Chapter 4: Social Disorganization Theory
Relationship between social disorganization and organized crime As already stated, social disorganization could evolve and become established organized. One school of thought is of the view that organized crime and social disorganization are inextricably intertwined. According to Thabit, social disorganization can. Criminal Structures, Organized Crime and Illegal Markets. 91 of the relationship between social disorganization and homicide in a Latin American context.
Hipp also found that homeownership drives the relationship between residential stability and crime. To an extent, the lack of theoretical progress resulting from early research studies can be attributed to Shaw and McKay.
Although definitions and examples of social organization and disorganization were presented in their published work, theoretical discussion was relegated to a few chapters, and a few key passages were critical to correctly specify their model.
Social Disorganization Theory
Shaw and McKayp. Confusion persisted, however, because they were relatively brief and often interspersed their discussion of community organization with a discussion of community differences in social values. Consequently, it was unclear, at least to some scholars, which component of their theory was most central when subjecting it to empirical verification.
Brief statements, however, provide insight into their conceptualization. For instance, Shaw and McKayp. While the debate over the relationship between SES and delinquency and crime took center stage throughout most of the s and stretching into the s, a small literature began to measure social disorganization directly and assess its relationship to delinquency and crime.
Perhaps the first research to measure social disorganization directly was carried out by Maccoby, Johnson, and Church in a survey of two low-income neighborhoods in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
One neighborhood had a high rate of delinquency and the other a low rate. That is, residents were less likely to know their neighbors by name, like their neighborhood, or have compatible interests with neighbors. In addition, there were no differences in attitudes toward delinquency between the areas, but the residents of the low-delinquency area were more likely to take some action if a child was observed committing a delinquent act. Two additional studies supporting the social disorganization approach were also published in this time frame.
Warren found that neighborhoods with lower levels of neighboring and value consensus and higher levels of alienation had higher rates of riot activity. Kapsissurveyed local residents in three Oakland area communities and found that stronger social networks and heightened organizational activity have lower rates of delinquency.
Contemporary Social Disorganization Theory For a period during the late s and most of the s, criminologists, in general, questioned the theoretical assumptions that form the foundation of the social disorganization approach Bursik, As mentioned earlier, the rapid growth of urban areas, fueled by the manufacturing-based economy and the great migration, waned and began to shift gears.
If rapid urban growth had ceased, why approbate an approach tethered to those processes? Beginning in the s, deindustrialization had devastating effects on inner-city communities long dependent on manufacturing employment. Improvement in civil rights among African Americans, particularly pertaining to housing discrimination, increased the movement of middle-class families out of inner-city neighborhoods. Residents who could afford to move did so, leaving behind a largely African American population isolated from the economic and social mainstream of society, with much less hope of neighborhood mobility than had been true earlier in the 20th century.
In part, the decline of interest in social disorganization was also attributable to the ascendance of individual-level delinquency models e. Moreover, social disorganization scholars had not addressed important criticisms of the theory, particularly with respect to its human ecological foundations Bursik, The social disorganization perspective reemerged in the late s and s on the heels of a string of scholarly contributions, a few of which are highlighted here.
An Appraisal of Analytic Models is a critical piece of scholarship. Importantly, that literature clarifies the definition of social disorganization and clearly distinguishes social disorganization from its causes and consequences.
Community organization increases the capacity for informal social control, which reflects the capacity of neighborhood residents to regulate themselves through formal and informal processes Bursik,p.
As Freudenburgp. The supervisory component of neighborhood organization refers to the ability of neighborhood residents to maintain informal surveillance of spaces, to develop movement governing rules, and to engage in direct intervention when problems are encountered Bursik,p.
Informal surveillance refers to residents who actively observe activities occurring on neighborhood streets. Movement governing rules refer to the avoidance of particular blocks in the neighborhood that are known to put residents at higher risk of victimization. The socializing component of community organization refers to the ability of local, conventional institutions to foster attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief Hirschi, Families and schools are often viewed as the primary medium for the socialization of children.
