BOSTON – James Q. Wilson, a political scientist whose “broken windows” theory of policing influenced a nationwide move toward community policing, died Friday at a Boston hospital. He was 80.

A hospital spokeswoman said Wilson died at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Wilson had been treated for leukemia, according to Boston College professor Peter Skerry, a family friend.

Wilson and co-author George L. Kelling argued in a 1982 article in The Atlantic that communities must address minor crimes and their effects, such as broken windows, to prevent larger problems from developing.

“I think Jim and I caught a wind,” Kelling said in an interview Friday. “Up until that time in policing, nothing seemed to work. By the late ’70s, police was looking for a new approach and community policing was kind of on the horizon, although not yet being really articulated.”

In the article, the pair argued that, in communities, “disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked.”

“Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing,” they wrote.

The article concluded, “Police ought to protect communities as well as individuals. … Just as physicians now recognize the importance of fostering health rather than simply treating illness, so the police — and the rest of us — ought to recognize the importance of maintaining, intact, communities without broken windows.”

Police and politicians responded in subsequent years with changed tactics to bring police closer to communities and their problems.

“I read it and it hit me,” then-Boston Mayor Kevin White told The Boston Globe in 1982, after he instructed the police department to increase foot patrols.

Wilson wrote more than a dozen books and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

Wilson taught at Harvard for 26 years, then moved in the late 1980s to California, where he grew up, to teach at the University of California at Los Angeles and Pepperdine. He later moved back to New England to be closer to his children and grandchildren. He was a distinguished scholar in Boston College’s political science department at the time of his death.