Can Criminological Theories Help In Work Criminology Essay

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Workplace offences apply in many forms and if a company or organization or whoever deals with prevention desire effective results, should apply a comprehensive crime prevention plan. This plan should reflect the constant changing nature of potential threats and a thorough risk assessment among with evaluation techniques have to be applied.

Crime in the workplace is a phenomenon that although may not in reality be more prevalent, awareness of it, is.

As a result it has become commonplace to employ security managers to oversee the workplace environment in an attempt to combat workplace crime. However, it has to be argued that workplace crime is an extremely broad subject area as not only can crimes be committed by the staff, management, directors, owners and even the security managers themselves, they can also be committed by a myriad of external actor's such as shoplifters, vandals, cybercriminals, white-collar workers, fraudsters, embezzler's or agents of health and safety in the workplace who turn a blind eye to discrepancies in return for a cash bribe and or easily acquired money.

Crime committed by those occupying a powerful position is the focus of radical criminologists such as Steven Box (1989: 1). The role of security managers is equally fluid as their duties can range from observation and surveillance, to 'designing out crime' or being armed guards both visibly in uniformed attire or anonymously in plain clothes or behind the scenes.

For the purposes of this essay the application of criminological theories by security managers of workplace crime will be conceptualised within the context of commercial robbery. This will be achieved by drawing on quantitative and qualitative research findings, media representations, government commissioned research that inform Home Office and British Crime Survey statistics and popular culture which has arguably romanticised the crime of robbery in the past.

The conclusion of this essay will find that security managers would gain from a mainstream theory of crime and criminality if one such theory existed.

However, because the crime prevention strategies used are 'situational' and 'social' they fork in two separate political strands of left and right realism with their own separate explanations of understanding crime.

As a result, criminologists produces a plethora of complex, conflicting, overlapping and contradictory paradigms that could leave particular social groups vulnerable to manipulation, subjectivity, speculation, assumption and partiality leading to the uneven and unjustified targeting of innocent stereotypes as already proven by law enforcement actors and policy makers. Despite that, this essay will provide evidence to illustrate that security managers can and should apply criminological theories to the management of crime and criminality within the workplace particularly concerning robbery in relation to pre-empting crime and recognising shifts in the environmental, social and political landscape in which such crime is likely to occur.

The dominant definition of robbery according to the 1968 Theft Act is as follows

'A person is guilty of robbery if he steals and immediately before or at the time of doing so, and in order to do so, he uses force on any person or puts or seeks to put any person in fear of being then and there subjected to force'

The maximum sentence of life imprisonment provided by the 1968 Theft Act indicates the severity of the crime.

Thus the use of violence or at least force alongside theft, distinguish robbery from theft and burglary (The Theft Act, 1968: S.8 (1)).

Security however is an arbitrary and ambiguous term, the meaning of which is subject to much challenge and contestation although the popular definition is that 'Security is variously defined as a condition of safety, freedom from danger, worry or anxiety. Security is also the name given to the collection of measures people and organisations can take to achieve that state of freedom from danger, particularly freedom from the risk of criminal victimisation' (Department of Criminology, 2010).

The British 'bank robber' is typically under thirty, white and lacking any qualifications or employment skills (Borzycki 2006, as cited in Willis, 2006: 2).

In contrast, in the US the robber is likely to be an African-American which is attributed to the high prevalence of crack-cocaine (Erickson 1996, Wright and Decker 1997, as cited in Willis, 2006: 2).

There are very few factors regarding crime and crime prevention that have a single meaning, as meanings are fluid and dynamic within this context.

Criminology is also not easily defined, as it comprises a multiplicity of different competing disciplines that sit uneasily within the myriad of paradigms.

The political right adopts neo-classic and neoconservative philosophies alongside individual positivism which forks into two strands of biological and psychological positivism. It is the root from which the two century-long debate that the criminal is born and not made emerged (Lombroso, 1911: ix).

From these emerged a multitude of theories regarding crime and criminality which have been contested and challenged over and again (Garland, 1997: 29).

Garland argues that a new discipline emerged that focused on the criminal type which for Lombroso was any one with small skulls, particularly women, to evil the wicked who cannot help themselves (Wilson, 1975: 233). Within the right realist model of thought, bank robbers are 'rational' and act on 'free will' when choosing to commit the crime and in case of robbery, the act is meticulously planned (Wilson, 1975: 233).

For example, Wilson (1975: 233), that in a scenario whereby a young man who witnesses an elderly lady coming out of the Post Office having just drawn out her pension is too much temptation to bear particularly as the street is empty with no onlookers and the target is alone.