However, in some communities, the absence or weakness of intermediary organizations, such as churches, civic and parent teacher associations, and recreational programs, which connect families with activities in the larger community, impedes the ability of families and schools to effectively reinforce one another to more completely accomplish the process of socialization.
A direct relationship between network indicators and crime is revealed in many studies. Social networks, then, are associated with informal control and crime in complex ways; continuing research is needed to specify the processes. Two prominent views have been developed to account for the positive effects of social networks on crime. Following a period of economic decline and population loss, these neighborhoods are composed of relatively stable populations with tenuous connections to the conventional labor market, limited interaction with mainstream sources of influence, and restricted economic and residential mobility.
Affected communities, according to Wilson, exhibit social integration but suffer from institutional weakness and diminished informal social control. Strong network ties, then, may not produce the kinds of outcomes expected by the systemic approach. For instance, residents who participate in crime are often linked with conventional residents in complex ways through social networks also see Portes,p.
Informal Control and Crime With some exceptions, the systemic model is supported by research focused on informal control in relation to crime, but, relative to studies focused on networks, there are far fewer studies in this category. As already mentioned, perhaps the first study to document support is Maccoby et al. Residents in the low-delinquency neighborhood were also more likely to take action in actual incidents of delinquency.
Crime rates were lower when a larger proportion of respondents stated they would talk to the boys involved or notify their parents. However, Greenberg et al. Surprisingly, when differences were identified, high-crime neighborhoods had higher levels of informal control, suggesting that some forms of informal control may be a response to crime. Bursik and Grasmick note the possibility that the null effects observed are a consequence of the unique sampling strategy. More recently, Bellair and Browning find that informal surveillance, a dimension of informal control that is rarely examined, is inversely associated with street crime.
Collective Efficacy Sampson et al. Collective efficacy is reflected in two subscales: A central premise is that expectations for informal control in urban neighborhoods may exist irrespective of the presence of dense family ties, provided that the neighborhood is cohesive i.
Their models, utilizing survey data collected in Chicago neighborhoods, indicate that collective efficacy is inversely associated with neighborhood violence, and that it mediates a significant amount of the relationship between concentrated disadvantage and residential stability on violence.
Without intermediate structures, community wide relations are weak or cannot become established. Shaw and McKay consistently found strong negative associations between several different indicators of neighbourhood socio-economic status and delinquency rates.
However, a number of studies in the s and s argued that, while crime rates are higher in lower socio economic areas, this relationship is spurious and disappears when other area characteristics are simultaneously considered e.
Lander, for example, argued that delinquency rates reflected the level of anomie or integration in a given area and not the economic status of the area. Other researchers, in contrast, have argued that economic deprivation is a strong predictor of youth violence, independent of other influences Baron, ; Bellair, Roscigno and Mcnulty, ; Eisler and Schissel, Social disorganization researchers, in contrast to both of the above views, argue that the relationship between economic deprivation and youth violence is more complex, and could be better understood if the concept of social disorganization is integrated with economic deprivation.
Following is an examination of research in this tradition. Blau and Blau argue that when economic inequalities are associated with ascribed characteristics such as race, this creates latent animosities and a situation characterized by social disorganization. This is because such ascriptions are perceived to be illegitimate, especially in societies that value egalitarianism.
This situation is made more salient by the visible marker of race. Blau and Blau suggest that these feelings lead to widespread social disorganization and violent crime.
Blau and Blau test these assertions using US data for a sample of Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas with populations of more thanThe findings support their hypothesis. Eamon conducted research that is consistent with the findings of Blau and Blau In doing so, he examined the influence of parenting practices, environmental influences and poverty on anti-social behaviour. Deviant peer pressure and neighbourhood problems partially mediate the relation between poverty and young adolescent anti-social behaviour.
Social Disorganization Theory - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology
Both of the above studies are supportive of the idea that economic deprivation could lead to social disorganization, which in turn can lead to youth violence. The research by Smith and JarjouraWarner and Pierceand Warner and Roundtreein contrast to the above, all support the idea that poverty may moderate the relationship between social disorganization and crime.
