Environmental approaches Essay

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Assess the usefulness of environmental approaches in explaining the causes and extent of deviance in society. 21 marks Crimes of locality affect all urban areas throughout the world. Sociologists have tried to explain how and why these crimes occur and others have put forward theories to try and stop crimes from happening. Shaw and McKay of Chicago University used a system in which the city was seen as divided into five concentric circles radiating from the centre. The central business district was found in the centre of cities with the next circle consisting of the zone of transition where the highest offending rate is.

Shaw and McKay explained this offending as the result of a high rate of population turnover, poverty and poor housing, which combined to create social disorganisation this is a situation where there was no strongly established community and therefore no shared values which could prevent offending. Usually Immigrants came to the city and lived where the cheapest housing were. Than after a number of years they get out and other immigrants take their place. By changing the meaning of social disorganisation to mean a set of non-conformist values, it encouraged offending.

These values were passed from generation through socialisation or cultural transmission; where group crime was culturally acceptable, and criminals became role models for the next generation. Bottom argues that Shaw and McKay confused where people lived with where they committed offences, so people from outside the zone of transition could have committed the offences there. Bottoms also notes concentric circles models do not fit in the town planning and social housing model of most European cities. Other studies looked more at where offences take place than where the offenders live.

Wilkstrom found the highest offending rates near the centre of Stockholm, in poorer areas, and in rich areas adjacent to poor areas. In response, Sutherland and Cressey introduced differential association this simply means that if people interact with others who support lawbreaking, then they are likely to do themselves. Tightening their approach, Sutherland suggested that these definitions vary in frequency; the number of times the definitions vary, duration; over a length of time, priority; the stage of life and intensity; the status of the person making the definition. Crime rates certainly varied by areas, but in more complex patterns.

For example in Morris’s study of Croydon, the local council’s policy of housing problems-families together meant that these areas became, almost by definition high crime areas. Baldwin and Bottoms compared two similar local authority housing estates, separated by dual carriageway. One of the estates had a 300% higher number of offenders and had a 350% higher level of crimes than the other. The difference according to them was the result of a process called ‘tipping’. Most estates consist of a mixture of people from different backgrounds and with different forms of behaviour.

However if the antisocial minority grew in numbers, their behaviour drives away some law-abiding families. Those that enter the estate tend to be relatives of the antisocial. This leads to the estates becoming increasingly regarded as a problem estate as they have been ‘tipped’ by antisocial individuals or families. Skogan suggests that social control breaks down an increase in social disorder. This leads to a situation of disorder, which has three consequences. It undermines system of informal social control and leads people to withdraw.

It generates worries about neighbourhood safety. Finally it causes law abiding people who can afford it to move out of the area which leads to a decrease in property value. Social disorganisation explains crime and deviance as a lack of common, shared values. Recently, there has been a shift back to understanding the role of values. Putnam’s concept of social capital, argues that there has been a decline in the extent to which people are linked into family and friendship networks. The result is that individuals feel more alone and less confident about engaging in community activity.

According to Putnam, it results in a weak community unable to impose social control on those who engage offending. Wilson explains the high levels of offending in deprived neighbourhoods. He argues there’s high level of social interaction between people, so it is not true that people are isolated. However, low levels of social control. Wilson suggests that this comes from a lack of integration into wider society. People in deprived areas do interact, but not in the way that provides social control for young people, as adults themselves feel isolated from broad society.

Sampson et al studied the inner city of Chicago supporting Wilson’s model. They found considerable social interaction between people in little community organisation they called this ‘collective efficiency’. Areas with higher levels of collective efficiency had lower rate of crime than those without, no matter how much personal social interaction occurred. Other approaches have looked at where offences place and why they occur in these places and not others. If crimes are most likely to be committed in areas that offenders know, then the next question must be why, within these areas.

