Graffiti and the Broken Windows Metaphor: Reflections of Inequality and Injustice

Diane Schaefer, Eastern Illinois University

According to the broken windows thesis, graffiti vandalism not only signals neighborhood disorder and decay but also invites more serious criminal acts. Graffiti in Bloomingon, Indiana, was defined as ciminal vandalism except for the graffiti by Indiana University's fraternities and sorities. Greek graffiti and more serious Greek crime received little criminal attention. If the broken windows thesis is correct, then all graffiti vandalism (including Greek spray painting) acts as a signal of neglect and future, more serious criminal behavior. As my study suggests, application of the broken windows theory of crime may reflect biases and prejudices built into the hierarchial class structure of society rather than reflect societal-wide predictors of more serious crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006