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Crime can have a very dramatic impact on a community and can spiral out of control surprisingly quickly. Explore the effects of crime on community, and test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Crime and Communities

We’re about to see a crime. Okay, see that? Somebody just stole that bicycle. Man, that’s rough.

Now, we’re not here today to talk about that specific crime. We’re here to talk about how that crime is going to impact this community. So here it is: the community now has fewer bicycles! Boom, there you go! Crime and effect! Okay, there’s more to it than that.

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Every community has crime, some more than others, and that crime has a wide range of impacts: some are personal, some are communal, but all are preventable. Alright, now let’s watch this community and see what crime can do.

Effect of Crime on People in a Community

There are a few ways we can study the effects of crime, and one of those is by looking directly at the impact of crime on the people of a community. Now obviously, people who are victims of crime are very directly affected, but that’s actually not what we’re talking about.Watch this community. Here it is with no crime.

Now increase the rate of crime by 10%. Now another 10%. Once more.

See how much this has changed? Increased crime has been shown to have a dramatic effect on social fabric, or the interpersonal relations between members of a community, because crime creates fear. The more that people are aware of crime, the more that they tend to fear becoming victims of crime. So, trust decreases, neighbors stop talking, everyone starts carrying pepper spray around and avoiding each other – it’s a mess!Okay, so it’s not always that dramatic, but there are some serious implications. In fact, research has shown that the fear of crime can be as psychologically and socially damaging as crime itself. In 2001, the National Institute of Justice published a study that claimed that fear of crime actually attracts criminals since communities that fear crime tend to have weaker social fabric and don’t look out for each other.

And it even gets worse.You see, fear of crime affects different people in different ways. Most studies show that women tend to fear crime the most since violent crimes against women tend to be sexually oriented. The elderly have been shown to be similarly affected, believing themselves to be natural targets of crime. But of all groups, ethnic minorities tend to have the worst experiences.

Ethnic groups are often the first targets of crime, so they tend to have a high fear of crime. But, they also tend to be the first groups in a community that people suspect of crime, so they are the first to be isolated when crime increases. Especially in the United States, where race relations are an ongoing issue, this problem has been seen again and again and is still being documented by sociologists and other researchers.

Crime and Community Prosperity

So, crime affects the way people in a community interact, and fear of crime can actually attract more crime. But, in terms of prosperity, crime also affects the community as a whole, and I don’t just mean pure dollars and cents, although that can happen too. After all, security is expensive, and if crime in your community increases, well, many people suddenly feel the need for burglar alarms or other deterrents.No, what I’m talking about is the general economic health of a community.

Areas with more crime attract much less business investment, and shoppers feel safer taking their money to other communities. This crime could be things like theft, but also the so-called victimless crimes, or things that are illegal but don’t directly target other people, like drugs or gambling. When there’s no money going into a local economy, local businesses close, the town generates fewer taxes, potholes can’t get fixed, property value decreases, and things just get worse and worse.

Reversing Crime’s Impact

Alright, so admittedly I’ve presented a lot of worst-case scenarios here.

Things don’t always go downhill so quickly or dramatically. But, the fact remains that once a community becomes associated with crime, any of these impacts are likely and are very difficult to reverse.I’m sure you can think of some part of a city that you just want to avoid.

Why do you stay away? Most likely because you associate it with crime. Even if you’ve never witnessed a robbery there, you assume there’s a high rate of crime because it fits other characteristics: things aren’t well taken care of, people are unfriendly, it has a reputation.Like I said, turning this around can be a very difficult process, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Crime eradication can come from increased law enforcement, but usually the most successful deterrent is just regular people – people who treat each other like neighbors, take care of each other, invest in local businesses and ideas. And suddenly, it all starts to wind backwards.

Lesson Summary

Crime is a scary thing, and, actually, the fact that it’s scary literally makes it worse.

Crime affects communities in many ways, but some of the worst are those that undermine the social fabric, or interpersonal relations of a group. In other words, people become afraid and stop trusting each other, stop working together, and stop investing in local businesses and ideas.Everyone in a community is impacted by crime, not just the actual victims. For example, victimless crimes, or things that are illegal but don’t directly target specific people, like drugs or gambling, also greatly affect the community. Reversing the effects of crime can be a very difficult process, but it can be done.

We just have to show crime what we, as a community, can do.

Vocabulary ; Definitions

Social Fabric

Social fabric: Interpersonal relationships between people of a communityVictimless crimes: Illegal behavior, such as drug use, that does not directly impact others

Lesson Outcome

After viewing this lesson, you should be able to explain the impacts of crime on the community and how those might be reversed.

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