Various criminological theories have been put forward to explain the causes of crime in the society. They range from biological, psychological, ecological to social learning, strain theories as well as labeling theories. Some theories are independent in their role of explaining crime in the society but others are not strictly structural but emphasize other theories. In their book, ‘criminology’, Vito, Maahs and Holmes noted that the social disorganization theory which was brought forward by Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay could be used to explain crime in the society.
Shaw and McKay carried out a research and made the conclusion that there was a significant relationship or link between the rates of crime in the society and the ecological characteristics. There was a clear evidence that the children of societies that were in constant migration recorded higher rates of delinquency. Another important finding by McKay and Shaw was that the notion that the urban centers or cities had high prevalence rates to crimes was not true. It was however an inaccurate generalization as only some parts of the ‘cities’ recorded the high crime rates.
To Shaw and McKay transitional societies registered higher crime rates as opposed to stabilized societies. (Vito G et al, 2006). They also argued that physical decay which entailed abandoned buildings, population heterogeneity, high poverty rates and increased migration precipitated social disorganization as they disrupted the normal or stable community organization. In areas where there was constant mobility there was the disruption in the respective institutions for instance the family.
Constant movement made it difficult to socialize and supervise the younger members of society effectively. In such societies it is less likely that neighbors will trust each other to an extent of intervening where need be. This makes it hard for schools as well as the community at large to join hands in instilling the expected norms and values. To Shaw and Mckay, after the entrenchment of delinquency in the transitional societies there were other factors which kept the crime rates stable.
To them, there was the development of gangs that ensured that the crimes were learnt by new members through cultural transmissions. (Vito G et al, 2006). The notion behind the social disorganization theory of crime is that there is increased instability which jeopardizes the role of respective institutions in ensuring control in the society with the increased population turnover rates. It is difficult to curb criminal groups or gangs in the society and it is also a hard task to ensure that there is effective collaboration by the various sectors in eliminating or wiping out crime in the society.
Other people who would have had an effect in curbing crime like the business communities as well as the various social service agencies cannot do this effectively as the people ignore their role. There also lacks personal relationships as people are in constant mobility and hence there exists weak bonds. Resolving crime issues in such societies is a difficult task as communication is also tampered with by people’s anonymity. The social disorganization theory of crime best explains crime in the slums as opposed to the suburbs where people are settled thus reduced mobility and again they have well organized neighborhoods.
To McKay and Shaw, poverty in these societies facilitates crime rather than being its cause. (Vito G et al, 2006). The slums recorded higher trends in as far as population mobility was concerned which worked to obstruct collectiveness in addressing common problems in the society. According to the social disorganization, there is need to ensure community empowerment if crime is to come to a halt. Rehabilitation of those found guilty of various crimes would also be vital if these crimes were to be reduced.
(Lewis Coser). Introduction of recreational facilities and organized activities geared to bringing the young people together would also ensure reduced crime rates. The notion here would be that through such activities it would be possible to bring people together and attain the goal that various institutions had earlier failed to achieve of effective social control. There is need for government involvement in the urban planning of such regions. This would ensure that the problems faced in such societies were resolved.
In most cases societies that best explained the social disorganization theory or crime have immense poverty rates and lack the accessibility to vital amenities like quality health care and education and consequently need government assistance. According to Laufer and Alder in ‘Advances in criminological theory’, a major assumption of the social disorganization theory was that the factors that motivated people to commit crimes were constant insulating that given the chance anyone had the potential of committing crime.
To them, informal control measures were what mattered in as far as crime rates were concerned. (Laufer W and Adler F, 1990). The political implications that would be created or brought about by the aforementioned ways of resolving crime using the social disorganization theory would be that politics would play a significant role in ensuring that there is the implementation of policies to ensure that the government investment in urban planning of such areas was ensured. The criminal justice system would help resolve this problem by adopting rehabilitation strategies rather than mere incarceration.
There are latent theories of crime or dormant theories of crime which are rarely used to explain causes of crime in the society today. Peace making criminology is a crime causality theory that was first developed in the 1990s. Its major ideology or notion was that the perception that ‘war’ on crime would not be an ineffective approach to handling crime in the society. This theory was brought about by Harold and Richard who likened crime and its control to war. They further declared the need to create or rather make peace between the criminals or offenders, the victims, the police as well as the society or community at large.
The peace keeping criminologists advocated for “mediation, reconciliation, conflict resolution as well as the effective re-integration of offenders into the society all geared towards the reduction of suffering and consequently crime reduction” (Akers R, 1999). This theory is linked or perceived to be emerging from other traditions like Marxist or critical, religious, humanistic and feministic and was consequently not an independent theory on its own. It fails to offer a crime theory which can be empirically evaluated as the hypothesis cannot be tested.
