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Bringing in Gangs and Community: A Re-Evaluation of Social Disorganization and Collective Efficacy


For the last two decades, social disorganization and collective efficacy have been two of the main tenants of criminological thinking. Although gaps in these theories have been pointed out during the past decade, these theories persisted in the criminological literature. Further, these theories have been used as the bases for models of intervention, prevention, and suppression to reduce crime and juvenile delinquency. These programs have had mixed results because they do not account for previously mentioned gaps. Thus, until we improve upon the current theory criminology will not be effective at explaining or reducing criminal behavior.

This dissertation takes attempts to take a step towards addressing these gaps, and including the implications of these gaps in the statistical analyses presented here. These critiques include the role of the built environment and deviant places (Stark 1987); social and economic capital within poor communities (Venkatesh 2000; Patillo-McCoy 1998); and individual perceptions of public safety (Glassner 2010).

Findings in this dissertation show that these factors influence criminal behavior more than classical measures of social disorganization and structural disadvantage. Additionally, this study finds that informal groups, and illicit activities play a role in social control and supplementing the local economy.

This study suggests that more research is needed in the area of social ecology and criminal behavior which takes into account these critiques. Specifically, more research is needed on the interaction between individual perception of social space and factors occurring within that space. Additionally, more thought needs to be put into urban and community planning to address the role of deviant spaces within the urban space.

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