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Situational crime prevention..

Clarke describes situational crime prevention as a ‘pre-emptive approach that relies, not on improving society or its institutions, but simply on reducing opportunities for crime’ He identifies three features of measures aimed at situational crime prevention:

  •       They are directed at specific crimes.
  •          They involve managing or altering the immediate environment of the crime.
  •          They aim at increasing the effort and risks of committing crime and reducing the rewards.

·         For example, target hardening measures such as locking doors increase the effort of a burglar needs to make.

·         Underlying situational crime prevention approaches is an ‘opportunity’ or rational choice theory of crime. This is the view that criminals act rationally, weighing up the costs and benefits of a crime opportunity before deciding whether to commit it.

·        Example - Most successful situational - Early 1960's half of suicides in UK by gassing. Coal gas was gradually replaced by less toxic gas. 1997 - Gas suicides fell to near zero and wasn't displaced as overall suicides declined. 
Moss side estate Manchester..777 crimes reported in the area in April. New development on estate remained almost crime-free since being built - built to minimise future opportunities for offenders. 

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Displacement - (use as evaluation)..

·         One criticism of situational crime prevention measures is that they do not reduce crime; they displace it. After all, if criminals are acting rationally, presumable they will respond to target hardening simply by moving to where targets are softer.

·         Displacement can take several forms:

·         Spatial- moving elsewhere to commit the crime.

·         Temporal- committing it at a different time.

·         Target- choosing a different victim.

·         Tactical- using a different method.

·         Functional- committing a different type of crime.

  Example - Chaiken et al (1974) - found a crackdown on New York subways merely displaced the crime to the streets above.

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•Situational crime prevention works to some extent in reducing certain kinds of crime. However, with most measures there is likely to be some displacement.

•It ignores white-collar, corporate and state crime, which are more costly and harmful.

•It assumes criminals make rational calculations. This seems unlikely in many crimes of violence and crimes committed under the influence of drugs.

•It ignores the root causes of crime such as poverty. This makes it difficult to develop long-term strategies for crime reduction.

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Environmental crime prevention - Wilson..

·         Wilson and Kelling use the phrase ‘broken windows’ to stand for all the various signs of disorder and lack of concern for others that are found in some neighbourhoods e.g. graffiti. They argue that leave broken windows unrepaired, tolerating graffiti etc., sends out a signal that no one cares.

·         In such neighbourhoods, there is an absence of both formal social control (the police) and informal control (the community). The police are only concerned with serious crime and turn a blind eye to petty nuisance behaviour, while respected members feel intimidated and powerless. Without action, the situation deteriorates, tipping the neighbourhood into a spiral of decline. Respectable members move out and the area becomes magnet for deviants.

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Zero Tolerance policing..

·         Wilson and Kelling’s solution to crack down on any disorder is by a twofold strategy. First, an environmental improvement strategy: any broken window must be repaired immediately, abandoning cars towed without delay etc.
Secondly, the police must adopt a zero tolerance policing strategy. Instead of merely reacting to crime, they must proactively tackle even the slightest sign of disorder, even if it’s not criminal. This will halt neighbourhood decline and prevent serious crime taking root.

The evidence:    A ‘Clean Car Program’ in New York has been a success for zero tolerance policing. Cars were taken out of service immediately if they had any graffiti on them, only returning once clean. As a result, graffiti was largely removed from the subway. Other success programs include drug dealing and fare dodging.

- However, it is not clear how far zero tolerance was the cause of the improvements.
- The NYPD benefited from 7,000 extra officers.
- There was a general decline in the crime rate in major US cities at the time- including ones where police did not adopt a zero tolerance policy.
- There was a decline in the availability of crack cocaine.
Nonetheless, zero tolerance has been very influential globally.

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Social and community crime prevention..

·         Social and community prevention strategies place the emphasis firmly on the potential offender and their social context. The aim of these strategies is to remove the conditions that predispose individuals to crime in the first place. These are longer-term strategies, since they attempt to tackle the root causes of offending.

·         The causes of crime are often rooted in social conditions such as poverty, more general social reform programmes addressing these issues may have a crime prevention role, even if this is not their main focus.

