Crime and Deviance Theme 5 - Right Realism and Crime

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Right Realism and Crime

  • The breakdown of informal social control is the cause of crime
  • Zero tolerance policing, target hardening and situational crime prevention are the solutions to crime 
  • Associated with the right-wing neo-liberal government of Thatcher
  • The individual is responsible for crime - although they do accept that high levels of 'social disorder' and low levels of 'social control' are associated with higher crime rates
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Broken Windows Theory - Wilson and Kelling

  • This is the idea that if an area is deteriorating and dishevelled (such as broken windows) it has a higher level of crime because it shows that people do not care about where they live (lack of social control) and this attracts criminal behaviour such as vandalism and joyriding. This can also lead to more serious crimes.
  • Zero tolerance policing/target hardening and situational crime prevention are the solutions                                                                       


  • Zero tolerance may give the police the freedom to discriminate against certain individuals/groups
  • It's expensive to fix and can cause displacement 
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Zero Tolerance Policing

  • Strictly enforced penalties for relatively small crimes or anti-social behaviour such as begging or public drinking 
  • Reduces the rate of crime because the punishment is not worth the crime                                                                                                                              
  • However, it fails to address the underlying causes of crime 
  • It gives the police too much power and freedom which can lead to marginalisation 
  • Increases prison populations and can lead to militaristic policing - the police working against the community rather than with them
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Target Hardening/Situational Crime Prevention

  • Increasing surveillance and hardening the target of crime, making it harder to commit the crime by increasing the risks of getting caught and reducing the opportunities for crime
  • Makes the public feel more safe and secure                                                                                                                                                                                                     
  • However, this can cause displacement of crime (crime moving to another area which doesn't use situational crime prevention)
  • Only protects wealthy communities from crime because they're the ones who can afford to implement situational crime prevention, whereas it's the poorer areas who actually need it because they have higher crime rates
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Rational Choice Theory

  • Most criminals are rational thinkers
  • They calculate the risk and if the risk is low, then they are more likely to commit crime, assuming that the reward of the crime is high
  • Explains night time crime, theft from houses with low security and domestic violence etc. 
  • Makes the individual responsible for their actions                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  • However, it doesn't explain crimes of emotion or passion or crimes that occur in the heat of the moment 
  • Also, it assumes that criminals are 'rational beings' 
  • Status may sometimes come from the fact that you're willing to take the risk even if you're going to get caught
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