Every Night On The Evening News Criminology Essay

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Society's perception on crime continues to increase dramatically since the early 1960. The growing anxiety in Canada about violent crimes is a reflection of the perceived increasing rates of crime such as: homicide, assaults, robbery, property crimes and drug offences. Although the rates have been declining when comparing data from 1962 to 2007 (Statistics Canada 2007), the public's perception remains that crime is on the rise, specifically in poor provinces and poor neighbourhoods in most major Canadian cities. Data Analysis from Statistics Canada(2011), shows rates of violent crimes to be the highest in Nunavut with 9887 (per 100000 people) compared to Ontario with 950 incidents of violent crimes (per 100000 people).

Statistics Canada (2011), further shows that the median income level from a person residing in Ontario is $71,540 per annum, with an unemployment rate of 7.9 while those living in Nunavut have median income level of $62,680 per annum and an unemployment rate of 15.7. With this data, it is evident that Ontario residents on average enjoy a higher standard of living on and are more likely to be employed and have access to jobs.

Regional and neighbourhood differences in crime rate exist, so do the two factors often considered causes of violent crime; poverty and race. Data analysis from Statistics Canada (2011), shows that Saskatoon being a large urban area had the highest incidents of violent crimes with 1655 (per 100,000 people), compared to Toronto with 876 (per 100,000 people).

On a local level, the rates of violent and property crimes were highest in low-income neighbourhoods such as: Scarborough, Malvern, Cabbage Town, Morningside to name a few (Toronto Police Service, 2012). Data from the Toronto Police Service (2011), crime statistics shows Malvern (low income area) to have 132 incidents of crime, compared to the Bridle Path/ York Mills (upper middle class area) with 41 incidents of crime.

The data from the Toronto Police Service (2012) shows that higher crime rates exits in areas where the socio-economic conditions are not favourable or where there is a higher concentration of immigrants.

There are no conclusive reasons as to why crime occurs, but two questions have puzzled researchers for decades. The first question is why do certain individuals have tendencies to commit violent crimes? The second question is why do the rates of violent crime differ from one location to another? To answer the latter question, one has to ascertain which variations in social conditions are associated with the differences in crime rates and also what social conditions exist that make it likely for people to commit certain types of crime.

The significance of the relationship of urban socio-economic conditions and the incidence of crime were first recognized in 1942 in the ecological studies conducted by Shaw and McKay at the University of Chicago. Since then, various other studies have been conducted showing a link between socio-economic conditions, ethnic composition and the rate of crime in certain urban areas. Most of these studies have concluded that three urban conditions promote high crime rates and social disorganization: poverty, Inequality and mobility, with poverty being the most important factor.

Looking at above crime analysis data from the Toronto Police Service, incidents of crime occur more frequently in the poorest neighbourhoods when compared to the wealthiest neighbourhoods. Data from the Toronto Police Service crime statistics shows Scarborough village to have 139 incidents of crime per 10,000 people, compared to 43 per 10,000 people in Victoria Village. One can argue that in the high crime neighbourhoods, there is a subculture valuing toughness, smartness and fatalism. Furthermore, the impoverished conditions of these so-called "lower class" neighbourhoods make them a breeding ground for criminal activities. This data can also be viewed as a lack of ties between the community and local government, and poor relations with law enforcement officials and particularly the police.

Although numerous studies attributed crime to poverty and its consequences, not many of them have focused on socio-economic inequality. Only recently has the influence of socio-economic inequality on crime been investigated. According to Cloward and Ohlin (1960), delinquency depends not only on blocked legitimate opportunities, but also on available illegitimate opportunities for becoming successful. Therefore, one can use the analogy that a poor person that has no opportunities to obtain a higher education, nor any opportunity to learn criminal skills, will become neither a successful lawyer nor a successful criminal.

Economic inequality entails conflict of interest over the distribution of resources. Much inequality spells a potential for violence. Inequalities that distribute economic opportunities on the basis of a person's race, ethnicity and class differences are related to socio-economic position. Pronounced inequality in resource availability to minority ethnicities implies that there are great riches within view, but not within reach. Many of these people are therefore destined to live in poverty. The question to be asked is whether urban poverty and economic inequality are a source of criminal violence. It can be argued the relationship between the two indicates an influence of poverty on violence. Income inequality in a given area raises the rate of criminal violence.

