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James Q. Wilson dies at 80; pioneer in 'broken windows' approach to improve policing

A social scientist, James Q. Wilson helped launch a revolution in law enforcement with the idea that tackling signs of community decay was crucial to making neighborhoods safer.

UCLA Professor

James Q. Wilson, a social scientist who helped launch a revolution in law enforcement as the co-inventor of the "broken windows" theory — the idea that eradicating graffiti, public drunkenness and other signposts of community decay was crucial to making neighborhoods safer — died Friday in Boston. He was 80.

The cause was complications of leukemia, according to his son, Matthew Wilson.

Often called the "father of community policing," Wilson, who taught for many years at UCLA and Pepperdine University, was a widely admired public intellectual who wrote more than two dozen books on American government, criminal justice and moral issues. Former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York once called him "the smartest man in the United States."

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