Felson argues that crime rates are related to opportunity. This depends on the target attractiveness for example valuable items above large lower value items, and accessibility; how easy the object is to steal without any witnesses. Brantingham and Brantingham argue that people have different perceptions of areas of towns and cities depending on where they live, where they work, where they go for leisure and their routes between these different areas. The map a person carries in their mind of an area is called a ‘cognitive map’.

Offences are most likely to take place when the opportunity arises in an area with which a potential offender is cognitively familiar. Wiles and Costello studied Sheffield; they found burglars travelled on average only two miles to commit an offence. Hobbes et al has an interesting theory of the significance of time; it is what they call ‘nocturnal economy’. In the last 15 years there has been a growth in pubs and clubs, Britain’s younger generation have embraced the leisure society; by going out at the weekend to consume alcohol or possibly drugs and to enjoy oneself.

In 2002, for example, over 200 million club admissions to the value of ? 2. 5 billion. This means that a huge number of younger people come together within a very narrow time band in order to engage in the search for pleasure. Almost three quarters of all violent incidents in urban areas occur during the weekend between 9pm and 3pm; this is usually between groups of young males fuelled by drink and or drugs. There are relatively few police officers available. The bulk of policing is performed by private security companies employed by the pubs and clubs.

The high rates of violence occur within this framework of time and space. Taylor added a global perspective about nocturnal economy and crime. The development of the nocturnal economy is bound up with the process of globalization, and its impact upon Britain. According to Taylor, the impact of the global economy on Britain has been a huge decrease in traditional working class employment. This is reflected in a decline in town centres and manufacturing districts, with shops and manufacturing premise closing down, and an increase in the number of unemployed or irregular work.

The leisure industry has taken over a number of the derelict buildings for clubs and bars, whilst providing a limited number of jobs in these services and in security. Taylor suggests that where the levels of unemployment has remained the highest there is likely to be the highest levels of disorder and crime, and in those cities where the unemployment has not risen, there is less crime or at least a slower growth in crime. Official statistics show that recorded crime is higher in urban areas than rural, especially in particular areas/neighbourhoods of towns or cities.

The environment of the city has been the blame for deviant behaviour of its population. The British Crime Survey and police recorded crime show that rural areas, compared to urban areas: have lower rates of all types of crime, also lower proportion of people with levels of worry about crime and finally lower levels of perceptions by people of high levels of antisocial behaviour in their area. Marshall and Johnson showed that anxiety and worry about all crime types is less in rural areas compared to urban and inner-city areas, rural residents see themselves as less likely to become a victim of crime than those in urban areas.

Marshall and Johnson also show rural areas to have higher risk of burglaries among high-income households than among lower-income ones. In urban areas the poor rob the poor; in rural areas it seems the poor rob the rich. Rural communities generally lack the social disorganization found in zones of transition. Marshall and Johnson point out that rural areas are more ‘close knit’, with higher levels of social interaction between people in the area, including kin relations.

People are likely to know other members of the community through informal knowledge of their family and community history, rather than through their formal positions, like their job. The opposite is often the case in urban areas, where many people will hardly even know their next door neighbours, let alone those living in the wider area. Community bonds are therefore stronger in rural areas, which may contribute to lower crime rates. Strategies to prevent and control crime have generally come from two sociological sources, The Right and Left Realisms.

Both theories are concerned by explaining and preventing crimes that have negative impact upon the lives of ordinary people. Right Realists emphasis on the individual. People choose to commit crime because the benefits outweigh the costs. Society needs to look a way to increase the costs of crime. Whereas Left Realists believe that the organisation of society especially the inequality, disadvantaged and poverty result from the crime environment to be a norm. Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) is aimed at reducing opportunities for crime.

By encouraging potential victims to ‘design out’, in investing in security and CCTV. The aim is to increase criminals being caught and/or reduce opportunity for crime. However Felson and Clarke argue that SCP strategies displace rather than reduce crime. Criminals will move to where targets are softer. Marxists state SCP creates a new type of social inequality, as the poor cannot afford security or CCTV. Marxist also argues alongside Left Realists that the SCP ignores the root cause of crime such as poverty and inequality. The Environmental Crime Prevention is influenced by Right Realists Wilson.

