Most scholars tend to recognize the influence of social factors to be behind crime. The Chicago school of thought, which brings together a breed of urban sociologists, has identified a number of social factors that lead to crime, reinforcing the popular notion that crime is socially oriented. This school of thought encompasses a number of theories that point at social factors as behind crime. These theories are also referred to as the social disorganization theories. The Chicago school of thought emanates from a close observation of the United States in the 20th century.
This was a period of great social and economic change, a period largely characterized by high levels of immigration. Chicago is one such city that was characterized by this. Sociologists sought to explain the patterns of growth and development of different cities and hence the coming up of the concentric zone theory which simply can be referred as different circles of social and economic classes that develop as a city progresses and the different adaptations to such social circumstances.
This theory identified social problems cropping up in the zones if transition especially those characterized by immigration, amongst this problem is crime. This is what has come to be referred to as the social disorganization and is seen as the mother of crime. As Sandra (2005, 13) observes, the term social disorganization “was intended to reflect the ways in which problems of immigration and migration produced communities in which there were competing social values.
” It is this clamor and competition that led to the disintegration of the social institutions that propagated normal conditions. This theory revolutionized criminology and introduced a new aspect where crime would be analyzed depending on where it was rooted. It propagated the thinking that criminals had some particular characteristics and that there was also the factor of racial background. This theory is in line with numerous studies in Australia that have reinforced the thoughts about crime and ethnicity, especially the notion that crime in Australia is as a result of immigrants.
A look at the society indicates suspicion over the immigrants, the Lebanese Australians are mostly associated with crime, and Arab Australians are seen as more likely to belong to crime gangs more than any other group. This theory propagates the thought that “the criminal is always working class, or perhaps more accurately, part of the underclass, and most likely not only male but also a member of an ethnic minority. ” (Sandra, 2005, 14).
While it may be true that certain communities are characterized by crime, this theory mostly has focused on the low crime that takes place in the low class neighborhoods, failing to focus on other crimes in the affluent areas. Poverty may be a factor in crime, but there are people who are poor and do not engage in crime. The level of poverty and illiteracy amongst the aborigines is high and yet their crime rates do not compare with the crime levels in the major cities. It ignores the aspect of individual motivation, and so do the major theories focused on above (Adam & Peter, 2002).