Urban criminology

Is there any Theory to Understand Urban Criminology

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Critical Account Of The Nature Of Urban Crime

Critical Account Of The Nature Of Urban Crime using both empirical examples and theoretical insights

General opportunities for criminal activities is higher in urban areas in comparison to the rural areas. This aspect can also be noticed by criminology statistics of the England and Wales. Figures of criminology shows that there are high level of burglary, vehicle related thefts and violence in urban area and this crime rate is continuously increasing (Bassiouni, 2012). In addition to this, youth in urban cities get high opportunities for engagement in criminal activities due to changing surroundings and neighbourhood factors. Increase in urban crime is influenced by various factors and incidents. These factors have been described by various criminologists through their subjective approach.

In the 19th century, there have been contrasting features in comparison and relevance to urban and rural communities. With the growing poverty and interruptions in living of human being, there has been increase in crimes. In England, UK, there has been shown proportion of a person per 100,000 committing the trail for crime in 1805-1842. However, rapid urbanization lead to people weed out from the traditional ways of living life and forced them into the lifestyle of poverty and overcrowding livelihood (Brown, 2012). While considering the employment of the human being, it was noticed that people were facing fluctuations in the labour market. There was no security of the job, associated benefits, social security etc. All these factors proved major contributor of crime in the society. Gradually, with the change and development growth, there has also been seen fast growth rate of urban criminology.


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Urban criminology can be best explained in the way of its development into society. Commencing from 19th century where there were London dock workers who were found struggling with the money. This includes the highwaymen who belonged to rural communities. At that time, it was a robbery which later took the shape of crime. Gradually, with the passage of time rural communities had been developed with the commerce and trade. These lead to emergence of thieves due to prevailing of ungovernable locations (Taslitz, 2011). The major reason which leads to the rise of thieves, therefore crime is due to development of commerce, trade and towns. Gradually, it took shape of growth in the skills of urban thieves which made people to make use of various ways in which ways were required to explore for strengthening the safety and protection.

Moreover, the growth and development of the working class society have been examined because of various factors. Along with the same, there has been shown tremendous growth in the standard of living. This leads to growth in working class people. They are seems to fall in more desire for money and wealth. The curiosity for luxurious living, good food and intention of more has been one more factor that contributes to the crime. It is when people do not see any alternative for earning money; they lose their humanity and participate into activities of crime. The class of society has been also one factor which leads to crime (López, 2013). People started comparing themselves which in turn made them desire for more and therefore crime. Moreover, there are inclusive of various characteristics such as differences that are examined between masculinity and femininity, concepts of privacy and male power in the community. These aspects have dirct and indirect impact on the rise of crime. This has been evidenced in the form of crime activity such as domestic violence.

Family and job opportunities later developed the activities such as entertainment and leisure. This lead to emergence of boys clubs, music halls etc. With this growth in urban areas, people and their living culture were strengthened and solidified. There has been shown incredible expansion of urban communities such as work, home, pub and entertainment, school and law times (Hallsworth and Lea, 2011). This leads to rise in public space and gathering which let people expose them. Crime rate hike has been increased because of these factors stated above. All these factors have been contributory in the production of criminal activity.

Research literature on urban crime can be bifurcated in two main areas. First is concerned with the comparison of cities in order to understand why some specific areas have high criminal rates in the comparison to another. Second area of the research literature is focused on the variations in criminal level in urban cities (McLeod, 2012). However, both these research areas are concerned with the similar theories and are focused on the same social forces. Primary theories concerned with the nature of urban crime are subculture, conflict theories and disorganization.

