Pockets of Crime: Broken Windows, Collective Efficacy, and the Criminal Point of View

Pockets of Crime: Broken Windows, Collective Efficacy, and the Criminal Point of View

Pockets of Crime: Broken Windows, Collective Efficacy, and the Criminal Point of View

Pockets of Crime: Broken Windows, Collective Efficacy, and the Criminal Point of View

Synopsis

Why, even in the same high-crime neighborhoods, do robbery, drug dealing, and assault occur much more frequently on some blocks than on others? One popular theory is that a weak sense of community among neighbors can create conditions more hospitable for criminals, and another proposes that neighborhood disorder- such as broken windows and boarded-up buildings- makes crime more likely. But in his innovative new study, Peter K. B. St. Jean argues that we cannot fully understand the impact of these factors without considering that, because urban space is unevenly developed, different kinds of crimes occur most often in locations that offer their perpetrators specific advantages.

Drawing on Chicago Police Department statistics and extensive interviews with both law-abiding citizens and criminals in one of the city's highest-crime areas, St. Jean demonstrates that drug dealers and robbers, for example, are primarily attracted to locations with businesses like liquor stores, fast food restaurants, and check-cashing outlets. By accounting for these important factors of spatial positioning, he expands upon previous research to provide the most comprehensive explanation available of why crime occurs where it does.

Excerpt

It was usually late in the afternoon when Peter St. Jean would make his urgent visits to my office at the University of Chicago. For Peter, everything was urgent and I had little choice but to listen. (If you ever meet Peter St. Jean in person, you will understand why.) Now, it may seem odd that having someone come crashing into your office wild-eyed and flailing about could be rewarding, much less an intellectual treat, but it was all that and more. For in those early years of St. Jean's initiation into the passionate pursuit of urban sociology, I saw a budding scholar determined to break new ground. I detected a raw intellect hungry to be prodded and shaped, and ultimately to be triumphant. He was so full of energy that a typical meeting would go something like this. He would present his latest finding, we would argue and dissect it from multiple angles, and I would suggest a new angle to pursue. St. Jean would then leave more wild-eyed than upon entrance and pursue the idea for three days straight without sleep. I would receive streams of email time-stamped at ungodly hours, and days later he would urgently appear again with results a normal person would have needed months to produce. I had no choice but to answer the door, and so would begin a new round on another late afternoon in Kelly Hall 103.

What does such passion produce? in this case a gem of a study that was enthralling to mentor from initial conception to completion. the orienting idea was simple but powerful. in the mid-1990s practically all of America knew that the south side of Chicago near the Robert Taylor Homes (now . . .

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