Improved community cohesion can bring lower levels of crime as well as benefits in health, education, and employment. This document looks at benefits relating to crime where most research has been done.
Most of the studies which have looked at the relationship between cohesion and crime have suggested that more cohesive areas have lower crime levels. The theory behind this is that higher levels of social integration can lead to the community sharing the same values and goals. These include keeping the neighbourhood safe and free from crime.
Research shows that levels of crime are significantly lower than expected in areas that are disadvantaged but have high levels of social cohesion. Therefore, the more that an area that is at a disadvantage economically, pulls together as a community, the greater is its capacity to combat crime.
Much of the research has looked at how community cohesion can influence crime levels by exerting a form of social control, providing a set of norms of behaviour which individuals in an area are expected to abide by. It was found that increasing levels of crime and fear of crime were both strong negative predictors of community cohesion. These studies indicate that crime may therefore be a product of “weak” community cohesion.
The relationship between crime and community cohesion can also run in the other direction, and crime can impact on individual’s opinions of cohesion in their areas and thus weaken community cohesion. For example, an Ipsos MORI survey found that, of those people surveyed who said that they were not proud of their area, 55 per cent of them cited crime as the main reason.
THE ECONOMIC CASE FOR COHESION is available from DLG.