Neighborhoods and Crime: An Examination of Social Disorganization and Extra-Community Crime in St. Louis.

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Title: Neighborhoods and Crime: An Examination of Social Disorganization and Extra-Community Crime in St. Louis.
Author: Williams, Kristin N.
Advisors: Patricia McCall, Committee Member
Charles Tittle, Committee Member
Stacy De Coster, Committee Chair
Abstract: According to social disorganization and systemic theories, crime will flourish in areas with high residential mobility, low socioeconomic status, high racial heterogeneity, and high rates of family disruption. Essentially, these theories posit that these forms of structural disadvantage weaken the ability of local residents to achieve mutual goals and solve neighborhood problems, thereby resulting in high crime rates. Several studies have examined the utility of the social disorganization tradition for understanding macro-level variation in crime rates, particularly across neighborhoods. I review this research and propose three ways in which the literature can be extended. First, it is necessary to consider more critically the correspondence between the theoretical and empirical definition of what constitutes a neighborhood rather than relying on the convenience of data for empirical definitions. Second, empirical research should account for the fact that local neighborhoods are not immune to the structural conditions of surrounding areas. Finally, researchers should be more cognizant of whether the effects of neighborhood characteristics influence violent and property crimes similarly. Using data from seventy-four neighborhoods bounded by cultural and historical lines in St. Louis, my analyses speak to each of these issues indicating that both violent and property crime rates are predicted by population turnover and structural disadvantage. Thus, this analysis demonstrated no need for crime-specific models of social disorganization.
Date: 2008-02-19
Degree: MS
Discipline: Sociology

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