In accordance with the subcultural theory, mainly there are two types of urban crime i.e. subculture of violence and subculture of poverty. In both the groups, there is common belief that certain groups carry out a set of norms and values due to which they are more likely to get engaged in the criminal activities. According to the Brown, subculture of violence states that high violence rate is consequence of the culture where general criminology believes that violence is an acceptable form of behaviour. In addition to this, carriers of the subculture of violence are quicker in comparison to the other activities (Brown, 2012). It is because; situation that normally generates anger in an individual is able to provoke violence. For the formulation of such ideas, various criminologists believe that social institutions contribute for the development and persistence of a subculture conducive to violence and criminality. For this aspect, example of disintegration by various institutions can be considered such as families, schools and churches. These institutions do not consider certain individuals (minorities) for the learning opportunities, values and conventional norms. Theoretically, they promote equality but in practical life they consider discrimination (Ristroph, 2011). Consequently, certain groups have more violent behaviour as they are aggressive towards the society and for them, violence is an acceptable means for solving the situation or for taking revenge.

According to the study of Graham Dewhirst, generally in main urban areas, the number of crimes recorded (per 1000 of population) is significantly greater than in comparison to the rural areas. As per their study, urban crime rate is 130 in comparison to the rural crime rate of 50.2. However, the gap between these crime rates has been reduced drastically over the past four years. It is because, in 2011-12 this was gap of 95.8 and at present is only 79.8. This aspect shows there is reduction of 17.5% in criminal rates.

Comparison of crime in urban and rural areas show that criminal activities are bifurcated in various categories. For burglary rate of reduction in crime in urban area is double in comparison to the rural areas (Crawford, 2011). With the changing environment, urban area is developing and consequently there is improvement in the security aspects. However, for the criminal damage and arson rate of reduction in rural area is higher than urban areas. It is because, individual residing in the urban areas are more aggressive and short tempered due to daily activities (Lynch, 2014). As a consequence, they are more likely to get engaged in the criminal activities. In accordance with their point of view, it is remedy for their loss occurred to them due to society. Violence and sexual offenses are continuously increasing in both urban and rural areas. People are using violence for their mental relief and due to this they are hurting weaker party physically and mentally.

In this aspect, classical statement provided by Wolfgang and Ferracuti's can be considered in The Subculture of Violence: Towards an Integrated Theory in Criminology (1967). In this subject matter, contribution is also provided by Elkins and Curtis, (1975). As per the viewpoint of critics, the major drawback with this perspective is that it tends to look out over the interrelationship of institutional deterioration and normative processes with the more structural features of a given community (Dervan, 2011). Due to this aspect, it is difficult to rationalize it with a testable fashion. It is because; presence of subcultural values cannot be certainly measured in individuals as per their predictable behaviour.

According to the study of Taslitz economic and psychological factors also contribute in urban crime along with the cultural factors. In this aspect, criminologists states that personality traits and predispositions have vital role in the criminal behavior of individual. These traits and predispositions occurred through the surroundings. In accordance with this study, imbalance in emotions can be result in unruly behavior and it will increase the chances of resorting to the crime (Taslitz, 2011). By considering changing lifestyle of urban people there is significant change in the behavior of individual. It is because; individual is restricted by various aspects and they use crime to prevent these restrictions. Study of Hallsworth and Lea states that individual in urban areas can easily criminal behavior by way of interacting with others (Hallsworth and Lea, 2011).

On the other hand, explanation of subculture of poverty is more focused on urban crime in comparison to the explanations subculture of violence. It is because, subculture of violence only segregates crime in urban and rural area but subculture of poverty is primarily concerned with the criminal behaviour in the barrios and ghettos of central cities. Poverty is crucial economic factor that lead to the crime in urban areas (Chadwick, Levitt and Shickle, 2014). It is because; poverty results in the desperation which enhances anger of individuals and provoke them to take extreme steps. In this aspect, various studies are conducted by the criminologist which shows relationship of criminal behavior and financial position. This aspect demonstrates that economic deprivation is key trigger of criminal behavior.

