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What the statistics say

Both official statistics of crimes reported by the police and victimisation surveys show that crime tends to be concentrated around urban areas.
There is typically more deprivation in urban areas compared to rural areas, which are typically more affluent


Juvenile delinquency and Urban areas theory

In the early 20th century, Shaw and Mackay discovered a geographical pattern of offending behaviour in Chicago. This was based on a record of the addresses of the offenders. They used a system previously devised by Burgess which divided the city into five concentric zones, each of which represented a different social profile.


The Zone of Transmission

The zone of transmission is the area in Burgess' model which surrounds the central business district. It was assumed that the immigrants that inhabited here would eventually move out into the more affluent districts.


What did Shaw and Mackay find when they applied statistical analysis to the model?

Offending rates were highest in the zone of transmission and declined the further out the zone. They also notices that this pattern applied to other US cities even when the population in the transitional zone was less.


What was the suggested reason behind Shaw and Mackay's findings?

It was suggested that the high population turnover, linked to significant levels of poverty and poor housing, created a state of social disorganisation. Furthermore, an influx of immigrants prevented the development of shared values which would aid engaging in offending.


The Cultural Transmission theory

The sociologists' concept of social disorganisation was then developed to refer to a distinct set of values that were non conformist and alternative to those in mainstream society.


Evaluation of Juvenile delinquency
(Criticised by Bottoms)

Bottoms argues that Shaw and Mackay confused where people lived with where they committed the offences. Although mapping the offences did support statistical findings, there was a focus on where crimes took place, which is not necessarily the same as where the offender lives. As a result, the area of offences cannot be directly linked to poverty and housing.


Most European cities do not fit the Burgess model

European cities cannot be divided into concentric zones unlike Chicago. It is certainly inappropriate in cities where town planning or provision of social housing has been implemented by the state. British research has shown although offences vary by area, the patterns are far too complex to be explained by these concentric zones


Shaw and Mackay have been criticised for not establishing a cause and effect relationship

A cause and effect relationship between the zone of transmission and the rates of offences has not been established. The proof of the Cultural transmission theory lay in the higher levels of offending but the higher levels of offending was also what was trying to be proved. Therefore, the theory cannot be proved nor disproved as the problem is also the explanation


The defining element of administrative theories

is that it is largely based on rational thinking where offenders make choices based on the opportunities they are given in their day to day lives.


The Opportunity theory- Felson and Clarke

Felson and Clarke attempt to explain why certain places have higher levels of offending than others. They use the 'opportunity theory' to suggest that the likeliness of an offence occurring depends upon two factors: target attractiveness and accessibility


Target attractiveness

Refers to how attractive the object to be stolen is to the offender- for example most thieves would prefer something portable and high in value such as a laptop , rather than an immobile and low value object



refers to how easy the object is to steal in terms of access to it, ease of escape and likelihood of the offence being witnessed.


According to the opportunity theory, urban areas are more prone to crime because...

- the population is higher. The accessibility is therefore higher due to a wider supply of wealth
- portable and more expensive items are likely to be possessed by individuals in urban compared to rural areas, since they are likely to be more up to date with technology


Routine activities theory- Mark Felson

Felson argues that crimes are most likely to be committed when the day to day activities of a potential offender comes into contact with opportunities to commit crime


What did Cromwell found in his study of professional burglars in Texas

Cromwell found that offenders weighed up the possibility of being caught against the attractiveness of the objects to be stolen. This supports the opportunity theory as this was the key decision when breaking into a property. However, burglars were also more likely to break into a property in areas they were familiar with, as it increased their confidence in being able to escape afterwards.


Cohen and Felson extend Cromwell's approach in two ways

1. First, they suggest that crimes are more likely to occur when there is no capable guardian to keep watch, such as a police officer or neighbour.
2. Secondly, they also point out that time is an important factor, as a place may be safe in the day, but turn into an area of crime in the evening. An example is a high street where there are relatively few crimes during the day but when there are large groups of young people out drinking in the evening, violent crime rates increase.


Examples of the Routine Activities theory

Shop lifting is a crime that is may be more likely to occur during the day when the shops are open. This is an offence that would take place on high streets of poorer areas.
Violent crimes are likely to take place in the evening and weekends as this is when people become under the influence of alcohol


Cognitive maps theory- Patricia and Pail Brantingham

The Brantinghams argue that although people believe they have a shared knowledge of a particular area, their perceptions can be very different due to where they live, their route from home to work and their areas of entertainment. The sociologists believe that each person has a unique image or map of the area they live and they use the term 'cognitive maps' to describe this concept
According to the Brantinghams, people tend to commit crimes when they encounter opportunities in areas cognitively familiar to them and far less likely to offend in areas outside their cognitive maps


Carter and Hill developed this in their study of burglars which researched why they chose areas to burgle over others...

They found that the burglars made strategic decisions where to burgle through their cognitive maps and tactful decisions of choosing a particular house after this.


Wiles and Costello

Support Carter and Hill's theory by finding that offenders travel only two miles on average to commit their offences and the area chosen was within their cognitive map


Summary of Cognitive maps theory

In conclusion, offenders are more likely to offend in cognitively familiar areas, where they have a greater idea of the habits of those who live there, as well as an escape route if caught. In turn, there is more likely to be burglary offences in popular areas rather than quiet side streets, supporting the statistics that more crime takes place in urban areas.


Evaluation of administrative theories (strengths)

+ the insights provided have enabled the police and local authorities to make it more difficult for burglars to break into properties by providing more street lighting and blocking access to rear of properties
+ administrative criminology has been influential in making licensing hours more flexible so that large groups of people are not turned out of pubs in city centres at exactly the same time.


Evaluation of administrative theories (weaknesses)

- these approaches do not explain the reasons why people may commit offences. According to Young, they fail to address the true underlying issues which generate crime.
- All three theories assume that offenders make calculated decisions regarding offending, other studies however, suggest that burglary is not rational, including Katz who argues that offending is motivated by thrills