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Understanding Drivers of Crime in East Baltimore: Resident Perceptions of Why Crime Persists

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Abstract

Urban neighborhoods are frequently associated with high rates of crime, unemployment, poor educational systems, poor housing conditions, and health related problems. Theories of social disorganization, social isolation, and broken windows all explain how and why social problems develop and persist within urban settings. Drawing on these theories, this study examines how residents perceive local community problems in an East Baltimore neighborhood. Eight focus groups were conducted with participants who live and/or work in the area to identify common neighborhood issues. Problems commonly identified were: the presence of physical disorder, issues related to crime and law enforcement, lack of employment opportunities, and limited youth activities. Embedded under many of these themes was the recognition that the neighborhood lacks collective efficacy to fix community problems and maintain social control. Implications for improving neighborhood disadvantage will be discussed.

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Notes

  1. The authors of this paper were involved as research partners in the development of the plan.

  2. The term collective efficacy is defined as the linkage of cohesion and mutual trust with shared expectations for intervening (working together) in support of neighborhood social control (Sampson et al., 1997).

  3. Data gathered and analyzed by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance for the BCJI planning phase.

  4. Refreshments were not purchased with federal funding. The researchers used their own money to purchase water and refreshments.

  5. Stakeholders included members of the BCJI steering committee, workers from local non-profits and faith-based programs.

  6. 311 is a non-emergency service request system. Residents can use this system to report problems with street lighting, trash, potholes, etc.

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Acknowledgments

This project was supported by Grant No. 2012-AJ-BX-0014 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering and Tracking. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The authors would also like to acknowledge the BCJI grant project managers from the Baltimore City Mayor’s Office on Criminal Justice, the members of the BCJI community-based steering committee, and the many community stakeholders and residents who participated in the data collection process.

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Correspondence to Andrea Cantora.

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Cantora, A., Iyer, S. & Restivo, L. Understanding Drivers of Crime in East Baltimore: Resident Perceptions of Why Crime Persists. Am J Crim Just 41, 686–709 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-015-9314-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-015-9314-6

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