In accordance with this approach, norms and values that demotivate the work are the causes of developing poor communities. It is because; displace of this subculture is disinclined to the endeavour to achieve as they have limited patience and are less likely to hold over their emotional state. As a consequence, they act impulsively and this impulsive behaviour leads to the criminal activities (Boyle and Haggerty, 2011). Critics of this approach had cited a middle-class and biased perspective that are not acceptable to the poor. Further, this approach does not clarify the impact of social structure and institutions on the behaviour of individuals and their lives.

Conflict theory in urban crime is focused on the income equality as a cause of the increase in crime rate in the urban areas. In this aspect, various scholars and criminologists have argued that frustration and anger in urban population are generated by the product of dissimilarity in income status. It is because, this aspect is unjust as per the point of view of individuals at subordinate position (López, 2013). Further, social structural cleavages are based on racism. This factor also demonstrates higher crime rates by poor urban blacks and Latinos in comparison to the general population. In this aspect, Marxist scholars had described the inheritance of contradiction in advance capitalism in the formation of crime. This provision is mainly applied in situation where population is focused on the biased aspects. Further, various critics had also asserted that conflict theories are not accurate in nature for the prediction of crime because of the high involvement of political parties.

Theory of social disorganization is concerned with the characteristics of urban cities and neighbourhood influence on the criminal rates. This aspect can be considered by the work of researchers in University of Chicago in 1930. Objective of this study was to determine relationship of neighbourhood structure with the level of crime. In accordance with the study of Shaw and McKay, increasing urban crime is consequence of the deleterious effects of residential mobility, low socio-economic status and racial heterogeneity (Chadwick, Levitt and Shickle eds., 2014). Further, crime can be prevented by the reduction of these factors. Other criminologists in this aspect had considered macro social approach and they had identified other of additional “disorganizing” factors such as relative poverty (Messner, 1982), racial segregation (Peterson and Krivo) and family disruption (Sampson and Groves).

Criminologists in this area had firm believe that characteristics of the urban cities are likely to lead the high levels of social disorganization and consequently, there will be increase in criminal activities. In general terminology, social disorganization can be defined as an inability of a community structure for the mobilization of common values of its residents in order to maintain effectual social control. Empirical aspect on this perspective shows that by intervening dimensions of community, social organization can be measured in the both formal and informal nature through using the terms of interdependence and prevalence of social networks in a community. In addition to this, span of collective supervision in the community directs toward the local problems.

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Neighbourhood in urban areas is characterized by the high levels of ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility, family disruption, poor housing conditions, economic deprivation or poverty and low levels of education. These factors are most likely to create instability in society and consequently have higher impact on the levels of crime and violence (Lea, 2004). In general terms, disorganization can be defined as a situation in which there is lack of cohesion and solidarity. Further, the nonattendance of a mutual sense of community and share commitment between residents allow the nourishment of crime. It is because; capacity of community for social control is inhibited. This factor is not dependent on the less efficient formal criminal justice institutions.

Theory of social disorganization has been criticized by various criminologist as it fails for the appreciation of existence of diversified values within urban areas. This theory does not recognize different communities in urban areas indeed may be organized as it considers unconventional values (Jansson, 2006). Due to this aspect, it fails to define the main concept and consequently it makes the identification and rationalization of variables difficult.

In accordance with the present study, it can be concluded that there is no specific theory for the understanding of nature of crime in urban areas. It is because; all the theories stated by the criminologist have certain loopholes and it is not practically applicable as per the changing situations and surroundings in the urban areas. Theory of subculture is focused mainly on the violence and poverty. However, limitation of this theory is that it does not clarify the impact of social structure and institutions on the behaviour of individuals and their lives. Conflict theory in nature of crime in urban area shows in inaccuracies in the nature for the prediction of crime because of the high involvement of political parties. Disorganization theory is based on the characteristics of anti social factor but it is also criticized because it does not consider the existence of diversified values within urban areas. This study also shows that individual in urban areas have high opportunities to get involved in criminal activities and it leads in increasing crime rates and they have reasons for the same. Urban citizens are making use of crime in order get rid of their frustration and for taking revenge from the society for their unjust norms.


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