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Posts Tagged ‘crime’

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.

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Shortcuts to Crime and Deviance: Women and Crime

Thursday, September 6th, 2018

While the first film in the Gender and Crime series looked at the ideas of Gendering Crime (in every society males commit far more crimes than females) and masculinity as an explanation for greater male criminal involvement, this second film – once again built around interviews with Professor Sandra Walklate – focuses on women and crime (hence the title “Women and Crime”).

The first part identifies some reasons for the increase in female crime and criminality over the past 25 years (albeit from a very low base. Historically women commit far fewer crimes than men so even a relatively small increase in female crime results in quite large percentage increases). These include:

• Greater female freedoms
• Binge drinking
• Increased public domain participation

• Changing criminal justice practices
• Less judicial tolerance of female criminality
• Economic and demographic changes.

The second part looks briefly at the impact of 2nd wave feminist perspectives on criminology over the past 50 or so years, particularly in relation to issues of sexual and domestic violence. This part covers:

• Patriarchy
• Male power
• Sexual and domestic violence
• Empowering women
• Hidden deviance
• Expanding the criminological agenda.

Shortcuts to Crime and Deviance: Gendering the Criminal

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

Professor Sandra Walklate talks about the relationship between gender and crime and explains how and why masculinity offers a partial, but not necessarily sufficient, explanation for the over-representation of young men in the crime statistics.

• Gender and crime
• Masculinity

• Femininity
• Gender socialisation
• Edgework (Lyng)
• Cultural expectations of masculinity
• Masculinity and the public domain
• Opportunity and opportunity structures
• Social construction of gender
• Female “double punishment”
• Masculinity and crime
• Unpacking masculinity
• Gangs and gang cultures

The Crime and Deviance Channel

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

The Crime and Deviance Channel now offers a wide range of free Text, PowerPoint, Audio and Video resources organised into 5 categories:

1. Theories
2. Social Distribution
3. Power and Control
4. Globalisation
5. Research Methods

Each category contains a mix of content:

Text materials range from complete pdf chapters to a variety of shorter “Update” materials (quizzes, research synopses, items “In the News”) related to key sociological theories, concepts, issues and methods.

PowerPoint resources range from single slides designed as a high-impact visual background to the explanation of key theories and concepts, to complete Presentations that can be used to introduce or illuminate a particular general theme.

Audio materials consist of 17 podcasts designed to provide background briefing material, talking points (comparing different theories for example), updates on new research and revision exercises.

Video resources generally consist of short clips (currently around 30 separate films ranging in length from 1 to several minutes) designed to illustrate key concepts, introduce new research and researchers and stimulate classroom-based thinking and discussion.

Even More Online Crime Modules

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

These online Crime and Deviance learning modules cover situational crime prevention, white-collar crime and hate crime.

After a brief detour down the side road that is Research Methods we’re back on the main Crime and Deviance highway with a serendipitous (i.e. totally unrelated but I needed to make this post a bit longer so I could fit some screenshots into it) set of modules developed by the University of Portsmouth, presumably to allow their students to enjoy the freedom to not bother attending lectures that is online learning (only joking. I’m pretty sure Portsmouth students are as diligent and industrious as the students from any other Palace of Learning you might care to name).

The three modules are as follows:

1. Situational Crime Prevention
• Prevention Strategies
• Situational Crime prevention theory
• Target hardening and removal
• Removing inducements
• Rule setting
• Surveillance (formal and informal)
• Criticism of Situational Crime Prevention

If you fancy delving a little deeper into this general area, the Situational Crime Prevention materials I’ve previously posted might help.

2. Fraud
• Fraud and Criminology
• White Collar Crime

3. Hate Crime
• Definitions
• Hate Crime Laws
• The case for and against Hate Crime laws

The By-Now Obligatory Tech Note: Depending on the age and type of your browser, you may find there are a few display issues with the resources. These issues, however, have a couple of work-arounds that should allow you to see the resources:

1. If the main information window doesn’t load correctly you may see a blank window with a menu to the left. If this happens try refreshing your browser and the main window should load correctly. Alternatively, click the on-screen arrow to close the menu, click it again to open it and select an option. This seems to refresh the main window correctly.

2. If you see an “access denied” message in the main information window click the module title link to the right of the page navigation menu (First, Previous, Next, Last…). This takes you to a page where you have the option to “View This Resource”. Clicking this link should make everything work okay.

The Dark Side of Family Life: Domestic Abuse

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

The issue of domestic abuse has hit the headlines recently with the start of both the 2018 World Cup and not-uncoincidentally, a “Give Domestic Abuse the Red Card” campaign promoted by a range of police forces and widely-reported in both old and new media.

