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Why Do Criminals Obey the Law? The Influence of Legitimacy and Social Networks on Active Gun Offenders

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 102 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2012 Pages: 397-440
Andrew V. Papachristos; Tracy L. Meares; Jeffrey Fagan
Date Published
45 pages
This study examined why active offenders obey the law by surveying a sample of 141 offenders in 52 Chicago neighborhoods through the Chicago Gun Project (CGP).
The CGP survey posed a series of questions that solicited a profile of individual, neighborhood, and social network characteristics and their impact on a respondent's view of the substance of the law and the legitimacy of legal actors, particularly police. The analysis of survey findings indicates that although the sample as a whole had negative opinions of the law and legal authority (embodied in police), respondents' opinions of compliance with the law were not uniformly distributed across the sample. Gang members, especially those with social networks filled with criminal associates, were significantly less likely to view the law and its agents as legitimate forms of authority for their behavior. On the other hand, respondents, including gang members, with social networks less saturated with criminal associates had more positive views of the law and its agents. 4 tables, 4 figures, 100 notes, and appended survey questionnaire