Causes of Neighborhood Crime Essay

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Neighborhood Crime

Looking at a neighborhood's safety is an valuable gauge of its general economic and social vitality. Crime prevention is an imperative when it comes to having a safe neighborhood. Having a safe neighborhood means that it is a place where people can live as a community and nurture their common goal of having a safe and good quality of life for themselves and their family and friends. When crime is introduced into a neighborhood, there is an overall feeling of fear and suspicion as a result. Crime is often believed to be more pervasive in poorer neighborhoods where there are more people and there is a higher turnover rate as it means that the "bonds between residents are vulnerable" due to the fact that there is constantly new people coming into the community (University of Richmond 2003). Although it is believed that crime is more pervasive in poorer neighborhoods, crime in neighborhoods can occur regardless of economic factors. "Broken windows" refers to a neighborhood where there are abandoned vehicles, empty buildings with real broken windows, and trashed lying around. It is "an idea that contends much of serious crime comes from social disorder" (J-Rank 2011). The "broken windows" theory is the best way to explain neighborhood crime, as it relates to social disorder and a lack of control in the neighborhood; when social disorder arises as a lack of connection between individuals and their neighborhood, crime always follows.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Essay on Causes of Neighborhood Crime Assignment

While it is generally believed that crime is more pervasive in less affluent neighborhoods, this is just not true. At least, crime does not simply occur because people have less money or are less fortunate than others. Over sixty years ago, Shaw and McKay made an important insight into the field of criminology, essentially arguing that, "High rates of crime and delinquency can persist in certain neighborhoods despite complete turnovers of the racial and ethnic population" (Snell 1). This important discovery led Shaw and McKay to the conclusion that delinquency couldn't be sufficiently explained by characteristics related with individuals -- for example, race, ethnicity, nationality, and intelligence (1). Instead delinquency was very closely related to the characteristics of particular neighborhoods -- for example, if it is run down, if there is general disorder, etc. (1). On the same note, Bursik and Grasmick offered what they referred to as a "systematic theory of neighborhood control" (Snell 1). This theory essentially believes that "differences in neighborhood crime, victimization, and fear of crime can best be explained by variations in the abilities of neighborhoods to regulate and control the behavior of their residents" (1-2), once again suggesting that crime in neighborhoods occur for reasons that are not related to race, intelligence, ethnicity, or intelligence as Snell (1) noted. Poorer neighborhoods are often associated with certain ethnicities, races, and levels of intelligence, but Bursik and Grasmick have a compelling collection of evidence to illustrate otherwise.

By looking at the theories of Bursik and Grasmick as well as Shaw and McKay, can logically be seen that crime, victimization and a high level of fear of crime happens in any neighborhood where people are disconnected with one another. When people don't know each other, there is often a feeling of distrust that occurs, which leads people to turn a blind eye when it comes to looking out for the greater good of the neighborhood. When there is a high turnover rate in population, neighbors never get to know each other and so there is a lack of responsibility to one another and a lack of control as well, which creates a feeling of insecurity and chaos.

There is a great concern about the safety of American neighborhoods these days and what it will do to the future of the nation's children. Of course there is the longstanding belief that the neighborhood plays a large part in raising children (Elliott, Menard, Rankin, Elliott, Wilson & Huizinga 1) -- i.e., "it takes a village to raise a child." Is it gangs that cause neighborhood crime? Drugs? Weak parenting? In Elliott et al.'s book (2), the researchers asked children from neighborhoods with high crime what sorts of things they associated with their neighborhoods. The children remarked, blurting out things like, "drug dealers, gangs, violence, school dropouts, teen pregnancies, and the absence of community organizations" (2). The children knew what good neighborhoods consisted of as illustrated in their examples of what makes a neighborhood good: "ethnic diversity, positive organizations like the YMCA, adequate housing, and jobs to employ people -- things that their community lacked" (2-3). The children all seem to know instinctively that when there is a lack of community, there is more negativity in general, and that negativity commonly comes out in the form of crime. This proves once again that neighborhood crime has so much more to do with a lack of connection between individuals in the neighborhood as well as organizations that can bring people together.

Lab (80) also relates neighborhood crime to a deterioration of the neighborhood. He notes that neighborhood watch groups are often quite successful at preventing crime because it brings people together, increasing the feeling of community and responsibility for one another's safety. It allows them to work together to find ways to combat the crime in their neighborhood. It is a form of social control. Bursik and Grasmick talked about lack of control and how it is related to crime in neighborhoods; Lab (80) essentially backs up this theory in stating that bringing neighbors together in an informal group give a certain sense of control that wasn't there before. People become more trusting of their neighbors and the fabric of the neighborhood becomes more tightly woven together. Forming neighborhood crime prevention groups is one way that people could come together and take a stand against crime.

Urban neighborhoods are often associated with more crime that rural neighborhoods. Why is this? For one, "urban life is characterized by the presence of many strangers, and in such circumstances citizens need minimum levels of order" (Kelling 14). In order for people to dwell together in peace without violence and crime, Kelling (14) states that there must be certain "built-in equipment," but what is this "built-in equipment?" "Built-in equipment"

…is the myriad of mundane street observances and rituals through which people communicate their reliability and predictability: limiting eye contact, respecting personal space, modulating voices, walking to one side of the street -- the list is virtually endless. Few of these practices are codified; most are imprinted in citizens as they mature (Kelling 15).

Kelling is essentially, once again, saying what the other theorists -- Bursik, Grasmick, Shaw, McKay and Lab -- are saying: that there must be a certain level of control, whether it is in the form of watch groups or whether it is in the form of self-control, in order for a neighborhood to exist peacefully without crime. When people begin acting in out-of-control ways and ignoring respected social behaviors, crime is more likely to occur because there is less respect for one another and less caring for the neighborhood and its well-being overall.

Urbanization, in general, has long been considered one of the precursors of crime because of its ability to break down individual ties to one another. While Urbanization is one of the first social changes linked to crime in American history (beginning in the early 1900s) there is also the belief that came from the "Chicago School" which claims that criminals are all ordinary people "of all racial backgrounds who were profoundly influenced by the poverty and the social instability of their neighborhoods. They claimed such a poor social and economic environment could produce all types of crime" ( 2011). Members of the Chicago School believed that criminal tendencies are not something innate, but rather, they are tendencies that are learned. "Exposure to crime, either through relatives or peers, gave a youth frustrated with his or her social status a choice to pursue crime. The bad influences could be lessened by good relationships with parents, teachers, an employer, or the community" (2011) -- all things that the students stated when asked what made up a good neighborhood.

The "broken windows" theory of criminal activity in neighborhoods suggests that "disorder in a neighborhood leads to increased antisocial behavior and eventually to serious crime" (J-Rank 2011). The theories of Lab, Bursik and Grasmick, and Shaw and McKay, are all theories that contend that social instability and disorder whether it is in the form of victimization, fear, lack of community organizations or lack of knowledge and respect for others in the neighborhood, are the main causes of neighborhood crime.

Works Cited

Elliott, Delbert S., Menard, Scott., Rankin, Bruce., Elliott, Amanda., Wilson, William Julius & Huizinga, David. Good Kids from Bad Neighborhoods: Successful Development in Social

Context. Cambridge University Press; 1st edition. 2006. Print. "Causes of Crime -- Social and Economic Factors." 2011. Web. Accessed on January

10, 2011:

Kelling, George L. Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Causes of Neighborhood Crime.  (2011, January 11).  Retrieved April 1, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Causes of Neighborhood Crime."  11 January 2011.  Web.  1 April 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Causes of Neighborhood Crime."  January 11, 2011.  Accessed April 1, 2020.