In 2009, Chicago spent millions of dollars to create programs to prevent gang violence in some of its most disadvantaged neighborhoods. Yet in spite of the programs, violence has grown worse in some of the very neighborhoods that the violence prevention programs were intented to help. While public officials and social scientists often attribute the violence - and the failure of the programs - to a lack of community in poor neighborhoods, closer study reveals another source of community division: local politics. Through an ethnographic case study of Chicago's Little Village neighborhood, Wounded City dispells the popular belief that a lack of community is the primary source of violence, arguing that competition for political power and state resources often undermine efforts to reduce gang violence. Robert Vargas argues that the state, through the way it governs, can contribute to distrust and division among community members, thereby undermining social cohesion. The strategic actions taken by police officers, politicians, nonprofit organizations, and gangs to collaborate or compete for power and resources can vary block by block, triggering violence on some blocks while successfully preventing it on others. A rich blend of urban politics, sociology, and criminology, Wounded City offers a cautionary tale for elected officials, state agencies, and community based organizations involved with poor neighborhoods.
The study of how the environment, local geography, and physical locations influence crime has a long history that stretches across many research traditions. These include the neighborhood effects approach developed in the 1920s, the criminology of place, and a newer approach that attends to the perception of crime in communities. Aided by new technologies and improved data-reporting in recent decades, research in environmental criminology has developed rapidly within each of these approaches. Yet research in the subfield remains fragmented and competing theories are rarely examined together. The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Criminology takes a unique approach and synthesizes the contributions of existing methods to better integrate the subfield as a whole. Gerben J.N. Bruinsma and Shane D. Johnson have assembled a cast of top scholars to provide an in-depth source for understanding how and why physical setting can influence the emergence of crime, affect the environment, and impact individual or group behavior. The contributors address how changes in the environment, global connectivity, and technology provide more criminal opportunities and new ways of committing old crimes. They also explore how crimes committed in countries with distinct cultural practices like China and West Africa might lead to different spatial patterns of crime. This is a state-of-the-art compendium on environmental criminology that reflects the diverse research and theory developed across the western world.