Collective efficacy is a neighborhood-level concept in which community members create a sense of agency and assume ownership for the state of their local community. This concept is one of several forms of formal and informal social control that predict the overall functioning of a community.
Researchers at Justice & Security Strategies, Inc. (JSS), examined collective efficacy and crime in eight Miami-Dade County, Fla., neighborhoods. The researchers collected data from across the county, conducted residential surveys and systematic social observations, and used sophisticated and innovative statistical methods.
The study yielded a number of important findings relevant to the theory itself, ramifications for its use within communities, and implications for current and future research.
Prior research on collective efficacy used 10 items from residential surveys conducted in Chicago neighborhoods. In this project, JSS researchers expanded the number of measures by adding 19 items and looked at three domains: willingness to intervene, social cohesion and capacity for social control.
The researchers found that social cohesion stood apart from collective efficacy and suggested that this dimension also may be important in understanding neighborhood social functioning. Looking more closely, the researchers found that in Miami-Dade County,
- Older residents perceived more collective efficacy and social cohesion than did younger residents.
- Residents who used income assistance perceived lower levels of collective efficacy than residents who did not rely on income assistance.
- Women perceived lower levels of social cohesion than men did.
- Residents who owned homes had higher perceptions of social cohesion than residents who were renters.
- Residents who used neighborhood resources had higher perceptions of social cohesion than residents who did not use neighborhood resources.
- Perceptions of collective efficacy and perceptions of social cohesion had significant effects on perceptions of incivilities. Residents who had higher perceptions of collective efficacy and social cohesion had lower perceptions of incivilities.
- Perceptions of collective efficacy and perceptions of social cohesion had significant and nearly equivalent effects on satisfaction with police. Residents who had higher perceptions of collective efficacy and higher perceptions of social cohesion had higher satisfaction with police.
- Perceptions of social cohesion had a statistically significant effect on fear of crime, whereas perceptions of collective efficacy did not. In other words, residents who had higher perceptions of social cohesion had less fear of crime; residents who had higher perceptions of collective efficacy did not.
Based on these findings and others, the researchers made recommendations for future research and for translating these results into actionable, crime prevention activities.
See also a summary from the NIJ-hosted Neighborhoods & Crime Research Working Group Meeting (pdf, 12 pages).
About This Article
The research described in this article was funded by NIJ award 2009-IJ-CX-0039, awarded to Justice And Security Strategies Inc. This article is based on the grantee report “Neighborhoods and Crime: Collective Efficacy and Social Cohesion in Miami-Dade County” (pdf, 214 pages).