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Responses to Disorder: Relative Impacts of Neighborhood Structure, Crime, and Physical Deterioration on Residents and Business Personnel

NCJ Number
Ralph B. Taylor
Date Published
85 pages
This study examined the impacts of physical deterioration, neighborhood structure, and crime on a range of responses to disorder among residents living near (n=870), as well as business personnel working in (n=210), 24 small commercial centers in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The study used hierarchical linear models to separate between-person from between-location variance in outcomes. Researchers examined impacts of perceived crime-related problems on between-person outcome variance, as well as the impact of assessed incivilities and local crime rates on between-location outcome variance. For all six outcomes based on the resident surveys and for three out of four outcomes based on the merchant surveys, significant outcome variation between locations existed. Perceived incivilities consistently influenced between-person outcomes, as hypothesized. Assessed incivilities and local crime rates, however, generally failed to influence between-location outcome variance. Assessed incivilities and crime failed to predict responses to disorder for either or both of the following reasons: each strongly correlated with at least one dimension of neighborhood structure; and for several resident-based outcomes, after controlling for neighborhood structure, no significant between-location unexplained variance in the outcome remained. Further, for the merchant survey, in two cases impacts of physical or behavioral features related to incivilities showed causal impacts opposite to what has been predicted by resident-centered theory. Results confirm Miethe's (1995) earlier conclusion that research has not yet shown impacts of assessed incivilities on fear of crime and perceived risk. The strong, consistent impact of perceived incivilities, coupled with the weak or unexpected impacts of assessed incivilities, or of features related to incivilities raises several theoretical and policy-related questions. If assessed incivilities contribute minimally to responses to disorder after controlling for community fabric, perhaps more attention should be given to maintaining community fabric rather than on reducing incivilities. 33 tables, 4 figures, and 68 references