That is, social disorganization may lead to crime, but the effects are even more pronounced when social disorganization occurs within the context of high levels of poverty. Smith and Jarjoura examine the relationship between neighbourhood characteristics and rates of violent crime and burglary. The authors use data from 11, individuals in 57 US neighbourhoods from three Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas to test their hypotheses.
Specifically, an interaction between percentage of low income households and residential mobility is a significant predictor of violent crime.Criminology Week 1: What is Criminology? What is Crime? Who Decides?
Communities that are characterized by rapid population turnover and high levels of poverty have significantly higher violent crime rates than mobile areas that are more affluent, or poor areas that are characterized by more stable populations.
These results hold, regardless of level of urbanization, and are found in each of the three Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas for which the authors examined data. In the case of burglary, in contrast to violent crime, the interaction terms were not significant.
Warner and Pierce examine social disorganization theory using calls to the police as a measure of crime. Data were gathered from 60 Boston neighbourhoods in The authors argue that data based on complainant reports of crime, rather than official police reports, allow for the investigation of differences in findings based on victimization data and official crime data. The rates of assault, robbery, and burglary are regressed on poverty, residential mobility, racial heterogeneity, family disruption, and structural density.
Interaction terms for poverty and heterogeneity, poverty, and mobility, and mobility and heterogeneity are also explored. The authors find that each of the social disorganization variables predicted crime rates, with poverty being the strongest and most consistent predictor. Interaction terms constructed between poverty and racial heterogeneity and poverty and residential mobility were also fairly stable predictors of crime.
Similarly to Smith and Jarjourathe results indicate that poverty strengthens the effects of social disorganization on crime. Warner and Roundtree employ a sample of Seattle census tracts and investigate the influence of poverty, racial heterogeneity, residential stability, and interaction terms on assault and burglary.
Consistent with the results of Smith and Jarjoura and Warner and Piercethey find that an interaction term between poverty and residential stability significantly predicts both dependent measures. The studies cited in this section indicate that economic deprivation is an important factor to consider when examining the influence of social disorganization on crime.
Two relationships between these constructs have been suggested by the existing research. Firstly, poverty may increase social disorganization, which in turn may lead to youth violence.
Secondly, poverty may moderate or condition the relationship between social disorganization and youth violence. Specifically, the influence of social disorganization on crime may be more pronounced in poorer areas and attenuated in more affluent areas. The relative importance of social disorganization as a predictor of youth violence compared with other theories of crime In addition to examining the results of studies that use social disorganization as a predictor of youth violence, it is important to assess the relative importance of social disorganization when compared with other theories of crime.
This may be done through an assessment of the findings of review studies, and by examining the findings of meta-analytical studies that have attempted to assess the relative importance of various theories of crime.
One review study Sampson, Morenoff and Gannon-Rowley, and one meta-analytical study Pratt and Cullen, will be examined. In doing so, they examine the range of studies that have used social disorganization as a predictor of crime to assess whether this variable has generally been found to be important.
Social disorganization theory - Wikipedia
Over 40 studies published in peer-reviewed journals from the mids to are included. The analysis evaluates the salience of social-interactional and institutional mechanisms hypothesized to account for neighbourhood-level variations in a variety of phenomena e. Neighbourhood ties, social control, mutual trust, institutional resources, disorder and routine activity patterns are highlighted. The review indicates that crime rates are related to neighbourhood ties and patterns of interaction, social cohesion, and informal social control, and are generally supportive of a social disorganization explanation.
Pratt and Cullen conduct a meta-analysis, which examines the relative effects of macro-level predictors of crime in relation to seven macro-level criminological perspectives. The analysis included empirical studies, published between andthat contained statistical models that produced a total of 1, effect size estimates. Except for incarceration, variables indicating increased use of the criminal justice system e. Policy Implications Pratt and Cullenin their meta-analysis of seven macro-level criminological perspectives, found that criminal justice system variables were consistently among the weakest predictors of crime, with the exception of incarceration, which was negatively related to crime rates.
