A Harvard educator for over two decades, Wilson was best known for his "broken windows" theory, which argued the rate of serious crimes would diminish if attention was paid to quality of life issues. In other words, repair vandalism and graffiti damage as it happens and criminals will take heed, meaning law enforcement would have fewer rapists and murderers to worry about.
His theory was put to use by New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and police Commissioner William Bratton in the 1990s as part of a "quality of life" crime reduction program. While the rate of violent felonies dropped sharply during Giuliani's tenure, critics argued the program was overzealous against panhandlers and the like, The New York Times reported.
Wilson died Friday. He is survived by his wife, two children, a sister and five grandchildren.