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Sociological Stories: Broken Windows Revisited

Sunday, September 5th, 2021

This attempt to create something a little different in PowerPoint expands on the first effort by being significantly longer, around 50 slides, split into three separate-but-related sections and dotted with a few choice bits of online video and hyperlinks (for which you will obviously need to be connected to the Internet).

Although it’s made in PowerPoint, it isn’t “A PowerPoint” in the conventional sense of both “sticking bullet points on a page” and being intended for teacher-led instruction.

Rather, it’s more a kiosk-type Presentation designed to be read by individual students as a kind of “sociological story” about Broken Windows. To this end the 3 sections are as follows:

1. Intro and Overview is probably the most-conventional section in terms of A-Level / High School requirements in that it covers a number of the broad strength and weaknesses of Broken Windows.

2. The Ecological Context delves into the theoretical background of Broken Windows in order to examine the claim that we can understand crime and criminality through the lens communal pressures to conform or deviate. As such, it’s a section that students can delve into if they’re particularly interested although, at A / High School level it’s probably not that important. It’s also an area teachers can summarise fairly easily and concisely if needed.

3. The Order Maintenance section deals mainly with Zero-Tolerance Policing and is mainly interesting because of the way it looks at Zimbardo’s “Anonymity of Place” in the light of new research on the experiment. It also introduces an interesting natural experiment recently (2017) carried-out in New York that not only casts grave doubt on the effectiveness of Zero-Tolerance Policing but also tentatively suggests it may be the cause of many of the problems it claims to resolve.

Because the Presentation is made for PowerPoint 2019 / 365 (If you try to load it into previous versions of PowerPoint it will not function as intended) it can only be downloaded in a PowerPoint Show (.ppsx) format. This means it will happily run independently of PowerPoint, whatever – or no – version of PowerPoint you have.

Broken Windows Revisited | 3: Proactive Policing

Wednesday, August 18th, 2021

The 3rd and final part of our Broken Windows reassessment looks at the latest American research that questions the claim proactive / Zero Tolerance policing prevents minor forms of social disorder developing into major forms.

S-L-O-W-

In two previous posts re-examining Broken Windows we’ve considered both its general theoretical and empirical background and its theoretical origins in ecological theories of crime. In this third and final part we assess one of Broken Windows’ key theoretical components: the claim that minor forms of social disorder, if allowed to go unchecked, result in major forms of disorder. Or, as Wilson and Kelling (1982) originally put it:

If a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken…one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing”.

If, as its proponents claim, relatively minor forms of social disorder lead to larger, more-serious, forms of criminal disorder – as Bratton and Kelling (2015) have more-recently expressed it “A neighbourhood where minor offenses go unchallenged soon becomes a breeding ground for more serious criminal activity and, ultimately, for violence” – the way to control the latter is to prevent the former and one way of doing this, introduced by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in the late 1990s, was through a system of proactive policing.

This broadly involved police officers “on the street” taking a more-active role in either trying to prevent criminal activity before it occurred (through things like dispersing loitering groups of young men, stopping and searching potential offenders and so forth) or by immediately punishing every instance of criminal or misdemeanour activity, through things like spot-fines and arrests, the moment it occurred. This particular form of Order Maintenance Policing (OMP) has come to be known as Zero-Tolerance Policing (ZTP) because the police exhibit no tolerance towards any offender, no-matter how trivial or seemingly inconsequential the offence.

As an aside, it’s important to note that while ZTP is often seen as synonymous with Broken Windows, we shouldn’t conflate the two: Broken Windows doesn’t necessarily involve Zero Tolerance Policing, even though the two are frequently seen to be one and the same thing. There are a number of different ways of preventing the escalation of minor forms of disorder into major forms, of which ZTP is but one – although ZTP has, particularly in America, been increasingly used by forces such as the NYPD as the primary or de facto way of putting Broken Windows into practice.

One of the reasons Broken Windows has come to be influential with politicians, police and public alike is that it has a certain face validity; that is, it seems like a plausible way to both explain how and why crime develops in a particular locality and, by extension, how to prevent criminal behaviour spiralling out of control.

