Enticing arsonists with broken windows and social disorder


In criminology, it is well understood that indicators of urban decay, such as abandoned buildings littered with broken windows, provide criminals with signals identifying neighborhoods with lower crime detection and apprehension rates than better maintained neighborhoods. Whether it is the resident population’s sense of apathy, lack of civic pride, or fear of confrontation that causes criminals to perceive an easy mark, it nevertheless emboldens them to strike. Previous research of wildland arson hints that broken windows (e.g., areas of criminal activity) are partly responsible for arson outbreaks within the wildland–urban interface. We model the incidence of wildland and non-wildland arson ignitions in Michigan from 2001 to 2005 as a function of constructed Broken Windows indices. Our results suggest that crime prevention and urban revitalization programs may be as valuable as fire suppression, fuels management, and law enforcement in limiting incidence and the damage from both wildland and non-wildland arson.

  • Citation: Thomas, Douglas S.; Butry, David T.; Prestemon, Jeffrey P. 2011. Enticing arsonists with broken windows and social disorder. Fire Technology 47(1):255-273.
  • Keywords: broken windows, arson, green crimes, social disorder, wildland–urban interface
  • Posted Date: January 31, 2011
  • Modified Date: October 29, 2013
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