The campaign highlights the relationship between domestic violence (defined in terms of some form of physical assault) and the outcome of England football matches and is intended to draw attention to the social problem of domestic violence by connecting it to an event on which the eyes of the nation are currently fixed.

While the intention to may be laudable – domestic violence was arguably, until very recently, an “invisible crime” rarely perceived or investigated by the authorities as anything more than a “domestic dispute” – the campaign is, intentionally or otherwise, being a little disingenuous with its selection and presentation of evidence.

While the campaign claim that “Domestic Abuse rates rise 38% when England lose” is demonstrably true, the implication this is a nationwide increase is rather more open to question. The claim seems to be based on research by Kirby, Francis and O’Flahery (2014) who analysed police reports of “domestic abuse” (which they defined in terms of physical violence) during the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

While the analysis did indeed show “violent incidents increased by 38% when England lost” we need to note a couple of qualifications:

1. In what they acknowledge was “a relatively small study”, the rise was recorded in the one police force (Lancashire) they analysed. While it’s possible to speculate similar rises may have been recorded in other areas of the country this is not something supported by the evidence from this particular study.

2. The implied casual relationship between “England losing” and an increase in male violence towards their partner is somewhat clouded by Kirby et al’s observation that male domestic abuse “also rose by 26% when England won”.

Two further problematic areas in the campaign are also worth noting:

1. The focus on male domestic abuse and the implication domestic violence is not only a “problem of masculinity” but a very particular form of working-class masculinity ignores the increasing evidence of female domestic abuse. The Office for National Statistics (2018) for example estimates a roughly 66% female – 33% male ratio of victimisation (1.2 million female and 713,000 male reported victims) and while this imbalance is clearly important it also suggests that abuse causality is more-complex than it might, at first sight, appear.

2. The implication “abuse” is has only one dimension (physical violence). Again, the ONS (2018) suggests this is only one – albeit immediate and important – dimension of domestic abuse and we need to be aware of other, perhaps less immediate – dimensions.

In this respect, while the campaign and its relationship to the study on which it seems to be based raise interesting questions about how and to what end sociological research is used, a more-nuanced way to develop student understanding of the issues and debates surrounding domestic abuse and the darker side of family life is to use the recent Office for National Statistics’ Research Bulletin on “Domestic Abuse in England and Wales” (2018).

While this offers a comprehensive overview and analysis of the debate (in addition to useful observations about the reliability and validity of domestic abuse data that can be linked to the crime and deviance module – “Domestic abuse is often a hidden crime that is not reported to the police, which is why the estimated number of victims is much higher than the number of incidents and crimes recorded by the police. Of the cases which do come to the attention of the police, many, although still recorded as incidents and dealt with as required, will fall short of notifiable offences and are therefore not recorded as crimes.”) most students (and teachers come to that) will probably find the summary of its main points most accessible and memorable.

More Crime and Deviance Pages

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Crime pages from the University of Portsmouth archive. This set provides notes and activities focused on theories of crime that are generally suitable for a-level sociology (and criminology) students.

When I first started posting these crime resources I had to link directly to each page in a module because the menu that I was convinced bound everything neatly together was “missing” (in the sense “I couldn’t initially work out where it was hiding” rather than it having disappeared, never to be seen again).

This, as you may have discovered, was a bit of a pain and not conducive to encouraging students to explore the pages on offer.

I knew, however, there had to be a menu somewhere and that it was just a matter of finding it. And, after a bit of detective work, I did.

At least for some of the individual chapters.

While I still think there is an overall menu somewhere that provides easy access to all the materials in the complete “crime resource”, I haven’t been able to find it; so for now it’s a case of using the individual links for the various categories I have managed to find.

The first batch of modules / pages linked here mainly relate to theories of crime and deviance (some of which I’ve already posted as individual pages, but since I can’t remember which I decided to post them all).

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Youth Subcultures: The Changing Face of Gangs

Thursday, June 7th, 2018

Unlike in the USA, where the study of “gangs” and “gang culture” – from “Street Corner Society” to “Gang Leader for A Day” – is firmly embedded in the sociological mainstream, the empirical study of UK gangs is fairly limited.

This makes it all the more interesting that, over the past 10 years, Waltham Forest Council in London has been responsible for commissioning two major Reports into gang behaviour in the Borough (and beyond) that give a valuable insight into the sociological background to both gang origins (including definitions and typologies) and development: the claim gangs are moving away from relatively simple “status models” that focus on the idea of “surrogate families” to a more-complex economic model that sees gangs as part of an illegal network economy that both shadows and, at some points intersects with, legal economic behaviour.