Also he argues that the young man decides with ease to seize the opportunity and steal that money from her using threatening or violent behaviour (Wilson, 1975: 233).

Wilson (1975:118) considers that the young man may not do so if there was an effective enough deterrent in place such as a very long custodial sentence of at least twenty years in prison.

However, the lack of awareness is a major criticism by social theorists who argue it is imperative to understand the causes of crime such as Lea and Young's relative deprivation and Merton's strain theories (Merton, 1938; Lea and Young, 1984). Felson (2000: 205) agrees that socialisation, socioeconomic status, gender and age are contributing factors to criminality.

Also it can be noted, that right realists are largely atheoretical as evidenced by Clarke's disregard of the criminal's disposition when claiming that criminals are opportunistic and therefore act on the 'normal human impulses of selfishness and greed' (Garland, 2000 as cited in Clarke, 2005: 40-41).

He also argues that even conformists that lack any criminal disposition are vulnerable to committing specific crimes when faced with a plethora of opportunities (Clarke, 2005: 42).

In contrast, it is argued that 'amateur' robbers are motivated by desperation as poverty or ill health or a lack of life chances which have provided the obstacles that force people into criminality when upward social mobility is impossible which fits into the social explanations for criminality (Willis, 2006: 4). This is illustrated as being at one end of the preparation spectrum whereby armed robbers spend little time planning, do not disguise themselves, fail to plan an escape route and chooses their target in a 'perceived state of desperation' (Willis, 2006: 4). For example, Durkheim argued that crime is inevitable in anomic societies when following rapid social change such as crisis in the economic climate of a country, leads to a crime wave as the desperate poor strive for survival (Reiner, 2007). In Greece of 2011 we can find Durkheim's theory since the current economic climate have boosted dramatically all offences, especially robberies, according to the news broadcasted by all available TV channels.

Similarly, Merton's strain theory builds on the theory of anomie when asserting that the social structure sets goals which everyone strives to meet (Department of Criminology, 2010).

However, the social structure fails to provide universally the tools required in order to achieve such goals legitimately (Merton et al., 1959:465).

Those excluded from the essential means are forced to find alternative means of achievement which are then defined as deviant and criminalised (Merton et al., 1959:465).

This model of sociological positivism underlies left realism which argues external forces are drivers for criminality thus prevention should be focused on the issues at source such as addictions and poor education (Currie, 1991 as cited in McLaughlin, Muncie and Hughes, 2003:369).

Left realist such as Lea and Young argue that crime is 'action and reaction' and 'rule-makers and rule-breakers' which serves to exclude some and not others usually on grounds of class, age, race and gender (1984: 75).

For example, unemployment 'leads to discontent' which leads people to feel the injustice of their situation particularly in light of the material and economic wealth of others which subsequently leads to feeling of 'relative deprivation' (Lea and Young, 1984: 75).

However it must be noted that they refute any claim that poverty is a causal factor of crime. They provide evidence of this as rooted in the lack of a crime wave throughout the interwar years of the 1930's depression (Lea and Young, 1984: 75).

Clarke pioneered theories of situational crime prevention amid the argument that 'opportunity (for crime) makes the thief' (Felson and Clarke, 1998).

This belief regarding the rational criminal has catapulted situational crime prevention to the most dominant position in security measures to the point where it has become synonymous with crime reduction (Clarke, 2005: 39). Crime prevention is 'the total of all policies, measures and techniques outside the boundaries of the criminal justice system' (van Dijk, 1990: 205 as cited in Gilling 2011: 12).

To date there exists twenty-five classified situational prevention emanating from the strengths of research in crime reduction and crime displacement which has evaluated approaches to criminality, contributing factors, responses to crimes and how particular strategies work against the probability of risk factors (Clarke, 2005: 39).

Such strategies in crime prevention in broader terms have evolved to maximise surveillance both natural as well as via CCTV, target hardening by controlling access to make the benefits of criminality more of an effort, installing environmental alterations that disorientate offenders, removing or limiting the tools required for committing crime, reducing the benefits of crime, minimising peer pressure and removing the 'weight of excuses' by implementing clear regulations (Clarke, 2005: 40).

As a result it is claimed to be growing faster than any other crime control strategy (Clarke, 2005: 40).

In contrast, Gill and Matthews approach crime prevention from a more social perspective when arguing that 'target hardening' by means of designing out crime through altering the environment to make criminality less possible and less tempting has enjoyed minimal success in relation to reducing the occurrence of robberies (1994: 26).

