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Informal Social Control of Crime in High Drug Use Neighborhood: Final Project Report

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Date Published
104 pages
Publication Series
This document examines the role of culture in a community-level model of informal social control, including neighborhoods known to be associated with high levels of drug activity.
Poverty, racial heterogeneity, residential instability, and family structure have all been found to be related to community-level crime rates. These factors are important because they affect social ties within the community, which are the foundation for community informal social control. Cultural disorganization refers generally to a weakened culture that inhibits informal social control. This study integrated aspects of both structural and cultural disorganization in explaining variations in informal social control. The sample consisted of 66 block groups in 2 urban communities in a Southern State. Non-proportional stratified sampling of block groups was used. Data from a telephone survey were supplemented with 1990 census data on block group characteristics, police crime incident reports, and police data on drug arrests. The variables used to indicate the structural characteristics of these neighborhoods were poverty, racial heterogeneity, and residential mobility. The major dependent variable was collective efficacy, which is based on questions regarding the likelihood of intervening in inappropriate neighborhood behaviors and neighborhood cohesion. Examination of cultural disorganization in terms of weakened conventional culture found that poverty increases and stability decreases residents’ perceived level of conventional values within their neighborhood. This supports the assumption that social ties are one mechanism through which shared values may be articulated and supported within the community. Perceived conventional values are found to be a significant predictor of the level of collective efficacy in the community, mediating some of the effects of poverty and social ties on collective efficacy. Neighborhoods that are high in poverty and low in social ties are less likely to perceive a high level of agreement with conventional values within their neighborhoods, an indicator of weak culture. Weak cultures do not provide a basis for empowering residents to intervene and informally control inappropriate behaviors. 11 tables, 5 notes, 50 references

Date Published: January 1, 2002