Sociologists and criminologists believe that there are marked variations in crime rates across US neighborhoods. In their study Robert Sampson, Stephen Raudenbush, and Felton Earl examine the impacts of collective efficacy on violent or deviant behavior in the community. Their hypothesis is that social cohesion and peoples willingness to intervene can reduce misdemeanor (Sampson et al 1997, p 918). Their argument is that informal public influence on individuals or groups may eradicate violence at its core. Most importantly, formal methods of crime prevention such as policing, arrests, or fines are insufficient unless they are supported by the efforts of the public.
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According to the authors, such a concept as social cohesion includes the following components: 1) willingness to help one neighbor and 2) mutual trust. (1997, p 920). In turn, the scholars explain informal social control as the desire to stop fights, minor misdemeanors, spray-painting, skipping schools, and so forth. During this research, an attempt has been made to measure these indicators. The data was collected by means of a statistical survey, in particular, the Likert scale was used to evaluate peoples perceptions and attitudes towards their neighborhoods (1997, p 921). Furthermore, the authors discuss the factors which may affect the level of cohesion within the community. From their perspective, these factors are the level of residential stability, racial and economic exclusion, or even segregation. The point is that people, who live for a long time with one another, are more interested in social order and stability in the district. In contrast, if they hardly know each other, they are unlikely to join their efforts in the struggle against deviational conduct.
The results of this study indicate that collective efficacy is significantly influenced by “concentrated disadvantage and immigrant concentration” (1997, p 921). This statement means that crime rates tend to be higher in those areas, inhabited by people with low-income levels or those individuals who have just immigrated to the United States and have not obtained American citizenship. The researchers also report that residential tenure or homeownership promotes better social control (1997, p 919). Certainly, the authors acknowledge that their findings are inconclusive and further investigation should be carried out. The thing is that collective efficacy can be determined by other factors, for instance, the educational level of the population.
Overall, it is quite difficult to assess the contribution of this research. On the one hand, some of their findings are not entirely original, namely, the impact of income level on criminality. It has long been established that poverty is the root cause of crime. Furthermore, the effects of racism and its relations to violence are also known to sociologists. Nevertheless, the authors make a very interesting observation about social mobility, residential efficacy, and their importance for social cohesion and informal control. Neighbors may strive for common welfare only if they know and trust one another. But the development of social ties is a very time-consuming process, which may take decades.
The underlying causes of deviational behavior have long been a subject of heated debate in academic circles. Not all of them have been identified. This research work discusses the structure of the neighborhood and its relation to crime prevention. This information should be taken into account by the governmental authorities who need to promote better social cohesion in local communities.
Sampson R. Raudenbush S. W. & Earls F. (1997). “Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy”. Science, vol. 277, pp 918-924. Web.