Explaining Non-Metropolitan Crime: A Test of Social Disorganization Theory on Crime in a Non-Urban Community

Jay Trace Gilliam, University of Oklahoma
Kelly Damphousse, University of Oklahoma

While considerable attention has been given to urban crime within criminology, rural and non-metropolitan crime has not been as thoroughly researched. We believe the criminal behavior that occurs in smaller communities, while being greatly underrepresented within the academic literature, offers a unique and fertile area for both empirical and theoretical development. This paper begins by examining what characteristics help to make rural and non-metropolitan communities unique from urban areas. We contend that academic researchers and policy makers are both in error of taking any research discoveries that have been made using urban data and applying these findings non-urban areas. While this may seem logical, we argue that non-urban communities are both distinct and divergent from urban areas thus requiring separate yet equal attention. Building upon this argument, we have taken property crime data from a non-metropolitan community and constructed a test of social disorganization. We have incorporated concepts from geographical information systems sciences (GIS) and data from the census bureau that has allowed us to investigate concepts that were once only testable upon urban areas. While this research is preliminary due to certain data constraints, we believe it offers a unique analysis of non-metropolitan crime by applying a theory and methods that until recently have been primarily reserved for the study of urban crime.

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Updated 05/20/2006