The Community Level Dynamics of Adolescent Crime: A Closer Look at the Concept of Collective Efficacy

David P. Armstrong, University at Albany

Much attention has been devoted to the concept of collective efficacy. Collective efficacy is "defined as social cohesion among neighbors with their willingness to intervene on behalf of the common good" (Sampson et. al 1997). By means of informal social control processes collective efficacy is thought to prevent criminal behavior within a neighborhood. There are two separate components to the concept of eollective efficacy: social cohesion and surveillance (willingness to intervene). While these separate components are acknowledged, collective efficacy is measured as a single concept given the high correlation between social cohesion and surveillance (see Sampson et. al. 1996; Sampson and Raudenbush 1999). Liska and Warner (1991) suggest that social cohesion may actually increase crime within a neighborhood. When individuals are well integrated in a neighborhood they will leave their home and socialize more putting themselves and their home at greater risk for victimization. hence, mneasuring collective efficacy as a single concept masks potentially divergent influences on crime. The present study finds that this is the case in regards to violent criminal behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006