What is missing?

·         These approaches focus on fairly low-level and/or interpersonal crimes of violence. This disregards the crimes of the powerful and environmental crimes.

·         Whyte points out that there is no logical reason why such activities should not be included in the crime and disorder partnership agendas- yet despite their potential and actual effect on the health of local communities, they are not.

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Punishment - Reduction..

·         One measure that many believe in crime prevention is of course punishment. Two main justifications have been offered for punishment; reduction and retribution.

Reduction - One justification for punish offenders is that it prevents future crime. This can be done through:

·         Deterrence- Punishing the individual discourages them from future offending. ‘Making an example’ of them may also serve as a deterrent to the public at large.
Rehabilitation is the idea that punishment can be used to reform or change offenders so they no longer offend. Rehabilitation policies include providing education so they are able to ‘earn an honest living’ on release.
Incapacitation is the use of punishment to remove the offender’s capacity to offend again. Policies have included imprisonment, execution etc. Incapacitation has proved increasingly popular with politicians, with the American ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy and the view that ‘prison works’ because it removes offenders from society.

·         This justification is an instrumental one- punishment is a means to an end, namely crime reduction.

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Punishment - Retribution..


·         Retributions means ‘paying back’. It is a justification for punishing crimes that have already been committed, rather than preventing future crimes. It is based on the idea that offenders deserve to be punished.

·         Furthermore, society is entitled to take its revenge on the offender for having breached its moral code. This is an expressive rather than instrumental view of punishment- it expresses society’s outrage.

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Durkheim: a functionalist perspective..

Durkheim argues that the function of punishment is to uphold social solidarity and reinforce shared values. Punishment expresses society’s emotions of moral outrage at the offence. Through rituals of order, society’s shared values are reaffirmed and its members come to feel a sense of moral unity.

Durkheim identifies two types of justice, corresponding to two types of society.

·         Retributive justice- In traditional society, there is little specialisation, and solidarity between individuals is based on their similarity to one another. This produces a strong collective conscience. Punishment is severe and cruel, and its motivation is purely expressive.

·         Restitutive justice- Durkheim calls this Restitutive justice, because it aims to make restitution- to restore things to how they were before the offence. Its motivation is instrumental, to restore society’s equilibrium. Punishment is still an expressive element, because it still expresses collective emotions.

 In reality, traditional societies often have Restitutive rather than retributive justice.

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Marxism: capitalism and punishment..

     For Marxists, the function of punishment is to maintain the existing social order. As part of the RSA, it is a means of defending ruling-class property against the lower classes.
 The form of punishment reflects the economic base of society. As Rusche and Kirchheimer argue, under capitalism, imprisonment becomes the dominant form of punishment because of capitalist economy is based on the exploitation of wage labour.

Foucault: birth of the prison -  Foucault opens with a striking contrast between two different forms of punishment, which he sees as examples of sovereign power and disciplinary power.

·         Sovereign power was typical of a period before the 19th century when the monarch had power over people and their bodies. Inflicting punishment on the body was the means of asserting control. Punishment was a spectacle e.g. public execution.

·         Disciplinary power becomes dominant from the 19th century. In this form of control, a new system of discipline seeks to govern not just the body, but the mind or ‘soul’. It does so through surveillance.

  • In Foucault's view, disciplinary power has now infiltrated ever part of society, bringing its effects to the human 'soul'. Thus he argues that the change in the form of punishment from sovereign to disciplinary power also tells us about how power operates in society as a whole.
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The changing roles of prisons..

·         Until the 18th century, prison was used mainly for holding offenders prior to their punishment. It was only following the Enlightenment that imprisonment began to be seen as a form of punishment itself.

Imprisonment today
 Imprisonment is regarded as the most severe form of punishment. However, it is not proved an effective method of rehabilitation- about two thirds of prisoners commit further crimes on release. Many critics regard prisons as simply an expensive way of making bad people worse.

·         'Populist punitiveness' is where politicians seek to gain electoral popularity by promising tougher sentences for offenders. As a result, the prison population has grown by 70% to a total of 77,000 from 1993 to 2005.

