Date of Conferral
Public Policy and Administration
G. Richard Larkin
Law enforcement agencies believe that traffic enforcement, in addition to reducing fatalities associated with automobile collisions, may also reduce the incidence of public order crimes. The academic literature, though, has largely failed to address this phenomenon. The purpose of this correlational study was to use Kelling and Wilson's broken windows theory to evaluate whether a statistically significant relationship exists between traffic enforcement rates and public order crimes in South Carolina. Secondary data from 5 counties were acquired from the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division for the time period 2008 through 2012. Statistically significant Spearman's Rho correlations were found for 4 of the 5 counties (p < .05). Though statistically significant, the correlations were weak. The findings suggest that Wilson and Kelling's theory is somewhat predictive of the relationship between the visibility of law enforcement officers and reductions in public order crimes, but may not fully explain this relationship. Even so, there is some evidence that the presence of traffic enforcement officers may reduce certain types of crime, thereby improving the quality of life for residents. Based on the findings, one important recommendation of this study is for law enforcement agencies in South Carolina to consider enhancing or expanding the use of traffic enforcement teams because of their potential value in reducing public order crimes, including a plan to conduct a follow-up evaluation of the efficacy of such a program.