Part of the reason for this is that the idea of major forms of disorder stemming from unchecked minor forms is something that has a certain resonance with our everyday personal experience. If you think, for example, about a work desk that you gradually allow to become cluttered with books and papers, it eventually becomes difficult and time-consuming to find the things you need: “major” disorder, in other words, stemming from untreated minor disorders…

While you could, every once in a while, instigate a “big clean-up” it might be easier to keep things tidy while you work. This takes a bit more effort and willpower but should, all things being equal, save you time and effort in the long run…

The problem here, however, is that societies are not like individuals and “maintaining social order” can be much more difficult than maintaining a tidy desk – particularly if the area that requires maintaining is home to a wide range of poverty-stricken individuals and families who don’t necessarily maintain strong social and moral ties.

This, in terms of Broken Windows, is where proactive policing enters the picture: as a way of imposing some sort of order on a situation that tends towards the disorderly. This, on the face of things, seems to make sense in terms of our general understanding of social order and disorder but the problem we have is how to test this idea. How, for example, can we evaluate the validity of the Broken Windows argument “in the real world” of offenders and control agents?

One obvious way would be to compare an area that had been subject to proactive forms of ZTP with the same area at a later point when ZTP was no-longer in operation – and this is exactly what Sullivan and O’Keeffe (2017) were able to do thanks to an opportunity to conduct a natural experiment in New York in late 2014, early 2015.

(more…)

Broken Windows Revisited | 2

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

Part 1 of this planned 3-part reassessment of Wilson and Kelling’s “Broken Windows” thesis outlined a selection of its general strengths and weaknesses and suggested we need to understand Broken Windows in the context of its origins in the ecological theories of crime initially developed in the early 20th century.

Broken Windows: The Original Article

Part 2 examines a key ecological strength of the thesis – that social disorder causes crime – through a re-examination of Zimbardo’s “Anonymity of Place” experiment. It then looks at the elephant in the room when talking about Broken Windows and crime: what causes social disorder?

While Broken Windows has some distinctive breaks with the general ecological tradition on which it broadly rests, it’s important to understand the thesis in this context because it’s only by understanding the theoretical origins of Broken Windows that we can begin to question some of its central claims: that ecological factors are a sufficient explanation of crime development in this Part and the claim that small forms of disorder invariably lead to larger disorders in Part 3).

THERE’S MORE. A LOT MORE.

Broken Windows Revisited | 1

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Part 1 of a 3-part series that revisits a number of aspects of Broken Windows. This part looks at the general theoretical and empirical background.

Since its publication nearly 40 years ago Wilson and Kelling’s “Broken Windows” has become one of the most-influential and widely-adopted approaches to our understanding of crime and policing, particularly in America but also across a number of other Western societies, including in some small part, the UK.

Broken Windows: Wilson and Kelling
Broken Windows: The Atlantic Monthly

To understand how and why Broken Windows has come to have such a huge and lasting impact on our thinking about crime and policing we need to understand something about both its theoretical origins and underpinning and its empirical applications.

Theoretically, there’s nothing particularly innovative about Broken Windows.

It mainly draws on a range of well-known human ecological ideas and observations about crime popularised 40 – 50 years previously in the work of Chicago School theorists such as Park, Burgess, Shaw and McKay. More-specifically, it owes a theoretical debt to the latter’s work on Zones of Transition and, in particular, the notion of interstitial “inner city” zones in which crime flourished as a consequence of “socially disorganised spaces”.

There’s more…

The Wider Effects of “Broken Windows”?

Thursday, September 12th, 2019
Click to download pdf file

The impact of so-called “Broken Windows” policing (which invariably turns-out to be an aggressive variant of the policy – Zero-Tolerance Policing (ZTP) – pioneered by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and the New York Police Department commissioner William (Bill) Bratton in the early 1990’s) has been argued over for a good number of years.

For supporters of the policy it was claimed that ZTP resulted in dramatic falls in both “pervasive” (i.e. relatively minor but persistent misdemeanour crime)  and “headline crime rates” (such as homicide) while critics pointed to the fact these falls seemed to have occurred both across America and in areas where ZTP was not in operation.

