Community Building, Collaborative Problem Solving and Community Justice as Social Movements That Increase Social Capital, Decrease Crime, and Improve Quality of Life

Arnold K. Sherman, Baltimore, Maryland MOCJ
Antony M. Pate, COSMOS Corporation

A great debate is taking place regarding why crime is dropping in America (e.g., Blumstein and Wallman, 2000). Invesigations of Baltimore City's HotSpots, Empowerment Zones, and Comprehensive Communities have produced crime reductions that exceed citywide crime reduction by a factor of two to three. ...Previous studies of Baltimore's Comprehensive Communities (Hypke, forthcoming; Roth and Kelling, forthcoming) show similar findings. This finding of a forty percent crime reduction in these communities is consistent with the finding of Sampson, Raudenbush, and Clark (Science 277, August 15, 1997:1-7) that there is a 40 percent difference between neighborhoods scoring high and low on collective efficacy. Such findings are consistent with research that goes back to the 1920s that indicates that to prevent crime one has to "change the street." The author has been hired by the Baltimore Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice to document whether or not HotSpots are working and, if so, to determine why. The preliminary data shows that something is working. The attempt to uncover the why is proceeding on a number of fronts including observations, review of records, and a literature search. ...This paper will flesh out, and illustrate, an emerging model that seems to show convergence between work on social movements, community building, community justice, and social capital as influences that decrease crime and improve quality of life. If empirical results validate this approach it has important implications for the crime prevention policy debate.

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Updated 05/20/2006