Crime in a Free Society: Selections from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice

By Robert W. Winslow | Go to book overview

5 The ecology of crime

Patterns of Crime Variation in City Areas
The first systematic and sustained effort to investigate the regularities in the variation of crime within a large city in the United States started in Chicago in 1921. 1 This analysis of the delinquency areas of Chicago by Clifford Shaw and his associates set off a wave of studies in other cities and a spirited debate about the interpretation of the findings, which is still being fed by new studies using different techniques, different measures, and competing theories.This development has been greatly aided by the growth and increasing sophistication of the field of human ecology which involves the study of the relationship of human individuals and groups to their physical, social, and cultural environment by geographers, demographers, and other social scientists. 2 The National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement published the second major ecological study of the Institute of Juvenile Research in Chicago in 1931. 3 This study was of particular significance since it demonstrated that the characteristic patterns for delinquency rates in Chicago could also be found in Philadelphia, Richmond, Cleveland, Birmingham, Denver, and Seattle.Three of their major findings about the distribution of delinquency rates have been repeatedly borne out in subsequent studies, subject only to local and usually accountable variations:
1. Juvenile delinquents are not distributed uniformly over the City of Chicago but tend to be concentrated in areas adjacent to the central business district and to heavy industrial areas.
2. There are wide variations in the rates of delinquents between areas in Chicago.
____________________
1
Clifford R. Shaw, Delinquency Areas ( Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1929), p. ix.
2
Amos H. Hawley, Human Ecology ( New York: The Ronald Press, 1950).
3
Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay, Social Factors in Juvenile Delinquency, Report on the Causes of Crime ( Washington: National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, 1931), pp. 2, 13.

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