Whatever the truth of the matter, little or no attention has been given to what might be called the “fall-out” from ZTP policies; while their impact on crime might be the subject of heated debate, recent research by Fagin and Legewiea (“Aggressive Policing and the Educational Performance of Minority Youth”, 2019) argues that “the consequences of aggressive policing extend into key domains of social life, with implications for the educational trajectories of minority youth and social inequality more broadly”.

In this respect they have claimed to demonstrate a causal link between the presence of ZTP in an area and the decline in educational attainment of African American boys (interestingly, there is no correlated fall in African American female attainment, nor that of Hispanic youth generally).

Their findings, in this respect, are somewhat counter-intuitive in the sense that where neighbourhoods are made safer through the impact of ZTP we would expect to see, at best, improved educational achievement and, at worst, little or no change. This, as they argue, highlights the “hidden costs of aggressive policing programs and suggests that police reformers, policymakers, and researchers should consider these broader implications for assessing the effectiveness of policing.”

One reason cited for this finding is reduced school attendance (absenteeism) by young African American teenagers during periods of intensive police activity in a neighbourhood. The main drivers of absenteeism, in this respect, appear to have been:

  • a desire and / or need for young African Americans to “stay off the streets” during periods of intense police activity (which itself suggests a belief they would be a primary target for police action)
  • the disruptive effect on families of the arrest of parents / guardians during these periods of activity.
  • In addition, the authors argue that aggressive styles of policing, such as those associated with various forms of ZTP, frequently lead to the development of “frequent and negative interactions with authority figures” and the ensuing sense of discrimination “can undermine educational and potentially other outcomes”.

    Finally, it’s just been pointed-out to me on Twitter that the research offers a really easy way to make synoptic links between Deviance and Education.

    Broken Windows

    Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
    Keizer et al: The Spreading of Disorder

    It’s not often A-level students get the chance to read original source documents, but Wilson and Kelling’s Atlantic Magazine article – the one that kicked-off “Broken Windows” – is on-line, relatively short and surprisingly accessible.

    If you want to digger into the notion of Social Disorder and Crime, Keizer’s simple, but evocative, empirical study might help.

    If you’re looking for some relatively simple supplementary reading that casts a critical eye over Broken Windows, have a look at “The Cracks In Broken Windows“.

    In addition, Bratton and Kelling’s (2014) defence of Zero Tolerance Policing provides some useful evaluative material for students. Sullivan and O’Keeffe’s (2017) “Evidence that curtailing proactive policing can reduce major crime” does,  however, provide a very convincing empirical critique of Bratton and Kelling’s basic argument that Zero Tolerance Policing does prevent major forms of criminality in their natural experiment that looked at the impact on major crime of a “work to rule” in the NYPD. While the research will probably need some interpretation for most A-level students, their conclusions are worth the effort…

    If you’re more-visually inclined, a short film outlining the basic concepts underpinning “Broken Windows” is available on the Crime and Deviance Channel.

    Alternatively, if you’re feeling a bit flush our recent film looking at Broken Windows in the context of Right Realism – Space, Place and (Broken) Windows – is available to buy or rent at Very Reasonable Prices (it says here).

    Sociology: Space, Place and (Broken) Windows from ShortCutstv on Vimeo.

    What Works to Reduce Crime?: A Summary of the Evidence

    Monday, January 3rd, 2022
    Download full Report

    It’s probably safe to say that a key driver of crime policy in countries like Britain and America over the past 50 or so years has been the notion of situational crime control. The idea, in a nutshell, that there can be no “solution to the problem of crime”, as such. The best we can do, both individually and as a society, is to limit its extent and impact.

