Neighborhood Development and Crime: Implications for Situational Policing

James J. Nolan III, West Virginia University
Norman Conti, West Virginia University
Jack McDevitt, Northeastern University

The Broken Windows version of social disorganization theory has had a significant impact on law enforcement practices in the United States over the past two decades. Contemporary sociologists, however, have demonstrated that neighborhood-level collective efficacy is a more signifiant predictor of violent crime than is physical disorder (i.e., broken windows). Collective efficacy is viewed here as an evolving neighborhood-level property. The authors posit that neighborhoods pass through, regress to, or get stuck in identifiable stages of development as they move toward (or away from) higher levels of collective efficacy. Giving consideration to both (a) stage of neighborhood development and (b) level of neighborhood crime and disorder, the authors construct four neighborhood types: Strong, Vulnerable, Anomic, and Responsive. The concept of situational policing, then, is introduced as a way to effectively address both the development of collective efficacy and the occurrence of crime and disorder in each neighborhood type.

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Updated 05/20/2006