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The Impact of Collective Efficacy on Community Policing

Updated on September 24, 2014

Collective efficacy is reflected in how much ownership residents in a neighborhood take in reducing crime. In some neighborhoods, it is high, and that is reflected in the lower crime rate. In others, it is very low, as reflected by higher crime rates. "Turning to the fixed effects at the neighborhood level, collective efficacy is significantly related to the mean log of delinquency" (Simons, Simons, Burt, Brody & Cutrona, 2005) Collective efficacy is not a perfect concept, and has it's strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the very tether that makes it strong makes it weak.

The strength of collective efficacy is that when neighbors care about intervening, and feel that doing so can stop criminal behavior, it usually does. For example, children in the neighborhood have a higher fear of their parents being told of their actions. Criminals have the fear that the police will be called. To further strengthen the concept, residents in a neighborhood with high collective efficacy know that their neighbors will probably back them up if they intervene in a criminal situation.

In contrast, collective efficacy's weakness is that it relies on the collective. If neighbors don't feel that others in the community don't share their distaste for crime, they will feel alone and less confident in intervening. To elevate this effect, calling the police is probably not an option in these types of neighborhoods, and stopping delinquent juveniles could be dangerous for a lone scolder. The fear of retaliation would play a strong hold in a community in which neighbors did not unite against crime. Herein lies the limitation of collective efficacy.

Even with its weakness, collective efficacy is a solid foundation for community ownership of criminal problems. In fact, we would probably see crime drop in communities with less of it if there were a way to instill it in these neighborhoods.

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