Over all, the most obvious implication of the findings is the likely futility of continued efforts to reduce crime by focusing exclusively on criminal justice system dynamics, with the possible exception of incarceration.
The wisdom of expanded imprisonment must nonetheless be balanced against its financial costs and its questionable impact on the social vitality of inner cities. This implies that policy-makers must exercise caution when ignoring the root causes of crime and placing potentially excessive faith in criminal justice solutions to control crime.
Social disorganization theory suggests that public spending and private investment must be concentrated in the most impoverished areas. This does not mean spending more human service dollars for the underclass by funding well-intentioned programs run by middle-class providers located on the periphery of the poorest neighbourhoods.
Rather, this suggests that money be spent mainly on programs physically located in underclass neighbourhoods, run by people with ties to the neighbourhoods they intend to serve. This policy has the effect of targeting programs for the underclass while also strengthening minority agencies or creating new agencies within very poor neighbourhoods.
These agencies not only provide services, but can also provide jobs for neighbourhood residents.
Review of the Roots of Youth Violence: Literature Reviews
As employment opportunities increase and better-funded local agencies become centres for social action, pressures on working- and middle-class residents to flee should decrease. Such an approach will also simultaneously strengthen residential ties and interconnections within neighbourhoods. Social disorganization theory suggests that family preservation programs should be funded. This is because the family may be able to resist the deleterious effects of social disorganization on their children, and since strong families may also work together to reduce social disorganization in their communities.
Family preservation programs are short-term, intensive, empowerment model programs, which focus not on an individual client but rather on the needs of the entire family. Nelson, Landsman and Duetelman indicate that one of the most encouraging advances in social work in the past decade has been the development of family preservation programs.
Social disorganization theory implies that large public bureaucracies should become more neighbourhood-based and more open to input from clients and the neighbourhoods they serve.
Reminiscent of the s community control movement Altshuler,current research suggests that social control is least effective when imposed by outside forces. Community controls are strengthened most when informal community-level networks are voluntarily tied to external bureaucracies and other resources Figueira-McDonough, Diverse reform trends in policing, education and social services all stress more community involvement in public bureaucracies Chubb and Moe, ; Comer, ; Goldstein, ; Kamerman and Kahn, These reforms, insofar as they increase client and neighbourhood control and break down existing bureaucratic barriers, merit support.
Further ideas which relate to public policy implications are discussed in Elliott and Tolan and Wilson Conclusion The studies reviewed above indicate that social disorganization is an important predictor of youth violence and crime, and that social disorganization has its impact on youth violence and crime by affecting a number of mediating processes that facilitate youth violence. The findings also indicate that researchers and practitioners need to consider the linkages between economic deprivation and social disorganization when attempting to explain the genesis of youth violence.
Individualism, an attribute that is related to both organized crime and social disorganization, makes the individuals abandon concerns for the society in pursuit of personal benefits and profits.
As a result, they engage in criminal activities like drug peddling and money laundering that is harmful to the society. A disorganized society is replete with social ills such as corruption as individuals seek to optimize their personal gains with no regards to the wellbeing of the society. If such form of corruption permeates the political machines within the community, organized crime tends to develop and thrive Jax, One of the techniques employed by organized gangs to survive is the corruption of political officials.
Once such officials who have a corrupt personality are compromised, they cannot effectively shield the society from the criminals. They are owned and ran by the criminal gangs. In such an environment, organized crime will tend to flourish and entrench itself. Social disorganization as a perspective in criminology was borrowed from the wider ecological theories. These theories holds that the attitudes of the individual are not so much determined by the inherent personality of that individual, as by the interaction between the environment and the person.
As such, a person will regard crime as an acceptable means of earning a living due to the prevailing conditions in the society. If the conditions encourage this activity, it will flourish, but if the conditions are not conducive for such an activity, it will be curtailed.