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Poor housing and estate design causes crime. Discuss

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Introduction

Poor housing and estate design causes crime. Discuss Firstly, this essay will provide a brief introduction into urban ecology and urbanisation in the USA. The findings of Shaw and McKay's study on the zone of transition and social disorganisation will then be explored as well as the findings of other ecologists who challenged their approach. This essay will then briefly explore the role and effect the media has played in areas associated with criminality. Finally, this essay will look at the work of Newman and Coleman and their attempts to reduce crime solely by making environmental changes. Robert Park, a student at the Chicago School in the late 1800s and later its head borrowed the idea of ecology from biology: the idea that in the natural world plants, animals and other lifeforms exist in a pattern with eachother. Some crops grow better when nearer to others, some insects develop in habitats in which others die. The land is seen as a giant set on connections and inter-relationships - an ecological system. (Barter et al, 2000). An enduring theme in sociological wroting about crime has been the corrupting effect of city life. This view developed particularly strongly during the 19th century when cities were developing rapidly. Environmental criminology examines two main aspects - spacial distribution of offenders and spacial distribution of offences and attempts to discover the relationship between crime and urban locality. ...read more.

Middle

(Haralambos & Holborn, 1994). Another aspect in the urban criminology of crime is the availability of leisure facilities. Downes claimed that much delinquency could be seen as a form of recreation. Delinquent youths who live in areas that provide few opportunities for the legitimate entertainment deviated as a result of the lack of leisure facilities. (Haralambos & Holborn, 1994). Media influence can also have a significant impact on areas associated with criminality. The mass media often ensure that the reputations of 'problem areas' are highlighted and regularly reinforced. Media attention relating to such areas arguably has detrimental consequences for the residents and for communities more generally. A delinquent area in Liverpool known as 'Luke Street' frequently featured in the local newspaper which carried stories with headlines such as 'Bored Vandals Run Riot in Town'. Owen Gill who attempted to explain the development of this problem area claimed the reputation had important consequences which created some of the deviance. A stereotype of the area as one where residents were dishonest and law and order had broken down developed. This negative stereotype affected its inhabitants blocking opportunities as a Luke Street address did nothing to enhance employment prospects. Some of the residents even altered their self image according to the label given to them from the reputation of the area - they believed they came from the 'hardest' street in Liverpool and tried to live up to this reputation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Coleman's recommendations have been accepted by a number of councils and Coleman was able to claim some success, however in other cases crime reductions have not been noted. A number of criticisms can be raised. Firstly, great emphasise is placed on social disorganisation but it could be argued that some criminal activities are very organised. The zone of transition does not explain white collar crime, which by definition would not take place in working class areas. Finally, ecological theories are mono-causal ignoring all other social factors. It sees deviant behaviour as produced by forces beyond an individuals control and ignores alternatives which are always available. In conclusion, evidence presented in this essay indicates that poor housing and estate design can be linked to crime. The BCS concluded that high offender rates and high offence rates were similar and that households in poorer areas were most vulnerable to crime. Newman and Coleman suggested recommendations which they believed would reduce criminal behaviour such as the use of low-rise structures and good visual surveillance. Coleman was able to claim some success but not in all cases. The studies of Shaw and McKay shows that the zone of transition was the most criminally active although their theory of social disorganisation as the cause has been challenged. Morris found little evidence of social disorganisation in his studies and both he and Wilson suggested that councils played an indirect role in creating criminal areas. Although the built environment may influence criminal behaviour, ecological theories fail to see people playing a more active role in shaping their situation rather than simply being shaped by it. ...read more.

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