Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


International Crime and Justice

First Advisor's Name

Stewart D'Alessio

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Lisa Stolzenberg

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Carleen Vincent

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Valerie Patterson

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member



Date of Defense



Black citizens represent 13% of the U.S. population; however, they account for approximately 53% of all homicide arrests and 38% of all arrests for violent crimes. Dejectedly, the high level of violent crime is not only contributing to high black incarceration rates, but also making disadvantaged neighborhoods worse. Though a number of theories have been advanced to explain the high rate of black violence, one potential explanation that has received comparatively little attention in the extant literature is the notion of self-help. It is conceptualized as a mode of social control whereby violent behavior is used to punish an individual, express discontentment, and/or achieve restitution.

A significant predictor of the use of self-help as a mechanism of social control is the amount of legal protection provided to citizens by the state. While the police are the primary state agency responsible for providing protection, research consistently shows that black citizens have a more negative perception of police; hence, it stands to reason that blacks may be resorting to self-help to increase social control in their communities as opposed to mobilizing law enforcement. This could explain why the rate of violent criminal behavior is higher for black citizens.

Racial population subgroups place considerable value on racial diversity and representation in governmental agencies; thus, it seems reasonable to speculate that having a racially diverse police force would be salient for decreasing self-help among black citizens by increasing their respect for and belief in the trustworthiness and impartiality of the police. Using a multilevel design and data obtained from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS), and Census for 113 U.S. cities, the current study endeavors to provide a more direct test of whether self-help can explain why violence is higher among black citizens. Results indicate that the racial diversity of a police force plays a significant role in black citizens’ firearm usage in a crime. Thus, as the racial diversity of a police department increases in a city, the likelihood that a black citizen will use a firearm in a crime decreases markedly.



Included in

Criminology Commons



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