    To this end we’ve seen a wide range of theoretical (Routine Activities, Broken Windows…) and practical (from strategies to techniques) ideas and initiatives designed to reduce crime by making it harder to commit and a recent (2014) Scottish Government review of “what works” (and by extension, “what doesn’t work”) in relation to reducing crime and offending – What Works to Reduce Crime?: A Summary of the Evidence – looked at the evidence across three areas of crime control:

  • Targeting the underlying causes of crime.
  • Deterring potential offenders by making the cost of offending greater than the benefits.
  • Increasing the difficulty of offending by reducing opportunities to commit crime.
  • This, as you might expect, is a comprehensive review that covers an awful lot of ground. It runs to nearly 70 pages of text (plus extensive bibliography) lightened only by 4 simple (but nonetheless useful) PowerPoint graphics and, for reasons known only to the authors, a single, forlorn, table on page 24 dealing with “Trajectories of criminal convictions”. And if you’re wondering why this particular topic merited such special treatment, you may want to think about getting out a bit more.

    With the best will in the world, the Report isn’t something that’s likely to be read in full by many – if any – of your students because it’s so densely-packed with all-kinds of information, both statistical and otherwise. It is, however, a document you can mine for all kinds of information about situational crime prevention that can then be condensed and passed-on to your students in a format they’re more-likely to appreciate.

    Or not.

    You never can tell.

    Podcasts with Pictures: Evaluating Sociological Research Methods

    Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

    Alexandra Sugden’s YouTube Channel contains a load of online lectures, for both GCSE and A-level, covering areas like crime and deviance, education, sociological theory, research methods and a tiny bit of religion.

    The Channel’s well worth a visit and a watch if you have the time and inclination and, as with many of the other Channels I’ve featured from time to time on this blog, what’s on offer is basically Podcasts with Pictures.

    Alexandra talks students through a range of information using static, illustrative, material that reflects and reinforces what’s being said.

    The lectures range in length from the “really short” at around 7 minutes to the significantly longer that can last upwards of 30 – 35 minutes. Although this can be quite a long time for a student to concentrate – either in the classroom or online – I found the tone of each lecture sufficiently confident and chatty to hold my attention. Others may not be as determined or dedicated, however, so if you want to use the lectures it may be useful to check them out beforehand so you can direct students to particular sections if necessary.

    In addition to the straightforward lesson content lectures there are a range of revision / exam-preparation films covering things like how to answer different types of question, how to revise using the Revision Clock method and, something that particularly caught my attention for some reason, how to evaluate sociological research methods using the PERVERT mnemonic.

    This, if you’re not familiar with it, is a 7-point checklist (Practical, Ethical, etc.) students can apply to a research methods question that helps them cover all the major knowledge, interpretation and evaluation points. The lecture covers each of the Pervert Points in turn, using examples to illustrate where necessary. Some (such as ethics) are covered in greater detail and more-comprehensively than others (such as validity).

    As with all such materials it’s possible to be picky about the information they contain (“validity”, for example, is not really about “truth” in research, while, in relation to a different lecture I watched on Broken Windows, Zimbardo’s 1969 “Anonymity of Place” experiment logically couldn’t have been about “testing Broken Windows” – a theory developed in 1982…) but as long as you’re on hand to correct any possible misconceptions all should be well.

    Otherwise, the lecture is around 11 minutes long, so probably just enough time to make a cup of coffee while your students Zoom-view the content.

    The Crime Collection

    Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

    In a previous post I pulled-together all the free crime and deviance films we have available to create a simple one-stop-shop (so to speak) you could browse, rather than have to search individually for these films.

    I’ve extended this thinking to bring together all the posts we’ve made on Crime and Deviance – and since there’s “quite a few” I thought it might be useful to break them down into rough categories (Notes, Organisers, Activities, PowerPoints and Films) for your viewing convenience.

    Since I’ve discovered this is actually quite a task, I’ll add the different categories “as-and-when” I can, starting with:

    (more…)

    Crime as a Cause of Crime? Evaluating Routine Activities

    Tuesday, March 10th, 2020
    Click to download pdf version

    Felson and Cohen’s Routine Activities approach (1979) has arguably been one of the most-influential recent theories of crime, one that sits squarely within contemporary New Right / Realist explanations for crime and deviance.

    This post looks at a couple of useful ways students can evaluate the approach.

    A Quick Outline…

    The main objective of this post is to introduce a-level sociology students to some points of evaluation for Routine Activities and in order to do this, students need to be familiar with the basic approach. If they’re not, this quick outline should bring them up-to-speed.

