Offenders tend to be concentrated in certain areas; they are likely to live in certain towns and cities. The spatial distribution of offenders isn't random.
The Chicago School
During the 20's, a group of sociologists in Chicago argued that the growth of cities produced distinctive neighbourhoods, each with their own characteristic lifestyle.
Shaw and McKay applied this to delinquency.
They divided Chicago into five zones, drawn at two-mile intervals, from the central business district.
Then they mapped the residences of male delinquents.
They noticed the crime rates steadily declined from zone 1 to zone 5.
Zone 1 had the highest rate of delinquents - it is a high population turnover and cultural heterogeneity (mix of different cultures).
Newcomers generally begin life in zone 1, having little money and zone 1 being the cheapest accommodation. They come from a variety of backgrounds.
Zone 1 is a zone of transition - has a shifting population.
A high rate of population turnover, plus cultural heterogeneity, results in social disorganisation. Lack of cohesion, little sense of community and weak social controls.
Landers study found the same thing, however also there were areas of stable population in zone 1.
They also noticed that the rate of delinquents corresponds closely to economic factors. Income rises from zone 1 to zone 5.
They agree with Merton's view: that crime in low-income areas may be a way to try and gain the economic factors idealised by our own culture.
Area offender rates in Britain
These haven't supported the neat arrangement of the idea above. Morris studied Croydon and noticed area offender rates reflected local authority housing policies.
Delinquents were found on estates where the local council had housed high numbers of 'problem families'.
Sheffield also didn't reflect findings of America. Bottoms et al. looked at two council estates - Stonewall and Gardenia - separated by a main road. Recorded offence rates for Gardenia were 300% higher than Stonewall. Both estates had a similar population and were built at similar times, with 60% of adults in both areas having lived in the area for 10 years or more. There was hardly any difference in social factors.
The researchers gave the explanation: at some point in the 40's, Gardenia 'tipped' - started a downward spiral towards a high crime area. This influenced the housing policy - those with severe housing needs were allocated to Gardenia. It developed a negative reputation, resulting in some residents leaving,…