For example, Gill and Matthews study revealed that 55 per cent of convicted robbers in their sample had a very low perception of being caught despite 80 per cent having previous convictions (1994: 15). Again this juxtaposes rational choice and cost-benefit analysis because the former according to Cornish and Clark (1986) claims that criminals are rational and thus only commit crime they believe will be successful. In contrast, the latter draws on bio-psychological debates that claim that the social mechanisms that quell the impulsive latent traits of adolescents fail to activate at maturation thus rendering the criminal unable to weigh up the long term costs of the crime such as a custodial sentence, against the short term benefits of their actions such as the sack full of used notes (Hirschi and Gottfredson, 1994: 2).

However, Clarke's model has been criticised for a number of valid reasons ranging from being atheoretical to merely displacing crime from one place to another where targets lack guardianship which serves to victimise the less privileged first misconception is the claim that situational crime prevention is atheoretical (2005: 40). Clarke argues that theories of 'rational choice', 'crime patterns' and 'routine activity theory' underpins situational crime prevention theories (Cornish and Clarke, 1986, Brantingham and Brantingham 1993, Felson, 2000, in Clarke, 2005: 40-41). Clarke also argues that these are situated at all three levels of macro, meso and micro-level society and thus places 'routine activity' at the macro-level that informs people on how to keep safe and security managers on preventative measures (2005: 41). Opportunities for crime arise within the 'patterns' of everyday community-life which occurs at the community meso-level while 'rational choice' informs criminality at the micro-level (Clarke, 2005: 40-41).

Felson's routine activity theory asserts that the criminal act depends upon a triangulation of component parts which involve a 'suitable target' such as the bank, the off license, petrol station or Post Office, the 'opportunistic criminal' (in this case the bank robber) and the 'absence of guardianship' meaning the lack of any form of security personnel (Felson, 2000: 210). The absence of any of these criteria renders the act of robbery as impossible (Felson, 2000: 210).

However, according to Gill and Matthews (1994), bank robbers that use 'suitable targets' are far from opportunistic as such targets are the preserve of the career criminals as the distinctions between amateur and career criminals 'correlate very generally with the level of planning, the type of weapon used, the level of mobility, the type of target selected, and how the robbery is carried out' (in Matthews, 1996: 37). They argue that such robberies are distinct from most poorly planned bank robberies which by contrast illuminate the opportune nature of 'desperate' offenders such as those battling with alcohol or substance misuse who approach unsuitable targets in order to raise funds for their habits (Matthews, 1996: 43).

Indeed, Gill and Matthews sample of convicted bank robbers, 28.8% claimed that drugs was a motivator and 18.8% were motivated by alcohol (1994: 13).

Evidence of this came to light in study by which found that 48 of the 110 interviewees convicted of bank robbery had consumed alcohol or drugs just an hour before committing the crime (Nugent et al, 1989: 55). It could be argued therefore that this typology of criminal driven by what Castells (1996) conceptualised as a 'culture of urgency' are loose cannons in terms of their unpredictability and haphazard approach to robbery (in Muncie and McLaughlin, 2003: 525). In contrast, many bank robbers use strategies that involve meticulously planning with motorised access to banks which are often situated on street corners and intersections with other streets thus which keeps the options open for numerous getaway routes (Weisel, 2007: 18). Indeed, many of the bank robbers interviewed considered banks an easy target (Weisel, 2007: 8-9). Consequently, the likelihood of repeatedly targeting the same outlet is not uncommon for career criminals although not enough repeat robberies occur to assist in analysing the temporal and spatial behaviours of career criminals to formulate a 'pattern' (Weisel, 2007: 21).

However, a study expanded from Matthews (1996) revealed that repeated and non-repeated robberies were indistinguishable when analysing police data (Matthews, Pease and Pease, 2001: 155). Thus understanding the behavioural patterns of bank robbers is equally problematic especially for security managers (Matthews, Pease and Pease, 2001: 163).

It is also argued that target hardening fails to reduce crime because it is displaced elsewhere (Clarke, 2005: 40). However Clarke argues that there is a plethora of evidence to suggest it does work with little displacement of crime (Clarke, 2005: 40). Clarke and Felson argued that 'even crime which is displaced can be directed away from the worst targets, times or places' (1998: vi). However, this has consequences as displacement comes in multiple forms in terms of the changes in crime types, temporal alterations, geographical shifts in targets and tactics (Reppetto, 1976; Gabor, 1990 as cited in Matthews, 1996: 7). For example, Cornish and Clarke (1987) argue that when armed robbery is displaced from banks and building societies it targets 'softer' targets where the security is weak and the staff poorly-trained such as shops and Post Offices (Matthews, 1996: 7). The major chain stores and banks can respond effectively to the continuing technological advancements of situational crime prevention strategies whereas smaller retail outlets are limited by financial constraints and thus becoming the 'softer' targets and victims of crime (Matthews 1996: 43).

