This short Crime Channel film looks at two contrasting approaches to understanding young, male, working-class criminality.
The first, Right Realism, is an approach underpinned by the notion of criminals making rational choices on the basis of a “cost-benefit” analysis of crime. If, in short, the potential costs exceed the assumed benefits then a crime will not be committed. If you want to explore the theoretical background of rational choice you might find this critical overview (there’s an accompanying PowerPoint if you want to take a more-visual approach) and evaluation useful.
This, as you might expect, feeds into practical forms of situational crime prevention whereby potential criminal victims, from individuals to businesses, are encouraged to increase the potential costs of crime through various forms of target hardening.
As characterised by Clarke (1980), “SCP is a practical, policy-oriented approach whose goal is to reduce crime in the future”. It is, as Freilich (2014) notes “uniquely concerned with how offenders successfully commit their crimes. Understanding how the offender carries out the crime can be used to craft interventions to prevent offending. The rest of criminology is focused on why perpetrators offend”.
This focus on the how has led, as Freilich argues, to the development of “a growing number of strategies…that have in fact reduced crime. There are currently five general strategies encompassing 25 techniques to reduce crime. The techniques include both ‘‘hard’’ and soft interventions.
Hard interventions include making it impossible or more difficult for the crime to be committed and alert potential perpetrators that they are likely to be apprehended if they transgress.
Soft interventions reduce situational prompts/cues that increase a person’s motivation to commit a crime during specific types of events”.
The second, Edgework, is an approach that offers a very different view in the sense it suggests the kinds of situational crime prevention measures advocated by Right Realists either displace crime or, in some situations, offer perverse incentives to young, male, working-class criminality.
By making crime “more risky” through situational strategies and techniques it perversely makes it more attractive to some young males by offering greater challenges and hence more opportunities for individuals to enhance their power and status within the social groups that are important to, and supportive of, their sense of self.