Clean Streets

Controlling Crime, Maintaining Order, and Building Community Activism

209 pages

15 illustrations

December, 2005

ISBN: 9780814716632



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Patrick J. Carr is Assistant Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University.

All books by Patrick J. Carr

With the close proximity of gangs and the easy access to drugs, keeping urban neighborhoods safe from crime has long been a central concern for residents. In Clean Streets, Patrick Carr draws on five years of research in a white, working-class community on Chicago’s South side to see how they tried to keep their streets safe. Carr details the singular event for this community and the resulting rise of community activism: the shootings of two local teenage girls outside of an elementary school by area gang members. As in many communities struck by similar violence, the shootings led to profound changes in the community's relationship to crime prevention. Notably, their civic activism has proved successful and, years after the shooting, community involvement remains strong.

Carr mines this story of an awakened neighborhood for unique insights, contributing a new perspective to the national debate on community policing, civic activism, and the nature of social control. Clean Streets offers an important story of one community's struggle to confront crime and to keep their homes safe. Their actions can be seen as a model for how other communities can face up to similarly difficult problems.


  • “For citizen groups, this research provides compelling stories of how neighborhoods can come together to resolve serious problems; for police and government officials, it shows how they can partner with residents to create truly community—based efforts to curb violence; and, for researchers, it furnishes a synthesis of research and points to new hypotheses that can be tested.”

    Criminal Justice Review

  • Clean Streets will take its place alongside other outstanding community ethnographies in the tradition of the Chicago School. An engaging and insightful book that will be widely cited and discussed.”

    —William Julius Wilson, author of When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor

  • “In an era of declining civic involvement, persistent fear of crime, and cynicism about the efficacy of grassroots community action, Clean Streets offers a story of hope. Using his eye for detail, Carr examines how community residents respond to gang violence, graffiti and other forms of physical disorder, unresponsive judges, and problems at the corner tavern. Clean Streets offers an intriguing organizational framework for community members and public officials in their fight against crime, violence, and disorder.”

    —John H. Laub, co-author of Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70

  • “Patrick Carr shows us that policing can have a stimulating effect; that communities can mobilize and restore their moral force with tolerance to others and with moderation. This ethnographic study should be read. It should give us hope.”

    —Peter K. Manning, author of Police Work: The Social Organization of Policing

  • “In sum, the core theoretical achievement of Clean Streets, the development of new concepts and ideas regarding successful social control at the local level, merits close attention from sociologists of various persuasions and with varied interests.”

    —Margarethe Kusenbach, University of South Florida