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SOC 2700 Chapter Notes -George L. Kelling, Social Capital, Social Disorganization Theory

Course Code
SOC 2700
C Yule

of 6
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Chapter 7: Neighbourhoods and Crime
-University of Chicago in the 1920s attempted to pinpoint the environmental factors as-
sociated with crime and determine the relationship
-instead of focusing on rapid change in entire societies, they focused on rapid change
in neighbourhoods
-procedure involved correlating the characteristics of each neighbourhood with the
crime rates of that neighbourhood
-research was based on an image of human communities taken from plant ecology, so
it became known as the Chicago School of Human Ecology
The Theory of Human Ecology
-web of life in which each part depends on almost every other part
-there is a dynamic equilibrium in nature in which each individual must struggle to sur-
-Robert Park proposed a parallel between the distribution of plant life in nature and the
organization of human life in societies
-he derived 2 key concepts that formed the basis of the “theory of human ecology:
1. A group of plants in a given area may have many characteristics that are similar to
those of an individual organism (“plant communities”)
-“symbiosis” = the living together of different species to the mutual benefit of each
-the balance of nature resembles a superorganism
-he noticed many “natural areas” where people live e.g. china town
2. The process by which the balance of nature in a given area may change - a new
species may invade the area, come to dominate it and drive out other life forms
-this is called “invasion, dominance and succession”
-Ernest Burgess pointed out that cities do not merely grow at their edges, they have a
tendency to expand radially from their center in patterns of concentric circles, he called
these “zones”
Zone 1 - the central business district
Zone 2 - the area immediately around it, generally the oldest section of the city and is
continually involved in a process of invasion, dominance, and succession from Zone 1
-houses here are deteriorating and will deteriorate further
-usually occupied by the poorest people and most recent immigrants
Zone 3 - relatively modest homes and apartments, occupied by workers and their fami-
lies who have escaped the deteriorating conditions of Zone 2
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Zone 4 - the residential districts of single-family homes and and more expensive apart-
Zone 5 - beyond the city limits, suburban areas and satellite cities, commuter zone
-each of these 5 zones is growing and gradually moving outward into the territory occu-
pied by the next zone, in a process of invasion, dominance and succession
-they attempted to discover the processes by which the biotic balance and the social
equilibrium are maintained once they are achieved, and the processes by which, when
the biotic balance and the social equilibrium are disturbed, the transition is made from
relatively stable order to another
Research in the “Delinquency Areas” of Chicago
-Shaw became convinced that the problem of juvenile delinquency had its origin in the
juvenile’s “detachment from conventional groups”
-first he analyzed the characteristics of the neighbourhoods that, according to police
and court records, had the most delinquents
-he then compiled extensive “life histories” from individual delinquents
-Shaw and McKay reached the following conclusions:
1. Physical Status - the neighbourhoods with the highest delinquency rates were found
to be located within or immediately adjacent to areas of heavy industry or commerce
2. Economic Status - the highest rates of delinquency were found in the ares of lowest
economic status, determined by the percentage of families on welfare, the median rental
and the percentage of families owning homes
3. Population Composition - areas of highest delinquency were consistently associated
with highest concentrations of foreign-born and African American headed families
-also found that within similar area,s each group had a delinquency rate that was pro-
portional to the rate of the overall area
-no racial, national, or nativity group exhibited a uniform characteristic rate of delinquen-
cy in all parts of the city
-Shaw compiled a series of “life histories” of individual delinquents and found:
1. Delinquents are not different from large numbers of persons in conventional society
with respect to intelligence, physical condition, and personality traits
2. In delinquency areas, the conventional traditions, neighbourhood institutions, public
opinion, through which neighbourhoods usually effect a control over the behaviour of the
child were largely disintegrated
3. The neighbourhoods included many opportunities for delinquent activities
4. Delinquent activities in these areas began at an early age as a part of play activities
of the street
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
5. In these play activities, there is a continuity of tradition in a given neighbourhood from
older boys to younger boys
6. The normal methods of official social control could not stop this process
7. It was only later in a delinquent career that the individual began to identify himself
with the criminal world, and to embody in his own philosophy of life the moral values
which prevailed in the criminal groups in which he had contact
-Shaw concluded that delinquency and other social problems re closely related to the
process of invasion, dominance and succession
-when a particular location in the city is invaded by new residents, the established sym-
biotic relationships that bind that location to a natural area are destroyed
-ultimately this location will be incorporated as an organic part of a new natural area,
and the social equilibrium will be restored
-the natural organization of the location will be severely impaired
-these “interstitial areas” become afflicted with a variety of social problems that are di-
rectly traceable to the rapid shift in populations
-the formal social organizations tend to disintegrate, there is a decrease in “neighborli-
ness”, neighbourhood less able to control their children
Policy Implications
-he thought the answer had to be found in the development of programs which seek to
effect changes in the conditions of life in specific local communities and in whole sec-
tions of the city
-these programs could come only from organizations of neighbourhood residents
-these centers had 2 primary functions: (1) coordinate such community resources as
churches, schools, etc. (2) sponsor a variety of activity programs, including recreation,
summer camping etc.
-a similar program in Boston found that the project was effective in achieving many ad-
mirable goals: establishing close relationships with local gangs and organized their
members into clubs, increased their involvement in recreational activities, provided them
with access to occupational and educational opportunities etc.
-the goal was to reduce delinquent behaviour, the ratio of moral to immoral behaviours
remained relatively constant though and the total number of illegal acts decreased
slightly while the number of major offenses by boys increased
Residential Succession, Social Disorganization, and Crime