There are four elements to a crime, a law, an offender, a target or victim and a place. When these four elements come together, a crime has been committed. A crime cannot take place without these four elements. There must be a law for an offender to violate; there must a target or a victim for the offender to prey on, and their must a place for this to happen. Environmental criminology is the examination of this fourth element, the place. Environmental criminologists are interested in "land usage, traffic patterns and street design.
"1 More specifically, environmental criminology is "the study of crime, criminality and victimisation as they relate, first, to particular places, and secondly, to the way that individuals and organisations shape their activities spatially, and in so doing are in turn influenced by place-based or spatial factors. "2 This particular field would not exist if there were no relation between the geographical distribution of offences, or of victimisation, or of offender residence. However, there is very clear relationship between these factors, and in this essay I will examine this relationship.
I will firstly take a brief look at the history and the emergence of environmental criminology as a field of study and research. I will then look at some of the ways society has tried to reduce the amount of crime faced by residents of cities and towns today. This will include action that can be taken by individuals themselves, or by councils, local governments, the police etc. I will then do a critique of these measures and conclude by considering geographic prophiling, a new mechanism that does not seek to prevent crimes, but rather help solve them.
The study of environmental criminology resulted mainly from the works of Burgess (1925) and Shaw and Mackay (1942). Burgess introduced an ecological analysis of crime causation. Ecology is the study of animals and plants and how they relate to one another in their natural habitat. Burgess then examined area characteristics instead of criminals for their explanations of high crime. They developed the idea of natural urban areas, which consisted of concentric zones, which extended out from downtown central business district to the commuter zone at the fringes of the city.
Each zone had its own structure and organisation, characteristics and unique inhabitants. This is known Burgess' Concentric Zone Theory. Zone A is the Central Business District, Zone B is the Transition, or 'Twilight' Zone, C is the Council Estates, Zone D is the Commuter Zone and Zone E is the Countryside area. The most important zone when considering crime is the Transition Zone. This zone consists of two sections, the wholesale light manufacturing, and the low class residential. This zone would be made up of 19th century terraced buildings with no gardens.
They would probably be quite dirty, cheap slum areas. This zone was a high-attraction area for crime because of the number of constantly moving people and low recognition between neighbours. Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay were researchers at the Chicago's Institute for Juvenile Research and maintained a close relationship with Chicago's Sociology department. They were interested in Burgess's conception of the "natural urban area" of Chicago and used this model to investigate the relationship between crime rates–mainly delinquency–and the various zones of Chicago.
They found that the crime rate was distributed throughout the city, delinquency occurred in the areas nearest to the business district, that some areas suffered from high consistent delinquency rates no matter the makeup of the population, that high delinquency areas were characterised by a high percentage of immigrants, non-whites, lower income famines, and finally, and that high-delinquency areas had an acceptance of non-conventional norms, which competed with conventional ones.
They collected their data from over 56,000 juvenile court records with covered a period of time from 1900-1933. I will now go on to look at various measures that are currently in place to try and reduce or prevent the volume of crime present in today's society.