    One advantage of the approach is that it’s easy to describe, at least in Felson and Cohen’s (1979) original argument that crime involves three essential elements:

    The Predatory Triangle

    1. A Suitable Target

    2. A Motivated (latterly, a Capable or Likely) Offender

    3. The absence of a Capable Guardian.

    This formulation has, over the years, seen various additions (see, for example, Clarke and Eck, 2003) although whether these represent an attempt to refine the approach or merely a papering over of the theoretical cracks, I couldn’t possibly say), but one of the most significant refinements has been to express these elements as part of what Felson and Cohen call “the Predatory Triangle”.

    While it might not seem much, this visual representation shows how the three elements are linked, such that, as they argue, a “Lack of any one of these elements is sufficient to prevent the successful completion of a direct-contact predatory crime”.

    In other words, for a crime to take place a likely offender needs to meet a suitable target in the absence of a capable guardian. Or, as Felson (1998) puts it, by way of an example:

    “A burglary needs a capable and motivated offender to find a suitable and accessible target, in the absence of anyone or anything there to keep the two apart”.

    There are a couple of points we can note in this respect:

    1. A crime occurs (or, in a weaker formulation, “is likely to occur”) when these three elements meet in time and space.

    If you want to give Routine Activities an historical context, in common with other Right Realist approaches such as Broken Windows it’s based on Ecological (how behaviour is influenced by social and physical spaces) and Control theories of behaviour. An element of Rational Choice Theory is often thrown into contemporary versions of the approach to “explain” why offenders are motivated or demotivated in relation to criminal intent.

    2. “Routine Activity” is an important part of the overall crime equation because it refers to the idea that “motivated offenders” come to identify suitable targets – and the extent to which they are protected by “capable guardians” – through their everyday experiences.

    As with most New Right / Right Realist approaches, the main focus is on crime prevention. While there is necessarily some discussion / speculation about “criminal motives” – Felson and Cohen refer, for example, to “structural conditions” that produce “motivated offenders” – there isn’t a great deal of interest in trying to explain why people are motivated towards crime.

    Crime, in this respect, is seen as a more-or-less unfortunate by-product of social and / or psychological background (depending on the particular theorist); crime is a “fact of life” and the best a society can do is to control it.

    In this respect the basic “Predatory Triangle” has clear implications for the control of crime:

    1. Motivated offenders can be deterred.

    2. Suitable targets need to be “hardened” or protected in ways that make them seem unsuitable to offenders.

    3. Capable Guardians – from the police, through careful and well-informed populations to various forms of technological guardianship (such as CCTV) – need to be extensively deployed.

    Evaluating RAT

    Rational Choice Theory | 2

    Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

    This second (of two) posts evaluates Rational Choice Theory and, by extension, any New Right / Right Realist theories based on the notion of rational cost-benefit analyses of criminal motivation.

    Digested Read

    A list of all the relevant bits to save you having to read through the rest of the post…

    • Rational Choice Theory (RCT) reminds us that an understanding of social action – how and why people make certain choices – is important for an understanding of criminal behaviour. It also focuses our attention on crime as a rational process.

    • A cost-benefit analysis of offending fits neatly with a common sense understanding of criminal behaviour. It also underpins a range of contemporary crime theories – such as RCT, Broken Windows and Routine Activities – that can be generally characterised as Right Realist. It has, however, serious limitations related to how offenders receive and process information, particularly in time-limited situations.

    • An alternative and, according to Simon (1956), more realistic way to understand the behaviour of offenders, is to see it in terms of a bounded rationality. Interview evidence, for example, suggests burglars evaluate alternative forms of behaviour within what Walters (2015) calls “the limits of their knowledge and abilities”. Offenders, in this respect, seem to make “rational enough” decisions based on a range of “rule-of-thumb” beliefs and experiences.

    • If a cost-benefit model of criminal decision-making is invalid, this has important ramifications for both crime-control theories and situational crime prevention techniques and strategies. More specifically it suggests that if offenders do not rationally weigh likely benefits against potential costs any attempt to lower the former and raise the latter will have only a limited long-term effect on crime.

