Theories of Crime (Spring 2020)
Professor Holland
Paper 1: Social Disorganization and Cities with Rising Crime
DUE DATE: February 26, 2019 (5:30 p.m.)

Referring to the 2019 USA Today listing on US cities with the highest violent crime rates, identify a city which has experienced a significant increase in violent crime in the last 5 years. The USA Today listing can be found here and is posted on Blackboard under ‘course reading’:

Then, determine why crime has risen in that particular city. What has changed in the city along with the crime rates that might be relevant in explaining the rising crime?

Next, determine whether social disorganization theory can explain the increase in crime over time. Which factors emphasized by the social disorganization approach to understanding crime (i.e., poverty, heterogeneity, population turnover, etc.) are present in the city you’re studying (if any)? Which have increased in that city?

As importantly, are there other factors not related to social disorganization theory that may play a role?

Please be as specific as possible in describing the background of your case (crime rates over time, what is causing the crime, etc.), as well as your explanation of the extent to which social disorganization theory can explain crime in that city.

You will be graded on five main components:
Thesis statement: What is the general argument you will make? The thesis is clearly stated and easily understood, and grounded in the course materials and subject matter. Your thesis should correspond with the objective of this assignment (indicated above).

Description, Details and Evidence: A rich description of the case and problem is
provided. The evidence (facts, statistics, examples, etc.) support the arguments of the paper. There is enough research presented to support the main arguments. A sufficient understanding of course concepts and theories is demonstrated. This is the most important part of the paper.

(3) Organization and Clarity: The paper contains a logical structure (an introduction, body
paragraphs, and a conclusion), and transitions smoothly between paragraphs. All
sections of the paper are relevant to the thesis.

Spelling and Grammar: There are few spelling, grammar and punctuation efforts. Your
writing should exhibit proper English mechanics through sentence variety.

Citation of Sources: All data, information, and ideas are properly cited in ASA or APA format, and an accompanying reference page is included on the last page.

You must cite (a) the Posick book, (b) the USA Today website, and (c) at least two additional sources discovered through your research. These additional sources should be used to provide the necessary background information on your case. The Posick book should be used in explaining social disorganization theory when you describe how it applies (or does not apply) to your case. Appropriate types of sources include government reports or websites, reports by non-government organizations, respected newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.), documentary films and, of course, academic sources (peer-review journal articles or books). Do NOT use Wikipedia, social media news sites (Facebook, etc.), blogs or other questionable or unreliable sources of information.

The paper should be a minimum of 3.5 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-1.5” margins), but you are encouraged to write more. Also include a title page and reference page. The title page should indicate your year, major, and student number. The paper must be typed.
In-text citations and a reference page in ASA or APA format must be included. See the guideline on these citation formats posted on blackboard. All sources cited in the paper must be included in the reference page. The reference page and title page are not counted in the minimal page requirements.
You must rely mostly on your own words. No more than 15% of the paper should be quotes. Use quotes thoughtfully, not just to fill space on the page.
The papers are due on February 26 and must be submitted both via Blackboard and in hard copy form. A paper will not be counted as submitted on time if it is not uploaded through Blackboard before 5:30 PM on February 26. Please do not wait until the last minute to submit, in case there are technical issues you have to deal with. You will have to contact the IT Helpdesk if you have difficulties submitting through Blackboard.
Please see the syllabus for the course policy on missed assignments and late submissions.

Appendix: Indicators for social disorganization.
During your research to determine if social disorganization can explain the crime increase in a particular city, consider using the following variables for each concept:
Median household income
Median home and rental values
Some websites (such as have a variable measured as “percentage of residents in poverty”
Unemployment rate
Compare percentages of the listed racial/ethnic groups
Percentage of people “who speak a language other than English at home”
Percentage of residents “that are foreign born”
Population turnover:
Percentage of people who resided in current residence for more than 1 year
Look at “population estimates” and compare over time
“Vacant housing units”
“homeowner vacancy rate” and “rental vacancy rate”
Degree of Homeownership:
Compare percentage of owned versus rented residences
Single-parent families:
“male householder, no wife” or “female householder, no husband” with children 17 or under
There are other variables you can look at as well. These are just some of what you will find in the following websites:

For additional data on crime in cities, see:

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