Vince ZwillingCriminology 1: 00 T / R Professor Corbin Crime Zones and Reasoning (Poverty, Race, Social Class) Sociology is a branch of the social sciences that attempts to help us understand society and how people interact. As with many other social sciences, sociology employs theories to help understand why people make certain decisions. Theories that help us explain societal trends are usually segmented in order to accurately examine the specific dynamics of different sections of society. Communities, institutions, gender, race and population are a few popular examples of common segmentation's utilized in social theories.
Social structure theories, also called social change theories attempt to analyze the driving forces that change society. Sociologists who study social change use the study of both criminology and sociology to draw conclusions about criminal behavior. The overarching belief of criminology theory is that certain social structures support deviant behavior. The three main branches of social structure theories are the social disorganization theory, the social strain theory and the cultural deviance theory. How well have social structure theories explained delinquent behavior in society? In this paper, the major social structural theories will be defined and analyzed.
Social Disorganization Theory: Concentric Zone Theory The Centric Zone Theory was proposed by Shaw, and examined arrest rates in Chicago. It was during these years immigrants living in the inner city begin to relocate to the outskirts of the city. The purpose of their study was to conclude if delinquency was caused by particular immigrant groups or by the environment in which immigrants lived. Park and Burgess adopted the original concentric zone theory, and which separated Chicago into 5 distinct zones. Which were: 1.
Central Business District 2. Transitional Zone 3. Working Class Zone 4. Residential Zone 5. Commuter Zone The experiment reveled that arrest rates consistently remained high for Zone 2, the transitional zone. They ultimately concluded that delinquency rates are related with ecological environment in which a person or group dwells.
Social Ecology Theory This theory is based on the contention that change is natural. Further, this theory suggests that when an area is invaded, competition erupts and competition leads to disorganization, which can spark deviance. This theory disagrees with the social disorganization theory, since the theory presented by Shaw and McKay generalizes data to make conclusions on an individual basis. However, the social ecological theory seeks to explain the high crime rates in urban areas based on individual circumstances. Strain Theories The strain theory postulates that when regulation is inadequate social problems arise.
Anomie Theory states individuals who lack the vehicles to help them realize their objectives eventually become disillusioned and may ultimately turn towards a life of crime. There are two main types of strain. Structural strain is the method that improper law enforcement causes a person to view his or her needs. Individual strain is the pressure that people feel while seeking to meet their personal desires. General Strain Theory The main focus is on defining the types of strain.
Agnew identifies the measurements of strain, the major types of strain, the links between strain and crime, coping strategies for strain as well as the determinants of delinquent behavior. The General Strain theory deals with the emotional aspect of criminal behavior. Cultural Deviance Theory Where social organizational theory focuses on conditions in the environment and strain theory concentrates on the conflict between goals and means, cultural deviance theory combines the two schools of thought. Millers Focal Concern Theory Identifies the core values of lower-class culture and their association to crime. Core values are defined as: trouble, toughness, excitement, fate, smartness and autonomy. These values may lead to a life of crime since they are at odds with the values of the superior culture.
Both the social disorganization and social ecology theories attempt to explain why certain groups have a higher delinquency rate than others. Though these conclusions do strongly resemble trends in delinquency rates among inner city residents today. The primary problem is the existence of (where a linear relationship exists among the explanatory variables) since some of the data such as overcrowding and substandard housing are highly correlated with one another. Such data flaws may adversely affect the accuracy of the theory. The strain theories express the discontent of Americans who fail to achieve the American dream.
Crimes committed by white collar, middle class workers can be explained by the strain theories. An example of this is workplace violence, which, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Characteristics accounts for 18 percent of all violent crime between 1993 and 1999. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for a worker who was recently fired to return to his old employer to vent his anger by opening fire on anyone in site. Such violence demonstrates how competition to succeed prompts crime as the anomie theory contends. In analyzing these theories we musk ask ourselves how can we accurately explain the actions of people solely in terms of their environment?
If these theories prove to hold true now, can we assume they will hold in the future? Alan Greenspan uses the interest rate to stimulate or slow the economy; can social criminology theories be applied to correct problems in our society? The common consensus among sociologists is that environmental factors do affect violent actions; it is the extent of this effect that causes controversy. I theorize that environmental influences play a significant factor in determining if and why a person will or does engage in criminal activity. Those living in the 'transitional zone' incurred higher rates of arrests than those living in other 'zones. ' The social delinquency theory explains why minorities have a higher rate of prison inmates than whites.
According the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 28 percent of black males will enter prison in their lifetime as compared with 4.4 percent of white males. The U.S. Census Bureau finds that minorities constitute a higher proportion of people living in poverty, as those living in poverty banked only $15,521 per year, which is almost 8,000 less than those living outside of poverty areas. I will assume that there are no wrongful arrests so that the data reflects accurate occurrences of violence. Based on the data and the assumption given, the social disorganization and strain theories are valid. Violence, which is prompted by factors such as lack of success (i.e. living in poverty) results in violent activity. If a disproportionate number of minorities live in poverty and a disproportionate number of minorities are violent offenders then environment is a factor in delinquency as the theories contend.
This is not to say that all minorities are poor and violent, which is far from the truth. Admittedly, there are some factors that have not been accounted for but, clearly, there is a trend just as the data demonstrates. The data overwhelmingly supports a correlation between poverty and violence. The social structure theories do not explain delinquent behavior flawlessly, but they are sufficient models by which we can summarize violent behavior and the factors that facilitate them.
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