA model have served as a foundation for police departments. Aforementioned the model allows for law enforcement to effectively pinpoint issues and solve them. As for the Broken Windows Theory, it is evident that it has not always been effective. Aforementioned, the implementation of this theory has led to negative relationships between police and the minority community. This derails from the objective of community police work. The issuing of citations due to the committing of minor offenses has been a factor in the divide between police and members of the community. However, when executed properly, it has helped improve overall conditions, reduced fear, and decreased criminal activity in many communities.

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The Effectiveness of the SARA Model and the Broken Windows Theory in Policing. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
“The Effectiveness of the SARA Model and the Broken Windows Theory in Policing.” Edubirdie, 01 Sept. 2022,
The Effectiveness of the SARA Model and the Broken Windows Theory in Policing. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2023].
The Effectiveness of the SARA Model and the Broken Windows Theory in Policing [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 01 [cited 2023 Dec 5]. Available from:
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