Monday, May 01, 2023

Collective Efficacy Or Cohesion Is The Predictor Of Violent Crime

NYTimes  |  The largest study ever undertaken of the causes of crime and delinquency has found that there are lower rates of violence in urban neighborhoods with a strong sense of community and values, where most adults discipline children for missing school or scrawling graffiti.

In an article published last week in the journal Science, three leaders of the study team concluded, ''By far the largest predictor of the violent crime rate was collective efficacy,'' a term they use to mean a sense of trust, common values and cohesion in neighborhoods.

Dr. Felton Earls, the director of the study and a professor of psychiatry at the Harvard School of Public Health, said the most important characteristic of ''collective efficacy'' was a ''willingness by residents to intervene in the lives of children.'' Specifically, Dr. Earls said in an interview, this means a willingness to stop acts like truancy, graffiti painting and street-corner ''hanging'' by teen-age gangs.

What creates this sense of cohesion is not necessarily strong personal or kinship ties, as in a traditional village, said Robert Sampson, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the study. It does help if many residents in a neighborhood own their homes or have lived there for a long time, Mr. Sampson added.

But cohesion, or efficacy, seems to be still another quality, Mr. Sampson suggested, ''a shared vision, if you will, a fusion of a shared willingness of residents to intervene and social trust, a sense of engagement and ownership of public space.''

The finding is considered significant by experts because it undercuts a prevalent theory that crime is mainly caused by factors like poverty, unemployment, single-parent households or racial discrimination.

These problems do play a role, according to the new study. But some neighborhoods in Chicago are largely black and poor, yet have low crime rates, it found -- so some other explanation is needed for the causes of crime.

The study has been conducted in all areas of Chicago since 1990 as part of a major continuing research program known as the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. It was financed at first by the MacArthur Foundation and the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the Justice Department, and now also has financing from the National Institute of Mental Health and the United States Department of Education. The study, which has so far cost about $25 million, is scheduled to continue until 2003.

The research team selected Chicago as a site because its racial, ethnic, social and economic diversity most closely match those of the United States as a whole, Mr. Sampson said. For the study, Chicago was divided into 343 neighborhoods, and 8,872 residents representing all those areas have been interviewed in depth.

Among those neighborhoods with high levels of cohesion, the authors said, are Avalon Park, a largely black neighborhood on the South Side; Hyde Park, a mixed-race area around the University of Chicago, and Norwood Park, a white neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

The study at least indirectly contradicts the highly acclaimed work of William Julius Wilson, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, who in a series of books, most recently ''When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor'' (Knopf, 1996), traces many of the troubles of poor black families in Northern cities to the disappearance of factory jobs as industries moved to the suburbs or overseas.

Both Dr. Earls and Mr. Sampson said they thought that the results of their study suggested that Mr. Wilson's argument was too narrow and did not account for the differences in crime they found in largely black neighborhoods. Still, Professor Sampson acknowledged, concentrated poverty and joblessness ''make it harder to maintain'' cohesion in a neighborhood.


Golddigger Prank Exegesis....,