TOPIC 6: Environmental approaches


Shaw and McKay

  • Began plotting addresses of people who committed crimes in Chicago
  • Dividing city into concentric zones - each of 5 zones had different levels of crime:
    • 1) Business district
    • 2) Zone of transition - poor
    • 3) Working class homes
    • 4) More middle class
    • 5) Commuter zone
  • Zone 2 = nearest city centre --> had most crime
  • Levels of crime decrease when moving further away from city centre
  • Zone of transition = area with high rate of population turnover --> rapid social change, population changing regularly
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Social disorganisation & cultural transmission

  • Immigrants moved to cheapest/least desirable zones
  • Places of those who had moved now taken by newer immigrants
  • Social disorganisation = weak/absent informal mechanisms of social control
  • Crime became culturally acceptable - passed on from one generation to next
  • Successful criminals provide role models for next generation - demonstrating normality of criminal behaviour
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Criticisms of Shaw and McKay

  • Criticised for being too vague
  • Sutherland and Cressey (1974): concept of differential association -
    • Frequency
    • Duration
    • Priority
    • Intensity
  • Everyone in society comes into contact with different people
  • Sutherland = the more time you spend with people who are not law abiding, the more likely you are to turn to crime
  • Family members have bigger influence than strangers
  • More crime in inner city - more people with criminal attitudes
  • People very influenced by those around them - cannot exercise free will
  • Research in UK failed to find that same pattern of concentric circles true for UK cities - crime rates vary by area, relationship more complex
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British studies

Housing policies

  • Morris (1967) =
    • Studied Croydon
    • Local council's policy of housing 'problem families' together --> created high crime areas
  • Baldwin and Bottoms (1976) =
    • Most estates consist of mixture of households with people from different backgrounds
    • Tipping = area changes, goes 'downhill' - e.g. criminal and anti-social behaviour increases
  • Law-abiding/respectable families leave as soon as they can --> friends/relatives enter estates
  • Wilson and Kelling (1982) =
    • Broken Windows Theory = if single broken window in abandoned house left unmended, other windows will break


  • Skogan (1990) =
    • Social control breaks down when there is physical deterioration of buildings combined with increase in social disorder --> cause law-abiding citizens to move out of area
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Social capital

  • Refers to extent to which person has network of social contacts made up of friends/family in particular area
  • Communities with low social capital levels - more likely to have higher crime rates
  • Wilson (1996) =
    • Problem neighbourhoods in US = high levels of social interaction, low levels of social control
    • Comes from sense of powerlessness/lack of integration
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Explaning offences

Cognitive maps:

  • P.J and P.L Brantingham (1991) =
    • We all hold cognitive maps of towns/cities
    • Offenders more likely to commit offences where opportunities link with 'cognitively known' areas
    • 'Cognitively known' areas = less likely to be burgled

Opportunity theory:

  • How attractive target is = e.g. how much can be gained by committing crime against particular place/person
  • How accessible target is = e.g. how easy it is to commit crime

Routine activities:

  • Cohen and Felson (1979) =
    • Crimes more likely to occur where day-to-day activities of victims/offenders likely to coincide
    • Likely to occur in places with no 'capable guardian'
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Situational crime prevention

  • Crime can be reduced by making costs/risks associated with crime outweigh possible rewards
  • E.g. Neighbourhood Watch schemes

The privatisation of public space:

  • 'The institution of privacy' = policing tended to be against deviant activities carried out in public, less stress placed on violence/abuse
  • Shearing and Stenning (1983) =
    • Growth of shopping centres/leisure complexes
    • People are welcomed - privately owned
  • CCTV and security guards = police increasingly confined to peripheral areas of city/poorer housing estates
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Time: the night-time economy

  • Night-time economy = huge growth in pubs/clubs in last 15 years
  • 2003 = 210 million club admissions - £2.5 billion
  • Investment in night-time economy = £1 billion a year, growing at annual rate of 10%
  • Hobbs (2003) =
    • 75,000 people visiting clubs/pubs/bars on Friday and Saturday nights in Manchester
    • 30 police officers for control, 1000 door staff/'bouncers'
    • Control of night-time economy largely been passed from police to private security companies
  • Taylor (1999) - globalisation:
    • Huge decrease in manufacturing/associated loss of traditional working-class employment
    • Traditionally industrial towns seen significant decline in local economies
    • Decline in town centres = shops/manufacturing premises closing down, increase in unemployed people
    • High levels of unemployment = areas of highest levels of disorder/crime
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