Left realist view of crime

How left realists see the crime and deviance, its causes and how it can be tackled. 

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  • Created by: Nicole
  • Created on: 18-04-11 10:34

Like Marxists, Left Realists accept that structural inequalities and perceptions 

of injustice are the major causes of crime. 

 Through victim surveys, they found that the sort of crime that worries people 

most is street crime like mugging, violence, car crime and burglary.

 These are mainly performed by young working-class males, both black and 

white. 

 The main victims of these offences are the poor, the deprived, the ethnic 

minorities and the inner-city residents.

 Left Realists recognise that most people don’t care much about white collar or 

corporate crime, as it has little impact on their lives.

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Lea & Young (1984) – Explaining crime

 Lea & Young attempt to explain why people turn to crime using three key 

concepts:

 Relative Deprivation:

  • It is not deprivation as such that causes people to commit crime, but 

whether they see themselves as deprived in comparison with others

  • In modern societies, advertises stress the importance of economic 

success and promote middle-class lifestyles

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  •  L and Y argue that rising crime is partly the result of rising expectations of 

high standards of living, combined with restricted opportunities to 

achieve this

 Subculture:

  • Working-class deviant subcultures emerge as group solutions to 

problems arising from social inequality, though they take different forms 

over time and in different contexts

  •  These can act as motivators for crime, as some working-class 

subcultures see offending as acceptable behaviour

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  •  Second-generation West Indian immigrants’ sub cultural solutions 

include the Rastafarian and Pentecostal religions as well as ‘hustling’ 

for money and street crime.

 Marginalisation:

  • Some groups find themselves politically and economically ‘on the edge’ 

of society

  •  This is due to factors such as poor education achievement, 

unemployment, and lack of involvement in community organisations

  •  The key to avoid marginality is employment, as workers have clearly 

defined objectives, such as higher wages. 

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  •  Young, unemployed West Indians do not have clearly defined aims or 

pressure groups to represent them. 

Tackling Crime

Left Realists develop practical policies to tackle crime. For example, they see better  and more democratic policing as central to reducing crime, and protecting its main victims which are working-class people.

Kinsey et al (1986)

 Suggests that the police need to improve clear-up rates to;

  •  Deter offenders from committing crime
  • Spend more time investigating crime to reassure people and restore confidence in the police. 
  • Improve relations with the community on whom they depend to report crime and provide leads on offenders


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 Without the support of the public, the police have to resort to military policing – stopping and searching large numbers of people or using CCTV. As a result, those who are not directly involved with the police come to see them as an alien force intent on criminalising local residents – a process known as the mobilisation of bystanders.

Young (1992, 1997)

 Young does not believe that crime can be dealt with simply by improving the efficiency of the police

 Left Realists see the problem of crime as rooted in social inequalities. Young suggests that the policies should aim to:

  • improve leisure facilities for the young;
  •  Reduce income inequalities;
  •  Raise the living standards of poorer families;
  •  Reduce unemployment and create jobs with prospects;
  • Provide community facilities which enhance a sense of belonging.
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