Culture vs. Survival: The Effect of Police Intervention on Retaliatory Homicide in Disadvantaged Communities

Laurie J. Samuel, Howard University/NCOVR

Interactions between the police and minorities have long been marked with tension, strain, and distrust. Research has shown that minorities living in disadvantaged communities often feel that the police do not respond to them quickly enough when they are called but are more attentive to residents in non-disadvantaged neighborhoods. Some residents in poor communities have adapted to police inattention by resolving conflicts within the community, sometimes with violent responses. It is not clear, however, whether and to what extent the lack of police intervention in disadvantaged communities contributes to future violence. Thus, the understanding interaction between formal social control (i.e. police intervention) and informal social control (community intervention) is key. This study attempts to determine whether retaliatory homicide is greater in disadvantaged neighborhoods due to a reliance on a street code characterized by a perception among residents that police do not offer adequate protection when they are victimized. Using homicide data from a southern police department, and in-depth interviews with neighborhood residents, community leaders, and police, this study also assesses whether the lack of faith in the police contributes to retaliatory homicide in disadvantaged communities.

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Updated 05/20/2006