48 J. Crim. L. Criminology & Police Sci. 12 (1957-1958)
Social Disorganization and Stake in Conformity: Complementary Factors in the Predatory Behavior of Hoodlums

handle is hein.journals/jclc48 and id is 22 raw text is: SOCIAL DISORGANIZATION AND STAKE IN CONFORMITY:
The author is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and the
holder of a Faculty Fellowship of the Social Science Research Council. He was during
1955, Co-Director of the Conference on Juvenile Delinquency in New Jersey con-
ducted by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs of Prince-
ton University. His Ph.D. Dissertation, Educational Maladjustment as a Predis-
posing Factor in Criminal Careers: A Comparative Study of Ethnic Groups, Harvard,
1950, contains a more extensive discussion of some of the points raised in this article.-
The American standard of living is one of the highest of any nation, yet burglary,
robbery, car theft, and other forms of larceny are frequent. These predatory crimes
are, as a matter of fact, much more numerous than crimes against the person such
as murder, rape, and aggravated assault. Furthermore, and this accentuates the para-
dox, in the United States a thief who steals because he is hungry or cold is a rarity.
Why should so much stealing occur in a rich country? The age and socio-economic
status of arrested offenders provide some clues. American thieves are usually young
hoodlums from slum neighborhoods. An explanation of their youth and neighbor-
hood of residence is that people are more prone to act upon'their anti-social impulses
when external controls over them are weak. Thus, one reason why adolescents are ar-
rested more often than older or younger people is that adolescents are less likely
to be under the influence of a family unit; they are becoming emancipated from the
family into which they were born but have not yet married and got involved in a new
family unit. Similarly, slum dwellers commit more thefts than suburbanites because
stealing is not universally frowned on in deteriorated neighborhoods as it is in wealth-
ier communities.' In short, predatory crime occurs when social vigilance is reduced.
Case histories of hoodlum type thieves generally support the social disorganiza-
tion explanation of stealing. Commonly, the street-corner rowdy grew up in a chaotic
household. His parents exercised ineffectual control over him, not necessarily be-
cause of indifference, but because they were overwhelmed by their own difficulties:
chronic warfare in the household; death, desertion, or serious illness of the bread-
winner; mental deficiency or disease; alcoholism; gambling; promiscuity; too many
children for an unskilled father to support or a harried mother to supervise. Such
problems not only reduce the effectiveness of parental control. By curtailing income
I It is of course possible to question these statements about the real incidence of stealing be-
havior. Data exist for arrested persons but not for offenders who eluded the police. WALTER RECK-
LESS, for example, speaks only of categoric risks in crime, and thereby avoids the danger of
unwarranted inferences. See his text. TI CRIsM PROBLEM, 2nd ed., New York: Appleton-Century-
Crofts, 1955, pp. 26-42.

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