In Streetwise, Elijah Anderson (1990) discusses the social forces at work in an urban area he calls the Village-Northton. His is a sociological field study of the daily interactions between the residents of an area encompassing two communities--in his words, "one black and low income to very poor (with an extremely high infant mortality rate), [and] the other racially mixed but becoming increasingly middle to upper income and white" (Anderson, 1990, p. ix). In keeping with valid sociological fieldwork, Anderson (1990) immersed himself in the community from the summer of 1975 through the summer of 1989.
Anderson makes a strong case for the inevitability of ghetto life--in other words, once "ghettoization" begins, it continues its course without regard to a neighborhood's tentative and transitory movement toward gentrification. The middle class and well-heeled whites and minority cultures who move into regenerating urban communities are attracted to city life for its vibrancy and "charm," yet they ultimately are playing with fire when it comes to sharing the same neighborhood which was formerly the turf of gangs, prostitutes, drug dealers, and other societal deviants. Such areas are frequently called "colorful," when they are, in fact, dangerous. Charm and color quickly turn to fear and suspicion after more than enough reports of car break-ins, gang retaliations, and drug deals gone bad fill the local news. As Anderson (1990) points out in his conclusion:
For those only weakly committed to city living, particularly middle-class people who have serious difficulty with social diversity and who have clear housing alternatives, the "problem-free" suburbs become tempting. After an incident such as a car break-in or a bicycle theft, a "last straw" can make them leave. (249)
It is interesting to note that, in the above excerpt, Anderson (1990) uses very "minor" instances of crimes. But one too many minor crimes adds up to a...