Social Trust – Crime nexus


In a number of theories it is believed that there are variety of factors that cause crime. Some identify crime as a result of moral distortion in society and also increased level of selfishness or negligence in regard to social rules and laws. For individuals it is demonstrated as a lack of self-control (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). Another theory hypothesis suggests that crime related to trust and social bonds that tight society members (Coleman, 1988).  Of course there are another factors that have influence on crime level, such as poverty, level of education, GDP, urbanization, unemployment and etc. Recently authors focus on the relation between social capital and crime prevalence. Social capital, in other words, social trust is a measurement of quality of links in society and norms that explain the action of individuals in it. To this mainly relates cooperative behavior of individual agents (Putnam, 1993). Recent research papers conducted by Sampson (1997), Wilkinson (1998) and Kawachi (1999) show that countries with high levels of social capital also experience low crime rate. This findings aimed to show that trust in society possesses enough power to influence and to some extend control crime, through the channels of respect among community members.

Theoretical link between trust and crime

The idea is that people learn social values and attitudes through the channel of social relationship and voluntary participation was presented years ago by John Stuart Mill and Alexis De Tocqueville.  Author states that when basic conditions are not satisfied, such as weak and limited central government, individual agents come to rely less on the state and stimulate them to think about other affairs. These affairs are aimed to establish collective actions in order to get access to public and private goods. This shows civil integration     of agents with the same interests in order to form different societies. These societies facilitate education within and among agents to care about public affairs and encourage individual behavior and values in common goods. People get those values of public spirit and share responsibility through frequent public cooperation. Basic idea is that social capital does not work towards political objectives but also impede crime level by means of well promoted moral rules. Thus, by saying that individual agents of society invest into social capital is generally perceived that they form civil norms and increase cooperation to secure access to public goods, especially security (Putnam, Diversity, Community in the 21st Century, 2007).

Since social chain is a stem of social capital, areas with weak social cooperation have low level of social capital and thus suffer from high violence rates (Putnam , Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community, 2000). Another interpretation suggests that those who do not engage in this social movement, break social chain and engage in criminal activities (Uggen & Janikula, 1999). As an evidence, observation of Putnam shows that in US areas with low social engagement, volunteerism and social trust experience higher crime rates (Putnam , Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community, 2000). He explained this relation not only as monitor and enforcement of social norms, which form social capital, but also access to various opportunities beyond their core network. Disorganization theorists were also one of those who define relationship between social capital and crime. They emphasize that structural features of community, such as economic loss, residential imbalance and different preferences impede the spread of social trust among agents and hinder ability of the society to control level of violence (Bursik & Grasmick, 1993). The evidence of it is presented in recent studies of criminology studies on collective efficiency (Browing, Feinberg, & Dietz, 2004). They show that contribution to social capital increases social unity and ability of societies to promote common goods as they believe that agents will follow each other. Hence, taking into account above mentioned theoretical notions and studies conducted by different scholars we can derive that some element of social capital have power to reduce the homicide rate.


Based on evidence provided above this paper shows that nexus between social trust and crime actually exists. Paper presents several empirical research works conducted by different scholars in order to test hypothesis that social trust impacts level of crime. These previous works again  confirm that there is a significant relationship between social trust and homicide rate, and that stronger link and cooperation among community members reduces crime prevalence in society. Another finding supports believe that rate of unemployed people in society as a percentage of total labor force is positively related to crime rate. As we assumed above, this positive relation is quite logical.


Kennedy, B., Kawachi, I., Prothrow-Stith, D., Lochner, K., & Gupta, V. (1998). Social Capital, income inequalita, and firearm violent crime. Social Scince and Medicine.

LEderman, Daniel, Norman, L., & Ana, M. (2002). Violent Crime: Does Social Capital Matter. Economic Development and Cultural Change.

Putnam , R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, Simon and Schuster.

Putnam, R. (1993). Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton University Press.

Putnam, R. (2007). Diversity, Community in the 21st Century. Scandinavian Political Studies.

Rosenfel, Richard, Steven, F., & Eric, P. (2001). Social Capital and Homicide. Social Forces.

Uggen, C., & Janikula, J. (1999). Volunteerism and arrest in transition to adulthood. Social Forces.

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