Similarly, despite the claims that target hardening via environmental changes to banks and building societies interiors such as security screens, 'double security doors, silent and audible alarms' have made robbing such premises problematic, it is clearly evident that robbers believe they are immune from being caught (Matthews, 1996: 7). The bank robbers' interviewed appeared to universally be in denial that cameras even existed which again can be argued to illustrate Hirschi and Gottfredson claim to an inability to observe the cost-benefit analysis (Hirschi and Gottfredson, 1994: 6). However, CCTV security cameras that are fitted as standard in banks have proven to be an ineffective deterrent, as they can be disabled, diverted via a planted decoy deigned to mislead security, covered or simply cut off (Weisel, 2007: 11). Furthermore, obscuring identity via balaclavas and helmets rendered CCTV useless in 55% of robberies (Matthews, 1996: 15).

It also has to be noted that disguises and guns play a significant role in making the robbers to look terrifying for their victims and consequently making the later more compliant.

In contrast, some studies indicate that deterrent values are present in objects that are either perceived as obstacles or are actual physical obstacles although this was not the case regarding the installation of 'bandit barriers' in either the US or Germany (Weisel, 2007: 44-45). Quite the opposite results occurred as although 'Bandit' screens are typical anti-crime measures utilised in most banks and Post Offices today, they actually serve to protect the armed robber as it disables the likelihood of 'have-a-go-heroes' cashiers attempting to foil the robbery (Matthews, 1996: 7).

As one robber stated 'It was important for my safety as well as people working behind the counter. I felt safe there, and it cut down the risk of say, someone jumping over the counter' (Gill and Matthews, 1994: 19). Another stated that he did not rob outlets where the screens did not reach the ceiling (Gill and Matthews, 1994: 19).

In contrast however, the level of violence used is often escalated where 'physical measures' are in place (Gill and Matthews, 1994: 19). In addition, staff are compliant to the demands of robbers as the crime is occurring which can be over within three minutes and because it is rarely visible to the public very often unbeknown to the customers and other staff (Gill and Matthews, 1994: 19). Nevertheless, bandit screens are hardly a failsafe crime prevention strategy as they do not always act as a deterrent against robbery (Gill and Matthews, 1994: 19).

However, in terms of robbery, managerialism leading to increased policing as implemented in the Metropolitan Police District appears to deter robberies unlike in South Yorkshire where a minimal police presence had the opposite effect (Matthews, 1996). In this context, it is the Metropolitan police and not security personnel that are the guardian's that ensure the target is unsuitable thereby removing the opportunity to commit from the potential robber (Matthews, 1996: 18).

However, this result was gleaned from a sudden drop in bank robberies in 1994 (Matthews, 1996: 43).

It is thus argued instead that bank robbers diversified to the modernised get-rich-quick scheme of the drugs trade (Matthews, 1996: 8).

In conclusion it is evident following a critical analysis of the debates above that security managers could benefit from criminological theories in terms of environmental crime regarding the layout, surveillance and protectionist measures in place within the workplace in ways that provide immediate protection for consumers and staff.

It is also evident in theory that security managers could benefit from an understanding of theoretical frameworks regarding causality and motivators for crime such as the political economic and social backdrop of a society at any given moment.

However, in practice this is problematic on a number of levels.

Firstly, as criminologists cannot agree on a single theory of crime, this can only serve as confusing a situation that is already fraught with danger.

Ultimately, when a gun is pointing at a cashier and an anonymous voice is demanding money, what importance is the robbers' motivation for the crime?

Even if that were established, the boundaries between left and right realism are too blurred to make any positive distinction because while a career criminal fits with the right school of thought, the original motivation for the choice of becoming a career criminal in the first place has to be considered most likely fits with the left realist model which is driven by external social forces.

In contrast, at the opposite and of the spectrum, the drug addicted robber looking for a fix is also 'opportunistic' and thus rational albeit unable to weigh up the short term benefits against the long term costs.

As countless analyses by academics well-versed in criminological theories have revealed, it is more often than not impossible to distinguish between robberies committed by either type of robber (Professional or Amateur) after the event thus much more research is required to ascertain whether theories would be an asset to security managers in terms of enabling them to evaluate probability, predictors and preventative measures before the event.