Crime, Law, and Group Politics in Two Urban Locales
This chapter begins with a discussion of the need to re-vision political mobilization and interest group activity through the lens provided by politicized urban neighborhoods. The scholarly emphasis on formal organization, resource mobilization, and policy strategies often obscures low-income residents' active political engagement with a full range of quality-of-life issues, from graffiti, vandalism, and illegal billboard advertisements to aggressive drug dealing, hate crimes, and gun violence. The chapter details the interest group environment on the crime issue in two large urban locales, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. At the urban level—unlike the state and national levels—this chapter reveals a stunning array of broadly focused citizen groups that are active and regular participants in crime control politics. These groups range from formal organizations, such as long-standing community councils, to informal and new organizations formed in the aftermath of tragic, violent crimes. They interact with lawmakers through legislative hearings but also through a wide range of informal contacts. In contrast, police and prosecutors are more limited in their interaction with legislators, which shifts problem definitions and policy frames away from punishing offenders and toward broader social problems facing high-crime communities.
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