UNDERSTANDING CODE OF THE STREET ATTITUDE UPDATING: IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICE PERCEPTIONS, RACE, AND GEOGRAPHIC CONTEXT
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Elijah Anderson’s 1999 Code of the Street thesis posited that individuals might develop and espouse subcultural attitudes supporting violence and aggression in response to feelings of marginalization and isolation. Despite attempts to test Anderson’s arguments, little research has attempted to study code of the street attitudes in a longitudinal context, specifically with a focus on individual change over time. This dissertation addresses this research gap in several ways.
First, the concept of attitude or perception updating almost exclusively arises in deterrence research. However, it is an appropriate, first-order, question to ask whether individual code of the street attitudes are malleable across time or are relatively static. Second, Anderson (1999) argues that mistrust of the police and isolation from the rule of law influence attitudinal change and willingness to adhere to subcultural principles. However, no empirical research to date has explicitly considered the relationship among perceptions of the police, police actions, and code of the street attitudes. Third, nearly all research studying the code of the street in a longitudinal context draws from a racially and geographically homogenous sample. While scholars have approached the question of racial and geographic invariance in examining other important criminological theories and concepts, researchers have not addressed them in testing principles of the code of the streets, particularly with regard to longitudinal attitude updating.
The current work addresses these prominent gaps using data from the six-wave Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) II sample. The study uses a within-individual fixed-effects modeling approach examine the nature of code of the street attitude updating, specifically in response to changing perceptions of the police, experiences with police questioning, and arrest. Finally, this study examines how invariant code of the street updating is with respect to different races and geographic contexts. Results demonstrate that updating does occur, regardless of one’s initial attitudes. Further, although results show a robust relationship between perceptions of police and attitude updates, the nature of the relationship varies across race and geographic context, though not necessarily in a way that comports with traditional criminological understanding. The study concludes with implications for policy and theory, with the central ideas that: a) “updating” should play a more prominent idea in understanding subcultural attitudes; b) scholars need to understand the role police play in perpetuating (or curtailing) subcultural attitudes; and, c) policy prescriptions may differ across context.