    (more…)

    Rational Choice Theory | 1

    Sunday, September 23rd, 2018

    This first of two posts on Rational Choice Theory (RCT) provides an overview of a key New Right theory whose central argument about criminal rationality underpins a range of later Right Realist explanations for crime.

    Rational Choice Theory (RCT) is one of a group of theories – including Broken Windows and Routine Activities Theory – that applies ideas developed to explain economic behaviour – in particular the idea individuals are rational and self-interested – to the explanation of criminal behaviour. The theory reflects, as Wilson (1983) puts it, the idea that “some scholars, especially economists, believe that the decision to become a criminal can be explained in much the same way as we explain the decision to become a carpenter or to buy a car”.

    Gary Becker

    While ideas about individual self-interest and rational choices in economic behaviour are well-established, their application to crime and criminal motivations, initially through the work of economists such as Becker (1968), gives them a contemporary twist that can be outlined in the following way:

    1. Offenders are not qualitatively different to non-offenders

    There’s nothing in the sociological or psychological background of offenders that either causes or explains their offending. To take a simple example: while many poor, deprived, individuals commit crimes, many more from the same social background do not.

    A key concept here is agency: the idea people make choices about their behaviour that are neither determined nor necessarily influenced by their social and / or psychological backgrounds. Rather, choices are made in the context of particular situations – particularly the opportunities that are available for the commission of crimes.

    (more…)

    Shortcuts to Crime and Deviance Vol. 2: Social Theory and Crime

    Thursday, February 8th, 2018

    Three new films for teachers of Crime and Deviance.

    Back in the day we released Shortcuts to Crime and Deviance Vol. 1 with the intention of following it with a second volume (provisionally – and somewhat disarmingly – titled “Shortcuts to Crime and Deviance Vol. 2“).

    While the intention always stood – hence this current post on the long-delayed second volume – we got a bit side-tracked out of Sociology and into Psychology for a few years, mainly because even though we’re firmly based in the UK, much of our distribution and sales occur in North America. And our main American distributor was crying-out (not literally) for content.

    As someone with a Sociology background who’s never studied anything more than “Social Psychology” (and then only at the level of “Is Goffman a sociologist or psychologist?”) it was actually a pleasant surprise to discover a “new subject” but the intention was always to make further volumes of Crime and Deviance. And so it has come to pass.

    Although we’re still making Psychology films we decided the time was finally right to write some scripts and film some film in order to produce Vol. 2.

    So that’s what we did.

    We’ve put together three films to introduce some major sociological theories of crime – Strain; Labelling; Space, Place and (Broken) Windows (Right Realism) – with the aim being to:

    1. Introduce and explain key theoretical ideas.
    2. Identify key strengths and weaknesses.
    3. Provide contemporary illustrations, examples and applications.

    (more…)

    The Sociological Detectives: We Have A Situation…

    Sunday, September 10th, 2017

    This PowerPoint Presentation brings together a couple of ideas, one of which – the idea of “students playing the role of detectives” I’ve previously explored in a slightly different way. The other – a situation-based application – is one I’ve adapted from a couple of recent sources:

    Firstly, the AQA Crime and Methods exam question that presented students with a scenario and then required them to assess the suitability of a particular research method for studying it.

    Secondly the WJEC / Eduqas Criminology Specification that requires students to look at a situation – such as the behaviour of unruly youth – and show how a sociological explanation of their choice might understand and explain it.

    The Situation

    What this Presentation does, therefore, is set-up a situation – the behaviour of the aforementioned “unruly youth” – which students have to explain using a sociological approach of their choice. This can, of course, be adapted to your own particular teaching by, for example, asking different students to apply different approaches (Marxism, Feminism, etc.) and bringing their ideas together as a class. Alternatively, you may want the whole class to focus on a particular approach, such as Right Realism.

    Where the exam / specification situation is one that’s simply described, either in words (exam) or words and pictures (specification) this version takes advantage of PowerPoint’s ability to display video – in this instance a relatively short (2 minutes 30 seconds) piece of film designed to do a couple of things:

    The first minute of the film “sets-the-scene” by describing some aspects of a fictional town (“Castleton”) in terms of its broad social and economic make-up.