An example of this is a study conducted on aboriginals, living in low income areas, to investigate the relationship between crime and socio-economic status in Saskatoon's neighbourhoods. The study found a strong relationship between low socio-economic status and high crime rates (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2000).

The third condition Mobility, is typically viewed as the voluntary movement from one place to another. In some communities, involuntary or coercive mobility may be the dominant force of movement in an out of that particular neighbourhood. This may be true particularly in opportunity starved neighbourhoods, in which voluntary relocation is a rare option and the forces of residential segregation are difficult to overcome (Massey & Denton, 1993). In these areas coercive relocation may be common; many residents may be removed from the neighbourhood for incarceration but most return to the neighbourhood after incarceration. Looking at statistical crime analysis data, many of the poor neighbourhoods in the greater Toronto area suffer from involuntary mobility, which may be a contributing factor in the increase of violent crime

Researchers on the other side of this issue have argued that there is no definite way of measuring whether socio-economic inequalities have a quantitative effect on crime. According to Braithwaite (1979), "Once the seriousness of the instant of offence and prior record of the offender are taken into account, apparent class bias only plays a minor role". A second study conducted from data obtained from the Ottawa Police Service on socio-economic status as a predictor of crime, found there was a weak statistical association between crime and socio-economic status, and that there were no clear predictors (Mata, 2003).

Taking a new approach, there are different sociological theories that can be applied to rationalize the reasons behind the increase in crime in lower class neighbourhoods. The social disorganization theory states that poverty was one of three elements linked to higher crime rates. This is true of theft and related offenses. Research was conducted, and found that where a neighborhood had a high turnover rate and high poverty, violent crime was higher. (Smith and Jarjoura 1988) Exposure to poverty and violence creates a predisposition to violence, and it shows that half of all homicides result from interpersonal conflict with another. Positivist criminology states that criminal motivations are beyond the criminal's control (Greene 1993).

Poverty is an influence on the criminal, but there is some inconsistency in linking economic variables with all crime. This may be due to the difficulty of accounting for multiple variables in research, such as divorce, unemployment, broken homes, neighborhood decay, or other variables. (Vold, Bernard, & Snipes, 2002). However, many sociologists suggest that individuals in poor families and communities are more likely to steal, rob, sell drugs, and otherwise make illicit gains.

Early studies on crime and economic conditions were conducted by Quetelet in France nearly 200 years ago (Vold, Bernard, & Snipes, 2002). He found that there were more property crimes in wealthy communities, because there was more to steal. Similarly, property crime was low in poor communities because there was no inequality. Everyone was equally poor and therefore there was nothing worth stealing from a neighbour. As for unemployment, there is not conclusive evidence that unemployment makes any one individual more predisposed to crime. However on the macro-level, an increase in unemployment is accompanied by an increase in crime rates.

Problems in the low income community often deal with the multi-variety causes of crime, such as: unemployment, poverty, divorce, broken homes, poor schools, poor housing quality, racial and ethnic mix, residential mobility, and population turnover. Socio-economic status and classes in society are not a reflection of crime directly.

The circumstances of low-class living no doubt provide the conditions that create at risk residents who are predisposed to criminal behavior. A person's success is measured by wealth, status, and material possessions, the poor may see unlawful means as the only means to obtain those possessions. Lawful means will not allow them to own a home or get an education. There is a link between socio-economic and rational choice (Zafirovski, 1998).

An individual looks at where they are economically and seeks some type of economic benefit through legal or illegal means. There may be underlying social explanations, such as poverty, but even then the individual rationally thinks of executing the theft and calculates the potential risks and benefits as well. A wealthy person makes a rational choice not to steal, but he also has no motivation to do so, since his standard of living is sufficient.

Rational choice does have its critics. Rational choice is often described as legitimate but weak. There are many variables and factors to explain a person's decision to commit a criminal act (Boudon, 2003). There are other social factors to consider, even if a person makes a rational choice in committing a crime, understanding his behavior requires someone to see the big picture and understand the motivations for their actions. While the decision may be rational, the underlying circumstances of being poor will motivate many to steal. If a person is starving to death, it is difficult to resist the urge to steal in order to eat.

