UCLA Criminal Justice Informal Social Control Discussion Questions

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  1. Parochial control is the control that is administered by neighborhood organizations. The opposite of parochial control is private control. This is control rendered by family and friends, or persons with whom you are intimate. Public controls are rendered by groups and institutions outside of your neighorhood like the police, the courts, etc. Carr (2003) suggests that parochial control and private control are inseparable and operate together in what he refers to as the “new parochialism”. Thus, when you see a neighborhood organization (e.g., neighborhood watch) call an outside entity for the purpose of exercising control over a child, you would be witnessing the “new parochialism” – the marriage between parochial and private control.
  2. In the criminological literature, it has been repeatedly suggested that when people have weakened or broken social ties to conventional society, social control is likely to be weakened and crime is more likely to occur. Think back to social bond theory, social disorganization theory and, to some degree, the anomie theory of crime and delinquency. Each of these theories of criminal behavior argue that when people are not closely bonded with others, they are less likely to abide by the law. Carr (2003) argues that such close ties are not necessary for maintaining control in one’s neighborhood. He argues that people, instead, will seek out neighborhood organizations as a means of controlling others (parochialism), rather than trying to engage neighborhood residents with whom they have no social ties to.
  3. Carr’s findings suggest that social ties do not matter. Thus, theories like social control, anomie and social disorganization theory are invalidated.
  4. In the Beltway community, people maintained control through joining neighborhood groups that utilized outside groups to maintain control over its residents.
  5. Social norms are beliefs regarding order and disorder. Social norms, then, shape whether engaging in crime is viewed as acceptable or unacceptable. When norms are supportive of criminal behavior, crime is expected to increase.
  6. Social norms have been said to influence crime in several ways. For instance, Meares argued that when people are organized around prosocial values and support norms regarding law-abiding behavior, crime is likely to decrease. Meares also discussed social influence. Social influence is the tendency of people to conform to the expectations and behaviors of others. If people perceive crime to be rampant in their communities, they will be more likely to engage in crime themselves. Other examples were listed. These were a few.
  7. According to Meares, police should promote social organization in communities. Doing so would create normative boundaries; consequently reducing crime rates. Related to the last point, law enforcement should also be careful that they do not promote the perception that crime is rampant as doing so could jumpstart law violating behaviors among otherwise law-abiding citizens. The article also suggested other law enforcement strategies that include reverse stings, gang loitering laws and curfews and order maintenance policing. Make sure that you are able to articulate how each of these policies could be used to reduce crime through social norms.

What do you think? We know that crime has steadily declined in the last decade – still many people believe otherwise. Does the perception that crime is rampant, incite individuals to commit crime? When families do not control their children’s behavior do we look to formal institutions of control to step in and do so? If so, what impact does family reliance on formal institutions of control have on children? How is informal institutions reliance on formal institutions connected to the school-to-prison pipeline?

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UCLA Criminal Justice Informal Social Control Discussion Questions

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