Neighbourhoods’ influence on victimisation and perception of crime

An empirical test of new ecological approaches in Santiago neighbourhoods

author Liliana Manzano
journal GERN (ISSN: )
volume 2014
issue 2. Desistance, social order and responses to crime
section Article
publicatie datum 1 août 2014
langue English
pagina 97

Social Disorganisation Theory (SDT) states that in poor and unstable neighbourhoods, residents may have difficulty developing and maintaining social order, due to the weaknesses of their social networks and the infrequent exercise of informal control. As a consequence, criminal victimisation and perception of crime increase and persist over time. Latin American poor neighbourhoods, often characterised by high residential stability, dense informal networks, strong social cohesion, and yet high levels of crime, constitute a challenge for SDT. Recently, studies from new ecological approaches have asserted that even if informal networks are weak, neighbours can engage in preventive actions when the intervention is secure and executed in a partnership with public control institutions. Thus, a general distrust of police and local authorities, and a weak nexus between police and community, may reduce residents’ incentives to be involved in community issues, increasing the risk of victimisation and perceptions of crime severity.
In this context this paper asks to what extent Santiago neighbourhoods influence crime victimisation (especially violent crime) and perceptions of incivilities and crime, through the effect of structural conditions, perceptions of organizational and public control mechanisms. The research uses secondary analysis of a community survey which involved responses from 5,860 individuals who lived in 242 neighbourhoods of Santiago-Chile. The multilevel nature of the data (incorporating both individual and neighbourhood level measures) presents an excellent opportunity to evaluate the interplay between
individual perceptions and the nature of the area in which residents lived. Preliminary results demonstrate that in neighbourhoods with higher concentration of poverty and lower residential stability the probability of being victimised by violent crime is higher, and people frequently perceive there are events of disorder and violence in public places. However, perceptions of organizational mechanisms and perceptions of public control agencies largely mediate the effects of structural conditions in violent victimisation and in perception of crime, reducing or eliminating these effects.