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Playing for Keeps
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Communities and CrimeCommunities and Crime

An Enduring American Challenge

Pamela Wilcox, Francis T. Cullen and Ben Feldmeyer

The James Short Senior Scholar Award, given by the American Society of Criminology Awards Committee for the Division of Communities and Place, 2019

Narrated by Scot Wilcox

Available from Audible

Book published by Temple University Press

Social scientists have long argued over the links between crime and place. The authors of Communities and Crime provide an intellectual history that traces how varying images of community have evolved over time and influenced criminological thinking and criminal justice policy.

The authors outline the major ideas that have shaped the development of theory, research, and policy in the area of communities and crime. Each chapter examines the problem of the community through a defining critical or theoretical lens: the community as social disorganization; as a system of associations; as a symptom of larger structural forces; as a result of criminal subcultures; as a broken window; as crime opportunity; and as a site of resilience.

Focusing on these changing images of community, the empirical adequacy of these images, and how they have resulted in concrete programs to reduce crime, Communities and Crime theorizes about and reflects upon why some neighborhoods produce so much crime. The result is a tour of the dominant theories of place in social science today.


“Wilcox, Cullen, and Feldmeyer provide an intellectual history of communities and crime in the US. They look at seven perceptions of the inner-city community—community as socially disorganized, as system, as truly disadvantaged, as criminal culture, as broken window, as criminal opportunity, and as collective efficacy—devoting a chapter to each. The authors emphasize the macro context, i.e., the idea that though particular images of community convey static differences, inner-city criminalistic communities are not islands but have distinct ongoing linkages with surrounding communities and neighborhoods and with the larger region of the city.... Summing Up: Recommended.”


“Communities and Crime probes one of the most vital and intellectually exciting areas of the discipline. Why do some communities experience higher crime rates than others? Why are these differences so enduring, despite turnover in residents? Criminologists have argued for much of the last century over questions such as these, producing seminal research and leading theories. Wilcox, Cullen, and Feldmeyer provide an authoritative account of this important body of work that makes for fascinating reading. Their intellectual history melds seamlessly with a synthesis of contemporary research, making this a book for all criminologists and students of crime to read. I look forward to assigning Communities and Crime in class and continuing to learn from its insights.”

—Robert J. Sampson, Harvard University, and author of Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect

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University Press Audiobooks