·         One consequence is overcrowding which adds to the existing problems of poor sanitation, lack of edible food and clothing shortages. (Carrabine et al 2008)

·         This country imprisons a higher proportion of people than almost any other in Western Europe. E.g. in England and Wales, 139 out of 100,000 are in prison. Corresponding figures for other countries are France 99, Germany 91 and Sweden 64.

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The victims of crime..

·         The United Nations defines victims as those who have suffered harm (including mental, physical or emotional suffering, economic loss and impairment of their basic rights) through acts or omissions that violate the laws of the state.

·         Christie, takes a different approach, highlighting the notion that 'victim' is socially constructed. The stereotype of the 'ideal victim' favoured by the media, is a weak, innocent and blameless individual- such as a baby or old woman- who is the target of a stranger's attack.

·         We can identify two broad perspectives on the study of victims: positivist victimology and critical victimology.

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Positivist victimology..

·         It aims to identify the factors that produce patterns in victimisation- especially those that make some individuals or groups more likely to be victims.

·         It focuses on interpersonal crimes of violence.

·         It aims to identify victims who have contributed to their own victimisation.

·         The early positivist studies focused on the idea of victim proneness- to identify the social and psychological characteristics of victims that make them different from non-victims.

·         Wolfgang's study of 588 homicides in Philadelphia found that 26% of homicides involved victim precipitation- the victim triggered the events leading to the homicide.

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Critical victimology..

·         Critical victimology focuses on two elements:

·         Structural factors such as patriarchy and poverty, which places powerless groups such as women and the poor at greater risk of victimisation. As Mawby argues, victimisation is a form of structural powerlessness.'

·         The state's power to apply or deny the label of victim- 'Victim' is a social construct in the same way as 'crime'. Through the criminal justice process, the state applies the label of victim to some but withholds it from others.

·         Tomb and Whyte show that 'safety crimes', where employers' violations of the law lead to death or injury to workers, are often explained away as the fault of 'accident prone' workers.

·         Tomb and Whyte note the ideological function of this 'failure to label.' By concealing the true extent of victimisation and its real causes, it hides the crimes of the powerful and denies the powerless victims any redress.

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Positivist -         It ignores situations where victims are unaware of their victimisation, as with some cases against the environment, and where harm is done but no law is broken.

·         This approach identifies certain patterns of interpersonal victimisation, but ignores wider structural factors such as poverty and patriarchy.

·         Wolfgang shows the importance of the victim-offender relationship and the fact that in many homicides, it is a matter of chance which party becomes the victim.

Critical -         Critical victimology disregards the role victims may play in bringing victimisation on themselves through their own choices or their own offending.

·         It is valuable in drawing attention to the way that 'victim' status is constructed by power and how this benefits the powerful at the expense of the powerless.

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Patterns of victimisation..

·         Class- The poorest groups are more likely to be victimised e.g. crime rates are highest in areas of high unemployment and deprivation.

·         Age- Younger people are at more risk of victimisation. Those most at risk of being murdered are infants under the age of one.

·         Ethnicity- Minority ethnic groups are at greater risk than whites of being victims of crime in general, as well as of racially motivated crime.
The Macpherson Report following Stephen Lawerence murder found ethnic minorities over policed and under protected.

·         Gender- Males are at greater risk than females of becoming victims of violent attacks. About 70% of homicide victims are male.
Females: more likely to be victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking - 1 in 4 d.a in life.

        Repeat victimisation- refers to the fact that, if you have been a victim once, you are very likely to be one again. 4% of the population are victims of 44% of all crime.

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The impact of victimisation..

·         Crime may have serious physical and emotional impacts on victims e.g. helplessness etc. Crime may also create indirect victims e.g. family, friends etc. Similarly, hate crimes against minorities can create 'waves of harm' that radiate out to affect others.

·         Secondary victimisation is the idea that in addition to the impact of the crime itself, individuals may suffer further victimisation at the hands of the criminal justice system.

·         Fear of victimisation- Crime may create fear of becoming a victim. Some sociologists argue that surveys show this fear to be often rational. Feminists have attacked the emphasis on 'fear of crime'. They argue that it focuses on women's passivity and their psychological state, when we should be focusing on their safety.

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