Violence in Urban Neighborhoods: A Longitudinal Study of Collective Efficacy and Violent Crime
Cross-sectional studies consistently find that neighborhoods with higher levels of collective efficacy experience fewer social problems. Particularly robust is the relationship between collective efficacy and violent crime, which holds regardless of the socio-structural conditions of neighborhoods. Yet due to the limited availability of neighborhood panel data, the temporal relationship between neighborhood structure, collective efficacy and crime is less well understood.
In this paper, we provide an empirical test of the collective efficacy-crime association over time by bringing together multiple waves of survey and census data and counts of violent crime incident data collected across 148 neighborhoods in Brisbane, Australia. Utilizing three different longitudinal models that make different assumptions about the temporal nature of these relationships, we examine the reciprocal relationships between neighborhood features and collective efficacy with violent crime. We also consider the spatial embeddedness of these neighborhood characteristics and their association with collective efficacy and the concentration of violence longitudinally.
Notably, our findings reveal no direct relationship between collective efficacy and violent crime over time. However, we find a strong reciprocal relationship between collective efficacy and disadvantage and between disadvantage and violence, indicating an indirect relationship between collective efficacy and violence.
The null direct effects for collective efficacy on crime in a longitudinal design suggest that this relationship may not be as straightforward as presumed in the literature. More longitudinal research is needed to understand the dynamics of disadvantage, collective efficacy, and violence in neighborhoods.