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Attitudes Toward Crime, Police, and the Law: Individual and Neighborhood Differences

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 1999
2 pages
Publication Series
An ongoing research effort sponsored in part by the National Institute of Justice, the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN), is designed to examine human development in the neighborhood context, specifically racial and ethnic differences in attitudes toward social deviance, the police, and the law in 343 urban neighborhoods in Chicago.
The PHDCN is being conducted through intensive interviews with about 6,000 children and their primary caregivers over an 8-year period. Of particular interest is how neighborhood characteristics influence behavior, including potential delinquency, substance abuse, and violence. In focusing on attitudes toward violence, the law, and the police, face-to-face interviews were conducted in 1995 with 8,782 residents. When asked their opinions on smoking, alcohol consumption, and marijuana use by 13-year-olds, Chicago residents indicated they were rather intolerant of such behavior. Broken down by racial and ethnic groups, resident responses dispelled common stereotypes about the link between attitudes and socio-demographics. Blacks and Latinos were significantly less tolerant of deviance than whites. Racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups also differed substantially in their beliefs about the legitimacy of the law. Higher proportions of blacks and Latinos than whites viewed legal norms as not binding. Resident attitudes about the police were similar to those about the law. It was determined resident estrangement from the police was better explained by neighborhood context than by race. The authors recommend community social norms be considered by policymakers and criminal justice system officials in the design of effective crime control strategies. 1 note

Date Published: June 1, 1999