The Impact of Religion on Homicides in Urban Neighborhoods

Margaret A. Zahn, North Carolina State University
Dawn-Marie Campos, University of Maryland at College Park
Ronald Wilson, National Institute of Justice
Robert J. Kaminski, National Institute of Justice

According to Sampson, Raudenbush, and Earls (1997), " the linkage of mutual trust and the willingness to intervene for the common good is what defines the neighborhood context of collective follows that collective efficacy of residents is a critical means by which urban neighborhoods inhibit the occurence of personal violence, without regard to the demographic composition of the population." It is interesting to note that these authors, like so many others who investigate informal social control and its relation to crime, do not look at churches and their influence on the collective efficacy of the neighborhood. One study that does investigate such a relationship is Rose (2000) who states "residential mobility and ethnic heterogeneity are negatively related to the prevalence of religious institutions." The author also found a curvilinear relationship is present between poverty and religious institutions and the prevalence of multi-issue organizations established. Peterson (2000) found that communities may reduce violence somewhat by developing a larger base for certain types of local institutions and the prevention of others. The author concedes that institutional mechanisms still do not explain why low economic status and residential instability are strongly linked to violent crime. The paucity of such studies in the literature justifies further research.

Goal and Purpose:

This study will examine the impact of churches in the city tracts on the level and typeof homicide. Specifically, to examine the hypothesis that if more churches are present in a neighborhood, then the number of homicides will be fewer.

Research Design and Methodology:

The data is city-level and represents 10,665 homicides over 15 years in Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Phoenix. For the purpose of this study, we will focus on the homicides that occured in 1980 and 1990 in Philadelphia and Phoenix. The location of each homicide was geocoded by street and situated within its specific tract. It was then matched with various tract-level demographic and industrial measures. For the purpose of this study, the addresses of the churches in these two cities will be obtained, geocoded, and integrated into the present data with the hopes of gaining a better understanding of the relationship between the number of churches and the level of homicides controlling for residential mobility and heterogeneity. It is our goal to determine the correlates of change in the level and type of homicide, with special attention to the impact of the churches in these city tracts.

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Updated 05/20/2006