Collective (in) efficacy, substance abuse and violence in ‘‘Freedom Park,’’ Cape Town

Mercy Brown-Luthango in Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, May 2015. 

Using collective efficacy as a lens, the paper tries to understand high levels of violence and crime within an urban settlement in Cape Town, which has recently undergone an upgrading process from an informal into a formal settlement. Theory and evidence from North America are that collective efficacy (social cohesion and informal control) has a significant bearing on levels of violence and crime and impacts on the ability of a community to regulate antisocial behavior. The paper has three main concerns, namely (a) the impact of the upgrading project on social cohesion within the settlement (b) the impact of an apparent decrease in social cohesion on informal measures of social control and the community’s ability to regulate crime and violence in the settlement and (c) how the presence of a concentration of illegal liquor and drug outlets affects collective efficacy and levels of violence and crime in turn.

Research in Freedom Park reveals that the upgrading project did seem to diminish levels of social cohesion, marked by trust and solidarity, within the settlement. Whereas residents had previously depended on one another to maintain order and safety within the settlement, after upgrading, these informal arrangements and support structures have all but disappeared. A proliferation of illegal alcohol and drug outlets has simultaneously contributed to increasing levels of violence and crime and eroded social cohesion among residents. This research shows that while collective efficacy does provide a useful starting point, given the complex nature of violence and crime, it cannot be considered in isolation of broader structural constraints like poverty and unemployment, which feed into a vicious cycle of deprivation violence and crime in disadvantaged neighborhoods in cities of the South.

Available for download via the Safer Spaces website.

Image via Nar8iv / Scott W


Publication Type Journal Article
Publisher Journal of Housing and the Built Environment
Year 2015
Author(s) Mercy Brown-Luthango
DOI 10.1007/s10901-015-9448-3
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One Response to “Collective (in) efficacy, substance abuse and violence in ‘‘Freedom Park,’’ Cape Town”

  1. alicia Fortuin

    This is in my home area. I used to walk past this space everyday to get to school. I spent many a afternoons playing in the sandpit and park on that same field. Interesting to see the image here, now as an aspiring researcher in community violence and crime protection in excluded ghettos !


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