Crimes committed by youth who, acting under the social learning theory, learned that they could gain something by violence. As such, even some crimes of violence are motivated by the desire to steal property. These same youth are asked and indicate that they fear they will never succeed in life through conventional means. Some blame the poor educational system in these communities. Especially in areas it is obvious that none of the students could get jobs other than at fast food restaurants. Arguably, the social support and social structure is completely gone in those neighborhoods, leaving perpetual social disorganization.

Studies on rural crime, also linking socio-economic conditions to criminal behavior there is a positive correlation between crime rates and socio-economic factors, such as per capita income, inequality, and unemployment rates. There is a negative relationship between crime and the percentage of the population below the poverty line. More crime occurs when legal opportunities for employment are denied. It is argued that rural areas should create economic opportunities, such as building up industries other than just existing agricultural activities.

Looking indirectly between economic condition and crime, there is a relationship that exists between welfare recipients and crime. In those homes that receive welfare, there is a greater chance of single parent families or broken homes. These families and neighborhoods may lack that social bonding or social structure that would reduce crime. The findings do not directly link poverty to crime, but they do link the collection of poverty and social disorganization commonly in poor neighborhoods to higher rates of crime. (DeFronzo, 1997)

Social control is a key term for social disorganization and is identified by cleaned neighborhoods, crime watch groups, agencies to help individuals, discipline in or out of the home and other alternative punishments to incarceration for offenders.

The Broken windows theory relates to social disorganization as it links neighborhood decay to an increase in crime. If petty offenses are not prosecuted or vandalized facilities not maintained, it signals a disinterest in the community by residents and serves to invite worse crime.

Out of the theories presented, social disorganization theory clearly explains and relates how low income communities have a higher percentage of crime than those of middle to higher income. There are many who are poor but still choose to live a life of high moral standards and to abide by laws and statutes. The increase in poverty will no doubt lead to continued increases in property crimes, theft, and robbery.

The best solutions for the reduction of crime have been argued by sociologist for decades. Traditionally, success of outcomes as it relates to solutions to the social conditions which precipitate crime are quantified (Hastings, 2005). Meaning; dollars spent + immediate results + short term commitment = success. Alternative frameworks and solutions to this social problem have been contemplated and discussed by many respected sociologist, politician and community activist. The common theme amongst these discussions was that some results are qualitative and sometimes may not meet the litmus test conventionally used. A simple and common sense solution should include dialogue on what can be used as a measurement of success. A simple solution could be found using the following: Empowerment + innovative change + commitment = success. Research on solutions to this social problem included three sources.

The first source was secured from the Canadian Journal of Criminology & Criminal Justice. "Perspectives on Crime Prevention: Issues and Challenges", is a scholarly article written by Professor Ross Hastings of the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa. The published article reflects on efforts of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) in the reduction of crime. In their development of prevention policy, the NCPC focused on youth, children and families. The group recognized two simple truths. The first is that children and families have similar needs and challenges; but access to resources may differ. Quality of life afforded to some people may differ from others with less. For example, a person living in government housing may not have access to a family dental or chiropractic plan. Low pay, part-time employment might not provide the opportunity to create a financial safety net. The second truth is that government commitment is muddled. Government appears confused about where and how to allocate resources to crime prevention. Communities are sometimes expected to mobilize and take charge of crime. This is evident in programs such as neighbourhood watch or block parent. According to Professor Ross, communities most affected by crime may lack the resources, knowledge and skill needed to combat contentious issues.

