The Common Good: Elements That Trigger Discord In Urban Community

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There is no doubt that violent crime has been decreasing in recent years due to many underlying factors, but this isn’t always the case for every urban community. Much of the past research on ecological conditions dealing with community violence has produced mixed results from city to city.

These conditions typically deal with the Chicago criminology school of thought that analyzes the social disorganization of a community. Though this school of thought is very thorough at explaining many sociological complexities, the willingness of individual community members to intervene on one another’s behalf of the common good known as collective efficacy (King, 2019) often eludes research.

Informal social control may prove paramount in decreasing the overall violent crime rate in many crime prone areas, however it is important to discover why individual community members may be dissuaded from engaging in informal social control. The purpose of this paper is to discover how informal social control such as collective efficacy might impact the violent crime rate in communities where some of its members live by their own set of informal rules that promote violence. These compounding factors are crucial to understand how informal social control influences community behavior.

The elements that influence the social disorganization of a community are critical in providing insight to the importance of informal social control. Many inner-city areas with high rates of violence share three common characteristics that includes concentrated disadvantage, residential transience, and heterogeneity (King, 2019). Socially disorganized communities suffer from severe forms of concentrated disadvantage through race and class segregation which blocks them from positions in mainstream society with outlets to voice their concerns (Sampson et al, 1997). Since members of these communities are unlikely to become invested in property and resource ownership, those who are able to move will do so at the first chance.

Those who are unable to escape will remain and be forced to live in the vicinity of constrained community members replacing those who were able to escape which reifies no lasting relationships (Sampson et al, 1997). These three characteristics in combination contribute to the breakdown of informal social control and reinforces the complexity the violence rate. When social disorganization is present, residents face many obstacles to achieving social solidarity that may prevent violent crime.

There are numerous conditions that must be present to allow informal social control to function in a community as a violence deterrence method. These informal social controls can be defined as the pressure that groups separate of the government place upon each other to instill normative behavior. Social cohesion amongst neighbors directly relates to reduced violence rates because of their willingness to intervene and prevent crime from initiating. Social cohesion is achieved when residents are capable of placing trust in each other that in turn promotes a sense of solidarity that ties them to their respective communities (Sampson et al, 1997).

When communities lack order and organization, it diminishes the presence of solidarity and reduces the tendency for residents to intervene on behalf of one another to maintain social order (Sampson et al, 1997). Deviant behavior in socially cohesive communities are much less likely to occur because aberrance may not be tolerated and result in strict consequences. Since collective efficacy is informal in nature and reinforced solely by respective residents, looking at those who aim to prevent and maintain the absence of collective efficacy is important to understand the violence rate.

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When communities become rampant with social disorganization, the normalization of violence to maintain informal social order may destroy collective efficacy. These informal rules pertain to an explicit code that dominates the communities social attitude. As noted by Elijah Anderson, “street culture has evolved in what may be called a code of the streets, which amounts to a set of informal rules governing interpersonal public behavior, including violence” (Anderson, 1994). Not every decent person or decent family living within a socially disorganized community sanctions the use of violence, yet they must navigate daily life next to those who support the code of the street (Anderson, 1994).

The code of the street exists in socially disorganized areas for intertwining reasons dealing with the isolation from normative society, and the failure of trust in formal social controls like police (Anderson, 1994). The lack of trust in law enforcement is established by legal cynicism (King, 2019), and recurring cases where police lose faith in the community. When street-oriented residents feel contempt from law enforcement, they will take measures of safety upon themselves by instituting violence to regulate the behavior of the community (Anderson, 1994). The code of the street deters many people from seeking formal controls to seek justice because they recognize that retaliation brought on by snitching may have worse consequences than what justice could provide.

To further analyze how informal social control impacts violent crime in areas regulated by informal codes, measuring the level of collective efficacy in a socially disorganized area proves important. Studying the article, Collective Efficacy and Violence in Chicago Neighborhoods: A Reproduction, by Maxwell, Garner, and Skogan, they aim to provide answers to explaining how social formation and collective efficacy in a community relates to its violence rate. They rely heavily upon the Sampson et al (1997) article that is noted above to explain how they define collective efficacy, which hypothesizes that collective efficacy is negatively correlated with interpersonal violence. Additionally, collective efficacy should reduce overall community based violence. Their objective was to take Sampson et al.’s (1997) results combined with Earl et al.’s (2007) results and highlight the differences in the timeframe.

After collecting their own results they determined that statistical evidence remained the same despite the difference in time. Their own results discovered that 70% of collective efficacy’s variance is responsible for the three pillars of social disorganization. What stands out is their findings on how collective efficacy relates to violence. For this measure they used Sampson et al’s (1997) three measures of violence and found that higher levels of collective efficacy relate to reduced self-reported violent victimization, fewer perceptions of violent community crime, and fewer homicides per person as noted by the Chicago Police. Their goal was met as they proved Sampson et al’s (1997) reliability over a distinct period of time.

Measuring collective efficacy compared to homicide clearance rates can provide many unique results since homicide is a recognized felony in every state. Examining the article Neighborhood Context and Homicide Clearance: Estimating the Effects of Collective Efficacy, by Mancik, Parker, and Williams, can explain this relationship. The article examines how community members are crucial to determine the clearance rate for homicides, and how aiding in homicide investigation through collective efficacy helps clear homicides. They acquire their results by exploring homicide clearance rates in Chicago to determine the role that collective efficacy plays into the clearances.

They use data from the Chicago police department from 1996 to 2000, and matched it to the 1990 census for determining homicide clearances, To measure collective efficacy they used data from the “Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods: Community Survey, 1994-1995.” After testing their data, they found that the nature of the neighborhood is important to clear homicides. This is expressed by finding that collective efficacy is reinforced by the clearance of homicides. Their results prove that the social disorganization of a community can predict the homicide clearance rate and collective efficacy aids in clearance. According to this article, collective efficacy is crucial to reduce violent crime in communities.

After reviewing the two articles listed above, it is undeniable that collective efficacy is critical to combating violence in areas where street-crime is recognized. Formal social control such as law enforcement only works when both the community and the police work together to intervene in the overall good of an area. If residents are unwilling to react to acts of violence within their community, violence will have the potential to become normalized and diminish social cohesion and solidarity.

A positive relationship with the area’s local police is critical to preventing acts of deviance based violence. Cities that possess pockets of social disorganization are challenged with distinct obstacles in achieving collective efficacy, and may require serious reform to promote a basic feeling of safety. Perhaps the examination of the public schooling system in socially disorganized areas may provide unique findings determining the factors that reinforce street standards over mainstream standards.

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