Peace making criminologists argue that to resolve crime in the society there was need to create communities that were more mutually dependent, more caring which worked together to ensure that there was inner peace among her members. (Lewis Coser). Crime causality to this theory was due to inner suffering and this could be resolved through spiritual rejuvenation . (Lewis Coser) Feminist theories of crime according to Lewis Coser were well developed in the 1990’s at the same period that peace keeping criminology was established.
However, the feministic ideologies had been in the public for decades. It centers more on patriarchy and suggests that male dominance is the main cause of crime in the society. It also called for an increased attention pertaining women affairs. Like the peacemaking criminology, feminist theories are not dependent and could take a Marxist, socialistic or a liberal approach or perspective to crime. Feminist theorists argue that there is clear evidence that discrepancies exist in as far as gender and crime are concerned. Some advocate for increased opportunities for women in the society.
Others are contented with the submissive role of women in the society while some cite discrimination against women by men who are the dominant gender in the society. To feminist theorist crimes in the society would be reduced if there was equality between men and women. To them, the end of sex discrimination would reduce crime rates which they argue is caused by gender inequality or patriarchy. (Lewis Coser) The left realism theory which was developed in the mid 1980s according to Lewis Coser had its roots in Britain.
It tried to explain why working class people recorded instances of victimization to those of whom they shared similar backgrounds. According to this theory, there was need for the police to ensure protection for the poor people while at the same time ensuring that the police did not exercise excessive powers to the disadvantage of the poor people. This theory has inspired victimization research and surveys in the Great Britain which promoted refer within the police departments triggering efficiency in the sector.
Significant issues to note regarding this theory is that it embraces social change. Like the peace making criminology and the feminist theory, this theory can not be applied to explain the causes of crime in the society in totality. It can also not be tested to ensure its empirical validity. In his book ‘International handbook of violence Research, Heitmeyer and Hagan noted that Hirschi’s social control theory claimed that lower class youth recorded fewer rates of conforming and consequently would have weaker bonds inhibiting delinquent behavior..
Hirsch’s theory according to Vito and others focused on factors like schools and parents which were quite relevant to the youth. The importance of these factors was seen to dwindle as they grew into adulthood. Self control played a very significant role in as far as causes of crime were concerned in the society. Low self control entailed or rather included well established well established psychological aspects of criminal behavior. Low self control was perceived to be stable after the early childhood stage. This notion or ideology was applied to explain why criminal activities became stable overtime.
Hirsch’s noted that other theories portray man as being naturally good and that certain factors forced him into crime for instance biological, psychological or even economical. A distinguishing factor of Hirsch theory as opposed to other criminological theories that explain crime was that instead of arguing from the aspect of why people committed crime in the society he wanted to explain why people did not engage in crime in the society. He developed four major elements of social bonds in his theory namely involvement, attachment, belief and commitment.
To him, commitment in the society meant that people could comply with the norms and values set. People who sought employment and ensured social relationship in their work places would rarely engage in criminal activities. Conformists will in most cases opt for the legitimate means of earning. Attachment was another important aspect and it depended on how an individual was affected by views or opinions of other people or how sensitive they were to others. Attachment ensured close relationship with others and it reflected the investment in the society.
It deterred people from crime for fear that indulgence n crime would see one loose something. For the young people he used in his study attachment was with their schools and even their friends. The notion here is that the more heavily an individual was engaged in convectional activities the less likely that they would engage in criminality due to the mere fact that they have no time left for delinquent activities. (Vito G et al, 2006). Commitment was concerned with the rational aspect of the bond. People feared committing crime as by so doing they risked loosing something.
Involvement entailed the degree or extent that people participated in conventional activities of a society. Belief embraced the respect for the validity of set rules in the society. Those who strongly believed in their societal rules were less likely to indulge in crime as opposed to those who did not. (Vito G et al, 2006). A community program to curb crime using this theory would be one that embraces collectiveness or teamwork in handling issues. The various institutions in a society must be well functioning or effective to ensure that commitment, involvement and belief are embraced.
The family must learn its role and adhere to its expected obligations of instilling values and norms on the younger generations from a tiny age. A society that provides job opportunities for her members will register reduced crime rates. The job environment must also be conducive to give way for effective social relations. Effective families would instill morals in their children and there would be a strong or positive attachment reducing the crime rates significantly. References: Gennaro F. Vito, Jeffrey R. Maahs, Ronald M.
Holmes, 2006. Criminology: Theory, Research, and Policy. Jones & Bartlett Publishers Lewis Coser. Crime theories and the field of criminology http://www. apsu. edu/oconnort/1010/1010lect02. htm Walter Thabit. Social disorganization theories of crime. Retrieved on 17th November 2008 from http://www. apsu. edu/oconnort/crim/crimtheory10. htm. Ronald Akers. 1999. Criminological Theories: Introduction and Evaluation. Taylor & Francis Publishers William S. Laufer, Freda Adler. 1990.