Jan Doering. 2017. “Afraid of Walking Home From the L at Night? The Politics of Crime and Race in Integrated Neighborhoods.” Social Problems. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spw059
Street crime can easily agitate residents and cause distrust and division in integrated neighborhoods. How does this sensitive issue materialize in local politics? This article examines 25 years of electoral campaigning for the position of city council representative (“alderman”) in two integrated Chicago neighborhoods. It reports three main findings. First, crime became and—at least in one neighborhood—remains a central issue in local electoral campaigning even as the crime rate continued to drop over the study period. Second, the politics of crime often spilled over into racial politics as candidates charged each other with inciting racial division or discounting legitimate fears. Third, despite nearly identical crime rates in the two neighborhoods, crime as a political issue eventually declined in one neighborhood, while remaining highly salient in the other. This finding suggests that neighborhood politics influence local discourse and produce divergent perceptions of crime. Implications for scholarship on the politics of crime and race, as well as urban neighborhoods, are discussed.