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Local Social Ties in a Community and Crime Model: Questioning the Systemic Nature of Informal Social Control

Barbara D. Warner and Pamela Wilcox Rountree
Social Problems
Vol. 44, No. 4 (Nov., 1997), pp. 520-536
DOI: 10.2307/3097221
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3097221
Page Count: 17
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Local Social Ties in a Community and Crime Model: Questioning the Systemic Nature of Informal Social Control
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Abstract

Recent theoretical and empirical developments within social disorganization theory rely heavily on a systemic model of community attachment. It has been argued that poverty, heterogeneity, and mobility undermine neighborhood networks and social ties, contributing to a breakdown in informal social control that, in turn, allows for increasing crime rates. Tests of the systemic nature of informal social control within a community crime model have been rare, however, and the empirical results mixed. In addition some recent research raises the question whether social ties have consistent meaning in terms of social control across neighborhoods. We test the role of local social ties both as a mediator between structural conditions and crime rates and as conditional upon neighborhood characteristics using data on 100 Seattle census tracts. We find that local social ties decrease the assault rate significantly, but have little mediating effects between community structure and crime rates. The effect of social ties on burglary, however, is contrary to social disorganization hypotheses. More importantly, we find that local social ties have differing effects in different types of neighborhoods. Specifically, social ties significantly and negatively affect assault rates in predominantly white neighborhoods, while they have no significant effect in predominantly minority or racially mixed neighborhoods. These latter findings have particular significance for the development and refinement of community and crime models.

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