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Social Order and Disorder of Street Blocks and Neighborhoods: Ecology, Microecology, and the Systemic Model of Social Disorganization

NCJ Number
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency Volume: 34 Issue: 1 Dated: (February 1997) Pages: 113-155
Date Published
43 pages

To organize an understanding of street block dynamics in a way that is consonant with a broader ecological perspective, this paper suggests five microecological principles, each directly analogous to a general ecological principle.


These principles facilitate the identification of between- block differences in a neighborhood, block dynamics over time, as well as connections between a block and the neighborhood setting. Bursik and Grasmick's recently reformulated, ecologically oriented systemic model of neighborhood disorder recognizes three levels of informal social control: private (family and close friends), parochial (based on nearby acquaintances), and public (between neighborhoods and external agents and agencies). Recent research suggests that the model deserves further articulation at the parochial level. This article proposes developing the parochial level of informal social control in the following three ways: by recognizing within-neighborhood variations in informal social control and responses to disorder; by acknowledging the central importance of street blocks as durable features of the daily environment that connects residents to broader ecological dynamics in their neighborhood; and by developing microecological principles, analogous to human ecological principles, to help in understanding connections between street block and community- level ecological dynamics. The proposed perspective links ecological and community psychological perspectives with social disorganization processes to clarify spatial and temporal variations in the collective psychogeography of resident-based control. 3 tables, 5 notes, and 82 references

Date Published: January 1, 1997