The Drivers of Inequality in the Exposure to Crime

The persistence of inequality in the exposure to crime in society today is a critical issue in understanding increased crime rates within different neighbourhoods. In understanding crime today, it is crucial to know how some factors, like inequality, contribute to exposure to crime. How a particular society is organized and the community’s resources can significantly affect its vulnerability to crime. Factors like social disorganization, concentrated disadvantages like poverty, and collective efficacy have long been proposed to account for a substantial proportion of inequality in the exposure to crime at the neighborhood level.

The concentrated societal disadvantage is interwoven with ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility, and family disruption. This phenomenon is a recipe to lessen social ties and weaken informal social control, leading to neighbourhoods facing increased exposure to crime. Factors like community organization regarding civic participation tend to enhance social relations and strengthen informal social power or collective efficacy, leading to neighborhoods facing decreased exposure to crime.

The social disorganization theory asserts a direct link between crime rates and neighborhood ecological characteristics. A core principle of the social disorganization theory states that location matters regarding crime in society. Theoretically, social disorganization describes how social order varies between cultures and how structural and cultural factors influence ecological disparities in crime rates. In contrast to police-recorded crime, survey-based crime measures have more consistently shown that the structural characteristics of communities correlate with crime rates (Danielsson 2019). A fundamental proposition of social disorganization theory is that voluntary and community organizations strengthen informal social control by providing services and enhancing social ties (Abulhul, 2021). This phenomenon consequently decreases exposure to crime at the neighborhood level.

Ecological studies have accounted for the uneven patterning of crime at the neighborhood level through reference to structural characteristics, particularly the concentration of poverty. Social disorganization theory proposes that concentrated poverty, high levels of residential mobility, and ethnic diversity weaken social networks (Manduca & Sampson, 2019). Additionally, they undermine the norm and value systems required to exercise informal control, leading to higher crime rates. Family disruption, the nature of grassroot friendship connections, unsubstantiated assemblies, and diminished administrative involvement have been identified as other critical neighborhood-level processes underlying social disorganization (Bruinsma & Johnson, 2018). Higher levels of urbanization are expected to weaken the capacity to establish local kinship and friendship networks and lower organizational participation, thereby contributing to increased crime.

Collective efficacy refers to shared beliefs in a neighborhood’s capability for action to achieve an intended effect, coupled with an active sense of engagement. As such, collective efficacy is associated with solid primary networks, such as kinship and local voluntary organizations understood to inculcate shared beliefs and nurture engagement. Neighborhood social inequality and characteristics of collective efficacy make some of the strongest predictors of social order and violent crime in cities (Lymperopoulou et al., 2021). Poor collective efficacy tends to explain violent crime, serious theft, and vandalism within neighborhoods.

Voluntary and community organizations are understood as enhancing informal social control through structuring social ties and promoting shared expectations via role models and exposure to core values. Community organizational infrastructure organizations may more closely reflect the civic capacity of the local communities in which they operate and, vitally, the collective action required to enact informal social control. Inequalities within these social systems are a crucial driver of exposure to crime within different places.


Abulhul, Z. (2021). Social Work (social policy) used as a tool of social control. Open Journal of Social Sciences, 09(01), 249–262. Web.

Danielsson, P. (2019). Collective efficacy and violent crime in suburban housing estates. European Journal of Criminology, 18(3), 345–365. Web.

Lymperopoulou, K., Bannister, J., & Krzemieniewska-Nandwani, K. (2021). Inequality in exposure to crime, social disorganization and collective efficacy: Evidence from Greater Manchester, United Kingdom. The British Journal of Criminology, 62(4), 1019–1035. Web.

Manduca, R., & Sampson, R. J. (2019). Punishing and toxic neighborhood environments independently predict the intergenerational social mobility of black and white children. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(16), 7772–7777. Web.

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LawBirdie. 2023. "The Drivers of Inequality in the Exposure to Crime." September 2, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "The Drivers of Inequality in the Exposure to Crime." September 2, 2023.


LawBirdie. "The Drivers of Inequality in the Exposure to Crime." September 2, 2023.