This argues that crime causes anti-social behaviour e. g. vandalism. If these behaviours are tolerated and continued then areas will deteriorate. The failure to deal with these problems sends signals to criminals no one cares, encouraging them at the same time. However these occur if social control is weak. As the respectable members move away and more anti-social elements replace them. Police feel anti-social behaviour is not their responsibility, and they should target more serious types of crime. Wilson notes public housing estates are more likely to experience social problems.

These problems arise because residents don not take the responsibility, therefore resulting to anti-social elements taking over. Although Wilson came up with proposes for environmental solutions such as: any sign of environmental decline must be tackled immediately. Public housing should not exceed three floors, and residents should take the responsibility for looking after the building. Police should assertively tackle all types of crime and disorder. Left Realists and Marxists argue that both the SCP and ECP are doomed t failure because they fail to treat the cause of the social disease of crime.

Politicians need to address the economic and social conditions that bring about the risk conditions for crime, especially in young and ethnic minority groups. Left Realists argue urban crime is a rational response to the lack of opportunities and powerlessness that deprived groups feel when coming to improve their situations. Left Realists argue economic and social reform programmes need to be administrated by the government if crime is to be seriously reduced. These policies include: educational programmes aimed at improving success, reducing a number of sixteen year olds leaving with no qualifications.

Minimum pay legislation to ensure people are paid fairly. A reduction in wealth and income inequalities. Finally economic investments in poorer urban communities to create jobs. Generally, Left Realists argue there should be more coordinated attempts to improve people’s economic and social opportunities. If people feel UK is meritocratic they are likely to experience relative deprivation and powerlessness, therefore the humiliation of poverty etc becomes the fuel for most crime. However these ideas are criticised as being soft on crime and criminals as they imply its societies fault rather than individual’s choice.

Furthermore Left Realists fail to explain why most people living in poverty do not commit crime. Right Realists argue that Left Realists make excuses for criminals and tighter control is more effective socialization of children, and more severe punishments are the main source to reduce crime. One main measure people believe is effective in preventing crime is punishment, especially prison, where they believe can reduce crime in a number of ways. One example is Deterrence where Right Realists suggest ‘prison works’ as prison deters potential offenders away from crime.

Another example is Incapacitation again the Right Realists argue that prison removes known criminals from the streets so they cannot offend again. Finally Rehabilitation, some people believe that punishment can be used to reform or change offenders. It encourages prisoners to earn honest living once realised. The UK has invested heavily in prisons. The UK has the most life sentenced prisoners in the whole of the Western Europe combined. Matthews argues the scale of imprisonment has little impact on the crime rates. He argues that prisons act as ‘universities of crime’ and are ‘expensive ways of making bad people worse’.

At the best, prisons are ‘warehouses’ where the root cause of the offending is not addressed enough. Subsections of the population in prison should not be there because they are either mentally ill or drug addicts, these people need treatment rather than punishment. E. Solomon suggests individuals are imprisoned for relatively minor offences for which community punishment is more suitable. Matthews suggests up to 50% of the prison population committed minor offences for which prison is inappropriate and possibly damaging.

Finally, the high rate of recidivism suggests prison does not deter. Two thirds of the offenders released re-offend, as do 71% of juvenile offenders, within a two year release. Overall the evidence suggests that prison is not changing the behaviour of offenders. This as a result suggests that prison does not necessarily work more the majority of the offenders. To conclude, the official crime rate is significantly higher in urban areas than in rural areas. Larger urban areas provide greater opportunities for crime, for example greater shops, cars and business premises.

There is also a greater police presence in urban areas so more crime is likely to be detected. Different policing methods mean that the police are more likely to take formal action, such as arresting and prosecuting people, in urban areas. In large cities, life is more impersonal and people do not know each other so well. Strangers are likely to go unrecognised and potential criminals are less likely to offend within a small rural community where everyone knows everyone else. Finally social deprivation and other social problems are likely to be at their worst in inner cities.

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