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Lecture 5

Lecture notes - week 5

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CRIM 104
Barry Cartwright

Criminology 104 Lecture 5 Social disorganization theory -sometimes referred to as environmental criminology, ecological criminology, or social ecology -examines relationships between people and their environment -foundation for “Community Structure and Crime: Testing Social-Disorganization Theory” and “Economic Deprivation and Neighborhood Crime Rates” Crime is patterned -social disorganization theorists and researchers are interested in the “spatial” distribution of crime -notion that distribution of crime is not random, it is patterned -social problems like unemployment, poverty and run-down housing are highly correlated with crime Social disorganized areas -crime is not the only social “problem” in crime-ridden areas -usually have unemployment, mental illness, drug addiction, and alcoholism The “Good” part of town -usually characterized by low rates of crime -absence of social problems found in socially disorganized areas Influence of the Chicago school -city of Chicago grew from 4,000 residents in 1833 to 2 million residents in 1910, principally through immigration -led to rapid social changes associated with urbanization, immigration, and industrialization -“the Chicago School” was the first sociology department in the United States (1892) -often called “the Ecological School” because various of its core members compared growth of Chicago to the natural ecological process of competition -viewed city of Chicago as a “social ecology,” where humans competed for scarce and desirable space Characteristics of socially disorganized areas -population density (overcrowding, urbanization) -poverty (newly arrived immigrants, migrants from farms and/or Southern United States, unemployed or marginally employed) -run-down housing, abandoned buildings and factories -ethnic and cultural heterogeneity (diversity of languages, religions, and values and norms) -high rates of transience/residential mobility The consequences of social disorganization -overcrowding, poverty, transience, all contribute to the breakdown of informal social controls (family, school, religion) -ineffective socialization and supervision of children (due to dysfunctional families, no neighborhood stability) -residents unable to solve their own problems/achieve community goals Re-emergence of the Chicago School Tradition -Chicago School tradition of studying relationship between crime and ecology re- emerged in the 1980’s -Sampson R (1986) “Crime in Cities: The Effects of Formal and Informal Social Control.” In Communities and Crime -Taylor R (1986) “Environmental Design, Crime and Prevention.” In Communities and Crime -Sampson & Groves (1989) “Community Structure and Crime: Testing Social Disorganization Theory.” American Journal of Sociology -Bursik & Grasmick (1993) Neighborhoods and Crime: The Dimensions of Effective Community Control Community structure and crime -title of 1989 work by Sampson & Groves. Re-test of Shaw and McKay’s original social disorganization theory -“Previous macro-level research in crime and delinquency has relied primarily on census data that rarely provided measures for the variables hypothesized to mediate the relationship between community structure and crime” (p 108) -ethnographic research limited in scope and applicability because it focuses on a single community or only a few neighborhoods (limited variability) (p. 108) The problem with official crime rates -many previous studies beset with problem of relying on official crime rates (e.g. Shaw and McKay) -concerned about “the extent to which official delinquency rates reflect ecological biases in official reaction to delinquent behavior” (p. 108) -“Lower-economic-status communities may have higher delinquency rates because police concentration is greater there compared with higher-status areas” Getting around the problems -Sampson & Groves employed data from 1982 and 1984 British Crime Survey -first data set included 238 local communities across the UK, second set included 300 political constituencies (community-level rather than macro-level aggregated data) -used self-reported data on victimization and criminal offending (avoiding problems associated with official crime rates) -Sampson & Groves confirmed Shaw and McKay’s link between crime, poverty (low SES) and residential mobility -in particular, Sampson & Groves studied three indicators or “intervening variables” community supervision of teen peer groups, local friendship networks, and participation in community organizations Collective efficacy -collective efficacy: the ability of community members to assists each other and trust each other -collective efficacy is lost when there is a disruption or breakdown in the informal mechanisms of control Replicating the Results -Sampson & Groves study replicate
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