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Community Education and Crime Prevention: Confronting Foreground and Background Causes of Criminal Behavior.

Community Education and Crime Prevention: Confronting Foreground and Background Causes of Criminal Behavior by Carolyn Siemens Ward, published by Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT, 1998

Community Education and Crime Prevention gives both specific insight into how the Hyde Park community of St. Louis, Missouri, manages criminal behavior as well as providing general information on crime prevention that any community can use. Community policing, a popular topic in law enforcement circles, receives attention throughout the United States in print, at lectures and conferences, and through course work. It encompasses community education, citizen involvement, and crime prevention. The author, a community education professor and member of the National Community Education Association, discusses all of these topics in Community Education and Crime Prevention.

The author begins by using a quote from Alexis de Toqueville: "Each person, withdrawn into himself, behaves as though he is a stranger to the destiny of all the others. As for his transactions with his fellow citizens, he may mix among them, but he sees them not; he touches them, but does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone. There no longer remains a sense of society." To the contrary, the author presents research clearly indicating that law enforcement agencies must become involved with citizens and create strategic and long-term plans to manage the increase in criminal behavior.

Community Education and Crime Prevention is divided into two parts. Part I addresses foreground causes (opportunity) of criminal behavior and consists of five chapters that include "A Theory of Crime Causation" and "Hyde Park Crime: Prevention Efforts and Their Effects." Part II confronts background causes (social malaise and demographics) and offers instruction on a community education approach. Within its fifteen chapters, Part II ranges from "What is Community Education?" to "Leadership for Community Education." The book includes theories by the authorities and the practical wisdom of the neighborhood citizenry. For example, one expert believes that "citizens tended to drastically misperceive the power arrangement in their communities, seeing more competition than actually existed." A local resident commented on the power structure by stating, "I look at it as pluralistic" and "we have a lot of different agencies that do a lot of different things."

The crux of the book lies with bringing citizens out of their individual circles and encouraging participation in every facet of the community's makeup. A basic step to accomplishing such a task involves using neighborhood schools as community centers to fulfill multiple purposes. Neighborhoods should conduct community events and meetings in neighborhood schools and keep the schools' doors open after school hours, allowing children a safe location to meet and play with friends. Parents should volunteer in their children's schools and understand how they can make positive changes. Additionally, neighborhoods should recruit or become aware of the existing service or social organizations whose outreach involves all aspects of family and community assistance. After instituting these services, families should spread the word about such opportunities and available assistance. All of these suggestions combine to form a final product. A strong, interwoven system of services and neighbors may effectively reduce crime in communities. Educating neighborhood residents leads to their empowerment.
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Trofimoff, Djana E.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 2000
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