If you have the time the two Reports are worth reading for the different insights they give into gangs and gang behaviour:

The first, John Pitts’ “Reluctant Gangsters: Youth Gangs in Waltham Forest (2007), has a lot of useful information on areas like:

• Defining Gangs
• Explaining how and why gangs emerge
• Youth Gangs and the Drugs Market
• Gang Members, Culture and Violence
• The Social Impact of Gangs

Throughout the Report Pitts’ references a wide range of sociological studies that will be familiar to students studying crime and deviance, something that should help them make connections between wider sociological theories of deviance and the specific development of gang-based youth subcultures.

The second – Whittaker et. al’s “From Postcodes to Profit: How gangs have changed in Waltham Forest” (2018) – is equally worth a read because although it covers a lot of similar ground to Pitt’s initial work, its focus is less on the sociological origins of gangs and more on locating them in the social and economic structure of the area, in this case Waltham Forest, in which they arise and are embedded.

Although Whittaker et al necessarily look at ideas about gang structures and membership, from definitions, through typologies to an important and interesting section on a relatively-neglected area, the role of girls in gangs, this material is largely a scene-setter for a wider debate about the evolution of gangs in this area of London. More-specifically, the author’s central argument is one that sees contemporary gangs, at least in London, developing into what are primarily economic entities: the section on “Gangs, technology and social media”, which looks at things like “brand development and promotion” is particularly interesting and demonstrates how various forms of new technology – from mobile hardware to platform software – have been rapidly adopted and integrated into gang cultures and structures. An interesting measure of this rapid integration is that Pitts’ said nothing about the gang use of social media a little over 10 years ago.

While both Reports contain a lot of useful information relating to both wider areas like Crime and Deviance and more-specific areas like Youth Subcultures (and, as an added bonus, are both written in language that’s very accessible to A-level students), if you don’t have the time or inclination to read them, the recent publication of “From Postcodes to Profits” has spawned some useful media coverage that captures some of the major ideas contained within the Report. In this respect, it’s worth looking at:

1. Waltham Forest Council publishes ground breaking report that shows how gangs are more money than territory orientated compared to a decade ago.

2. London gangs driven by desire to profit from drug trade.

3. Gangs: More violent, ruthless and organised than ever.

Get Back The Heartbeat: A Film about Social Control

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Around 10 years ago I was contacted by a French film student asking permission to use something I’d written about social control as the basis for a Sociology lecture to be featured in a short film they were producing and directing.

I’d forgotten all about it until I was rooting around in a bookcase looking for something I’d lost and came across the DVD.

I remember being both taken aback and impressed by the film at the time and, on viewing it again after a gap of a few years, I still like what the director has done, both overall in terms of the look and feel of the film and, more specifically, in turning some simple a-level Sociology notes into something more brooding and menacing than anything I ever achieved during my 15 or so years in the classroom.

Although this is a film about “social control”, I’m still not entirely sure about its actual meaning – although that, of course, could be the point if you subscribe to a Barthesean view of the world.

The postmodernic layer of meaning-upon-meaning vibe is also enhanced by the fact that while, quantitatively, I wrote the spoken script, qualitatively, it was nothing to do with me: I played no part in its production save to provide the text that was then shaped and sculpted by the actual writer into the film you’re about to watch.

Overall, the film’s a bit weird (and then some), but I like it for its striking visuals, black-and-white visualisation and the odd sensation of hearing what were essentially some rather dull lecture notes given a new and rather wonderful sense of being.

Or something.

Maybe I’m getting a little bit carried away by the whole French auteur thing?

Three More GCSE Sociology Revision Guides

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

These revision guides were created for the WJEC exam board so if you don’t follow this Specification you need to be careful about the areas that might be included in your Specification that are not covered in these guides.

And vice versa, of course. There’s not a great deal of point revising material from these guides if it doesn’t appear on the Specification you’re following. Even though education – like travel – may well broaden the mind, if you’re looking around the Internet for a GCSE sociology revision guide there’s a fair bet you’re not actually looking to do a great deal more than you actually have to…

Keeping this very important caveat in mind, these resources hail from Corby Technical School and while there’s no named author they are dated 2017. This, somewhat unusually, makes them bang up-to-date at the time of posting.

Even if you don’t teach WJEC there’s plenty of information here that you’ll probably find useful, whatever GCSE Specification you follow:

Crime and deviance
Family Life
Society and the Individual