Local Institutions and Neighborhood Crime

Randy Gainey and Ruth A. Triplett

in Criminology

ISBN: 9780195396607
Published online April 2011 | | DOI:
Local Institutions and Neighborhood Crime

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The foundation for thinking about “neighborhood institutions” and their role in controlling crime begins largely with Shaw and McKay’s theory of social disorganization. They saw three characteristics of neighborhoods—economic disadvantage, population turnover, and racial/ethnic heterogeneity—as being particularly problematic to the control of crime and delinquency. They and others have argued that these characteristics are not amenable to the creation and maintenance of strong institutions that are more directly related to the control of crime. A disadvantage community whose population base changes frequently and comprises people with different backgrounds, beliefs, and values is less able to attract stable businesses to support the economy, less able to support strong schools with qualified teachers and needed resources, and less able to provide organized activities (be they academic, religious, or recreational) that help organize and control youth likely to engage in delinquent and criminal activity. More recently, other sorts of “institutions” that appear to attract crime or reduce the ability of neighborhoods to control crime and other deviant behavior, such as liquor outlets and bars, have attracted theoretical and empirical attention, and research generally supports their detrimental role in certain neighborhoods. Although the notion of “neighborhood institutions” is appealing, researchers have criticized this conceptualization, arguing that institutions are much larger than neighborhoods, in that they reflect the political, economic, educational, and religious institutions of society, and that local businesses, political groups, schools, libraries, recreation centers, and churches are not institutions in the full sense of the term. However, churches, businesses, and schools serve as indicators of how religion, economy, and education are expressed in a particular area. A local business that provides jobs to a large number or residents, a church that regularly contributes to the local community, or even a restaurant or tavern that supports and holds civic meeting may be, for local residents, an important “local institution” that may (or may not) help control crime and deviance. Time will tell whether the term “local institution” will slip away to be replaced by “local organization” or “community association” or some other idiom or expression. For the time being, the term “local institution” is consistent with the literature, so the following bibliography reviews the theoretical and empirical literature on “local institutions and crime.”

Article.  5841 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Criminal Justice ; Criminology

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