Neighborhoods and Crime
The Systemic Model
Links social structure to crime
Views the community as complex system of
friendship and kinship networks and formal
and informal associational ties
Social ties are central to the systemic model:
Social ties are the mechanism through which
individuals in a neighborhood come to know each
other, establish common values, and carry out
informal social control
The Systemic Model
Neighborhood characteristics lead to higher
crimes by influencing informal social control
Residential instability and heterogeneity influence
the three levels of social control
What is social control?
Residents share the common goal to live
crime-free neighborhood. Social control
represents the effort of the community to
achieve this goal
It is the ability of a neighborhood to control
itself and the environment through formal and
informal relational networks.
Enforcement of norms and expectations
Three levels of
community social control
Private levels of control
Intimate relationships, friendship groups = primary ties
Modes of controlling behavior: Fear of shaming,
ostracism from the group, criticism or ridicule
Parochial levels of control
Acquaintance networks, associations within broader
institutions such as churches, schools, comm. orgs.
Modes of controlling behavior: Informal surveillance,
movement-governing rules, direction intervention
Public levels of control
Control provided by agencies outside the
neighborhood (i.e., the police)
Without social control
Without the resources provided by social ties,
the ability to intervene is diminished for there
is no effective way to reward conformity or
As a consequence of no or low social control,
crime rates increase
The Systemic Model – Linking
Shaw & McKay concluded that high crime
neighborhoods have population heterogeneity,
poverty, and residential instability.
Bursik and Grasmick say it is because these
factors affect social control. How do these factors
decrease social control?
Changes in the residential population make it difficult
to establish ties within the community
Heterogeneity in the neighborhood limits the breadth
Linking characteristics of
neighborhoods to crime
1. Control is difficult to establish when many
residents are uninterested in communities
they hope to leave at first opportunity
2. The development of primary relationships
that result in informal control is less likely
when the residents are in a constant state of
3. Heterogeneity impedes communication
PattilloSocial Control in Groveland
GrovelandBlack Middle Class neighborhood
Do these neighborhoods experience higher crime
rates relative to similarly situated white
Monitoring illicit behavior, but residents might not
interfere will illicit behavior
Social ties/familiarity allows residents to engage in
Informal Social Control
Tolerance of Criminal Behavior
Collective resource as opposed to individual
Provides a means for achieving collective goals
Social networks have a value
Value of all social networks (who people know)
and the ability/desire these networks have to do
things for one another
The core idea of social capital theory is that
social networks have value
Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone
Social Capital refers to
connections among individuals.
interaction that enables people to build communities,
to commit themselves to each other, and to knit the
features of social organization such as networks,
norms, and social trust that facilitate coordination and
cooperation for mutual benefit.
What are some examples of social capital?
When a group of neighbors informally keep an eye on one
another’s homes, that’s social capital in action.
When a tightly knit community of Hassidic Jews trade
diamonds without having to test each gem for purity, that’s
social capital in action.
E-mail exchanges among members of a cancer support
Social capital can be found in friendship networks,
neighborhoods, churches, schools, bridge clubs, civic
associations, and even bars.
The motto in Cheers “where everybody knows your name”
captures one important aspect of social capital. (from
Putnam, Robert. 2001. Bowling Alone)
Neighborhoods with lower levels of instability
and racial/ethnic heterogeneity will have
higher levels of social capital
Neighborhoods with more social capital will
have lower rates of crime
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