The government maintains a preventive approach as a method of reducing crime. An example is Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). This program is an initiative which seeks to decrease the incidence of property crime by using the physical environment. Public surveys conducted suggest that most Canadians are in favour of prevention initiatives (Ekos Research, 2004). Ross states, that though preventive means are supported by most, there is little emphasis by the government to increase financial support to these methods. Instead, emphasis continues to be placed on reactive and punitive measures. Essentially, more money is allocated to the criminal justice process (police, courts and corrections). Consider this; Toronto Police Service 2012 budget was $64,000,000 shy of the billion dollar mark (CBC news, 2011). For the period 2011- 2012 Ontario expense outlook for the Justice Sector was estimated to be $4,000,000,000 with a projected growth of .4% for by 2015 (Ontario budget, 2011). Reflect on the benefits of investing 1% of the police service budget to after school programs, youth mentorship programs or drug addiction counseling. Give thought to what this money would do to promote society's transformation.

The article recognizes the need for constructive dialogue between those who create crime policy and locals. Locals are described as clients of the justice system (present or past), those it works on and those needed to help deliver programs. According to Currie Elliot, as cited by Professor Ross, a discussion ought to occur on the social causes such as stress, deprivation and inequality as they are the issues which precipitate crime. In dealing with the conditions which breed crime, Professor Ross suggested that a national strategy is needed to help empower and support communities to organize. On the issue of prevention, Ross states, "Is it reasonable or realistic to imagine a new way of addressing the problem of crime, and then to think that this work can be effectively accomplished by the "old" criminal justice system?"

"The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence" is a report presented by the Honourable Roy McMurtry and Doctor Alvin Curling. Recognizing a law and order approach to youth violence was not the answer. Former Premier Dalton McGuinty took an alternative approach by looking into the cause of the problem. McMurtry and Curling were tasked with determining the root causes of youth violence in Ontario. Both are former Members of Ontario Legislature. McMurtry became Chief Justice of Ontario in 1996 before retiring in 2007. Curling was the former House Speaker of the Legislature before resigning from this seat to accept a posting as Canada's Ambassador to the Dominican Republic. These two respected public servants with years of experience on issues related to justice and governance presented a detailed report on the root causes of violence in Ontario. Some of the recommendations presented by the review were similar to the beliefs shared by the NCPC.

The review provided four pillars they believe will serve as an intervention strategy in redirecting at risk youth. The first is "A repaired social context" which seeks to tackle the root causes of youth violence. This social context required action on poverty, racism, poor housing, youth mental health, education, a need for family support and youth engagement. The second pillar is "A youth policy framework" which seeks to bring together youth policy geared towards development stages. The third pillar is "A neighbourhood capacity empowerment focus" intended on providing stable funding to agencies which serve disadvantaged communities. The final pillar is "Integrated governance" which essentially relates to the ability to tap into the multiple sections of government.

Of the 30 recommendations presented to the Premier of Ontario, 12 stand out from the rest.

Reduction in poverty with a focus on affordable housing

A discussion on youth mental health

Removing educational barriers by making teachers and administrators more reflective of the neighbourhoods they serve

Culturally specific services for families with an emphasis placed on parental care and early year programs

A focus on sports and arts as a tool which will support learning, development and youth creativity

Youth mentorship programs and initiatives

Long term employment opportunities for youth

Amendments to the youth justice system which will assist in reducing the over criminalization of youth

Community hubs intended to serve as a place of safety

Recognizing a need for change is a step in the right direction. Creating dialogue on the issue is a positive step. The formation of the National Strategy on Crime Prevention and Community Safety (NCPC) in 1994 was a paradigm shift which set focus on preventative strategies. "The Review of the Roots of Youth Violence" continued to build on the platform created by the NCPC. Even though 14 year gap exist between the two; suggestions and recommendations presented by both have been implemented. The most notable is the early year programs presented by the government in the form of all day kinder garden. To those most in need, this show of support is a welcome change.

In conclusion, when comparing Ontario to Nunavut or more locally, the different neighbourhoods in Toronto, there is a definite correlation between the crime rates and the socio-economic status of the area. From the data presented there is definitely more reported crime in areas with lower socio-economic standing.

We can see that this is best described in Social disorganization theory. From this theory we learn that it is not necessarily poverty itself, but different influences from the lower-class environment that causes someone to become involved in criminal activity.

Overall, our suggestions for solving the problems of higher criminality in areas of socio-economic disadvantage, is by removing some disadvantage. Focussed spending on youth programs, affordable housing and the education system would result in 10 fold savings in Police budgets and judicial system spending.