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    We are grateful to Steve Messner for his advice on an earlier version of this paper.

  • Fred E. Markowitz is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Northern Illinois University. His research interests include attitudes and violence, stigma and recovery from mental illness, and social control. He is currently working on a project examining the relationship between psychiatric hospital capacity and crime rates in the United States.

  • Paul E. Bellair is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at The Ohio State University. His current research examines relationships between labor market characteristics and adolescent delinquency and measurement of community networks and informal control.

  • The late Allen E. Liska was Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Albany and a Fellow of the American Society of Criminology. At the time of his death, in December 1998, his research interests concerned the consequences of crime for the social composition and organization of communities and the interrelationships between bureaucratic forms of social control. Among numerous Journal articles and several books, he is the author of Perspectives on Crime and Deviance, with Steven F. Messner (1999, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall).

  • Jianhong Liu is an Associate Professor at Rhode Island College. He received his Ph.D. from SUNY-Albany. He is the co-editor of Social Control in a Changing China (Greenwood Publishing Group), with Lening Zhang and Steven F. Messner. His research interests include communities and crime, Chinese criminal justice, and quantitative methods. He is currently working on projects examining “negative social capital” and subcultural values in Chinese gangs and economically motivated crime in China.


In this study, we build on recent social disorganization research, estimating models of the relationships between disorder, burglary, cohesion, and fear of crime using a sample of neighborhoods from three waves of the British Crime Survey. The results indicate that disorder has an indirect effect on burglary through fear and neighborhood cohesion. Although cohesion reduces disorder, nonrecursive models show that disorder also reduces cohesion. Part of the effect of disorder on cohesion is mediated by fear. Similar results are obtained in nonrecursive burglary models. Together, the results suggest a feedback loop in which decreases in neighborhood cohesion increase crime and disorder, increasing fear, in turn, further decreasing cohesion.