    The remainder of the film outlines some of the “problems of unruly youth” whose behaviour students will have to explain by applying a criminological approach of their choice to the events they have viewed.

    Aside from describing a situation, the film contains a number of simple visual and verbal clues students can pick-up on and use when they come to the “Report Stage” of the presentation. It includes, for example, the idea of social and material deprivation (Marxism), economic strains (Functionalism), Masculinity (Feminism) and broken windows (Right Realism). (more…)

    Making the Sociology of Crime and Deviance 10 Years Younger: Steve Taylor

    Thursday, June 8th, 2017

    Let’s face it the A2 Crime and Deviance syllabus is looking old. The years of blocked aspiration, anomie, unjust labelling and misplaced radicalism have taken their toll. A recent shopping mall poll put most the major theories at pensionable age, and even the dynamic ‘young’ radical ones were seen as ‘pushing 40’!

    But we have to teach them no matter how old and run down they look and so we should because underneath those theoretical wrinkles and conceptual decay, there’s a good body of ideas that still have some life in them.

    So what these ageing theories need is a make-over to see if we can make them look at least ten years younger. One of the best ways of doing this is to import some newer developments that reduce some of those wrinkles and surplus bulges. Examiners will also appreciate students trying to link the old with new, or at least with the newer.

    A useful class exercise, therefore, is to help students give these “classic explanations” a new coat of paint through the use of contemporary connections and examples – here’s a few to get you started:

    Ecological theory may date back to the Chicago School and the 1930’s, but the idea of socially disorganised areas, where formal and informal social control has broken down, was a key idea in Wilson and Kelling’s famous ‘Broken Windows’ theory which was the basis for more recent environmental control theory and a number of policy initiatives, including zero tolerance policing. So don’t leave ecological theory in the 1930s.

    Robert Merton’s Strain Theory may be pre-war but its key idea of rising crime and relative deprivation was not only incorporated into radical crime theory, but was also one of the pillars of ‘left realism’. It also continues to be the key finding of contemporary comparative studies of crime in affluent societies – the greater the inequalities in the distribution of wealth the higher the crime rate. 

    Labelling theory dates back to the 1960’s but we don’t have to stay in the 60’s with Jazz musicians, Mods and Rockers and Notting Hill bohemians to illustrate it. Many of its key concepts, such as stigma, secondary deviance and deviant careers are fundamental to more recent work, such as John Braithwaite’s study of crime and reintegration and the pioneering of restorative justice. So you can get interactionism out of those dated 60’s fashions.

    So there’s life in the old theories yet and with this kind of make-over they can be applied to the more recent, rather than the distant, past and made to look at least 10 years younger.

    NotAFactsheet: Crime and Deviance

    Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

    I thought it would make a change from research methods to put together a few NotAFactsheets on crime and deviance, so here are the first products of what no-one’s calling a “radical new departure in NotAFactsheet production”.

    These three efforts focus on and around Functionalist-type approaches to crime:

    D1. Functionalist Approaches | D1. Functionalist Approaches (includes short video) Functionalism and Crime includes Durkheim on the functions of crime, Strain theory and General Strain Theory.

     D2. Administrative Criminology | D2. Administrative Criminology (includes short video) Administrative Criminology focuses on New Right ideas about crime prevention and management and outlines some general social policies associated with this approach.

    D3. Right Realism Right Realism outlines the Broken Windows thesis – and it’s critics – in addition to noting a range of social policies that have stemmed from a right realist approach to crime.

     

     

    Crime, Deviance and Education

    Friday, March 20th, 2015

    Experiments with “Zero tolerance policing” have taken place in both Britain and America, but the latter has taken this approach (usually underpinned in social policy terms by Wilson and Kelling’s “Broken Windows” hypothesis) further by applying it to schools – a trend that has been taken-up by some UK schools (particularly Academies and Free Schools).

    APA research, however, suggests this particular approach carries a range of risks.