‘Broken Windows’ theory in practice at Baltimore Central Booking

The “broken windows” theory of crime-fighting claims that cracking down on petty offenses — public urination, loitering and, well, broken windows — can save neighborhoods from experiencing more serious crimes.

While the concept has been widely disputed, Maryland prison officials seized upon it quite literally at the jail facility that looms over the Jones Falls Expressway with those rows of tiny square windows that grimly stare out at commuters.

Over the summer, officials noticed that many of those windows were broken.

The condition at the Baltimore City Central Booking and Intake Center created a “weakness of the secure perimeter to allow contraband to enter,” an official with the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services told The Baltimore Sun.

So, department officials acted fast.

“It was determined that the routine procurement process would have taken too long to remedy the problem,” stated the official. “The emergency procurement process was declared to ensure the safety and security of our detainees, staff and community, and was not as a result of a singular incident.”

In other words: To prevent more serious crimes, they had to fix the broken windows.

The department requested that the Board of Public Works approve the award of three sole-source contracts worth $840,000 to a Sykesville company, Institutional Service & Sales, according to contract documents obtained by The Sun. And in July, the board approved the deals to remove and replace the “security glazing” on 586 windows and to install “security screens of varying sizes,” the documents state.

The installation is scheduled to be completed by the end of December.

The work appears to be coming at a good time. The Sun recently reported that Central Booking has become increasingly crowded with more brazen arrestees since the closing of the City Jail nearby. Such suspects are more likely to smuggle in contraband.

At the same time the state is securing the exterior perimeter, the corrections department also spent $1.8 million to secure the interior with new metal detectors rolled out a few weeks ago at all 24 facilities statewide, including Central Booking.

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