Examining The Causes Of Criminal Behaviour Criminology Essay

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

This report has been commissioned by Everpool Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (EC&DRP) with the aim being to analyse the causes of criminal behaviour within an area close to the town centre of Everpool, which suffers from high economic deprivation. The area's population is both ethnically and culturally diverse, with a high unemployment rate. Substance misuse is commonplace and the area is blighted by gangs of youths and problem families. The local authority receives regular complaints about the behaviour on the estate of these gangs and problem families.

To be able to analyse the causes of these behaviours various criminological perspectives, will be discussed and applied in order that each may offer some explanation of the issues surrounding the area. Following which this report will examine whether criminological perspectives contribute towards an understanding of the issues concerned

2. The Historical Development of Criminology.

In order for the reader to better understand criminology it may be of relevance to discuss briefly the development of the subject starting with the emergence of classical criminology.

Classical criminology emerged in the eighteenth century with Jeremy Bentham's BOOK (1748-1832) utilitarianism in which he suggested that people applied rationality to their actions, and weighed up their potential gains against the potential costs. Cesare Beccaria (1738-1794) applied these principles in his book 'On Crimes and Punishment' BIBLIOGRAPHY(1764), in which he reasoned that to deter crime the pain of punishment must be enough to counterbalance the pleasure obtained from crime (Siegel, 2009). Classical criminology focused both on criminality and the criminal justice system, with its main principles being crime as a free-willed choice, with the benefits or rewards of crime outweighing the costs, as well as deterrence. Where the criminal justice system was concerned Beccaria suggested a fixed scale of punishment in which the punishment must be equal to the crime. Classical thought influenced penal practice for two hundred years until criticism, and scientific method led to the emergence of Positivism through the works of Auguste Comte (1798-1857) and his studies into society, of which the main elements were application of scientific method, treatment and discovery of pathology and treatment. This meant the focus of positivist criminology was on the offender unlike classicism (Siegel, 2009). Cesare Lombroso (1835-1909) BOOKconsidered the founder of modern criminology, developed biological positivism with his suggestions that a criminal was born, along with what he considered to be measurable physical differences between criminals and non-criminals. Later scholars, in particular Ferri (1856-1929) and Garofalo (1852-1934), developed positivism to include psychological and sociological factors. Though Lombroso's work has been largely discredited, his contributions to criminology have been of great importance with the introduction of empirical evidence to explain both crime and the criminal, which is of great importance in modern criminology. Meanwhile the work of Beccaria and Bentham form the heart of the modern justice system in the western world, whilst their rational choice has seen a re-emergence, particularly over the last twenty year (Joyce, 2001, cited in Shaftoe, 2004).

3. Criminological Perspectives in the Explanation of Crime.

Criminological theory refers to efforts to explain or understand crime causation. To be used to maximum effectiveness, theories must have logical consistency, explain as much crime as possible, and be as concise as possible. Most importantly the theory must have validity (Hagan, 2010).This report shall attempt to apply the following theories to the selection of problems on the Everpool estate: Rational Choice, Determinism, Social Disorganisation and Zonal Hypothesis.

3.1 Rational Choice Theory. 3.1.1

Rational choice theory places emphasis on the expected rewards or gains of committing crime against the costs, therefore resulting in a rational individual making a rational decision. Rational choice stems from the theories of Beccaria and Bentham but has seen a substantial re-emergence over the last twenty years, with "… considerable government enthusiasm for situational crime prevention measures" (Burke, 2002:42)


Everpool is an area of high economic deprivation and high unemployment which would suggest a person from the estate could be likely to commit crime for reward or gain, the fact they have very little could well be the incentive needed. This could suggest rational choice theory can be applied, though firstly it may be of benefit to examine whether high economic deprivation and criminal behaviour are interlinked.

Figure 1.

(Home Office,2010)

Figure 1 shows that there does appear to be higher levels of household crime (burglary, vandalism and vehicle theft) in areas with the highest deprivation levels. The trend also seems to have followed a similar pattern from 2001/2 right through until 2009/10.


These figures therefore do seem to suggest that high economic deprivation and criminal behaviour are interlinked. Although it could be argued, that poverty and deprivation give the offender little choice in their actions, and offences could be opportunistic or even because of a need rather than the actions of a rational thinker looking to gain reward. It is also difficult to apply rational choice theory without some kind of insight into offenders on the estate and their motives.

3.2 Determinism


The theory of determinism suggests all events are predetermined, and a person has no direct control over their lives, the environment they are brought up in, economic factors or other such influences REF. Maclaughlin and Muncie (2009) believe determinism when thinking about criminal behaviour is important because if it can be judged that behaviour is determined (positivist), then this challenges the principles of free will (classicist) and therefore the principles upon which many justice systems are built.


Lack of money and limited knowledge needed to access necessary agencies can mean individuals and families from housing estates like that in Everpool become socially excluded and "...get caught up in disadvantage in ways it is increasingly difficult to escape" (Page, 2000, online). According to a report, commissioned for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2000) the collapse in household income within social housing could be a reason for these problems, in 1979 the top forty per cent of earners lived in social housing, this had dropped to less than five per cent by 1994, compared to the lowest earners living in social housing which in 1979 was only half of the forty per cent of lowest earners, rising to well over three quarters in 1994 (from general Household survey data, 1998b, cited by Page,2000)whilst the average income of households in social housing fell from over three quarters of the national average in 1980,to less than half by 1990 (below the European Union poverty threshold).

Whilst income fell, in recent years unemployment has risen dramatically, with 2007 seeing the highest levels of unemployment seen in the UK according to a report by the Cabinet Office ( 2009) which also states "...experience of high level unemployment can lead to long lasting and broad effects, including community fragmentation, low aspirations, physical decline, long-term unemployment and benefit dependency.


It could be argued that both the reports support the idea that poverty and social exclusion go hand in hand in housing estates creating problems that spiral, and are extremely difficult to escape from. Determinism could be applied to Everpool with regards to certain problems such as poverty and the social environment, but it could be argued that unemployment, in many cases, could be choice rather than 'determined' and if so then a person could potentially be in a position in which they do not want to change their circumstances rather than being unable to.

3.2 Zonal Hypothesis.


Zonal hypothesis is the central idea of the theory of urban ecology, developed by Robert Park (1864-1944) and Ernest Burgess (1886-1966). Urban ecology was the notion that urban areas were scarce and this led to competition between different groups of people and ultimately to the division of land into different areas where people of similar social characteristics tended to reside (Brown, nd). Parks and Burgess' zonal hypothesis model (figure 2) proposed that cities could be split into five concentric zones, with the poorer areas within the inner city (zone of transition), and the outer zones becoming gradually more affluent.

Figure 2.

i. The Loop-the innermost zone is the city centre, the central business district.

ii. The Zone of Transition- factories, poorer/immigrant residences, red light districts.chicago_school_portrait.gif

iii. The Zone of working class home-the homes of the working classes (including those who had moved out of the zone of transition)

iv. Residential Homes-areas with much nicer, and bigger housing.

v. Commuters Zone- much more affluent areas, with residents commuting into the city.



The Everpool estate would fall into the zone of transition, it is just outside of the town centre, is a poor area and has a population that is both ethnically and culturally diverse. To give the theory some validity, Everpool will be compared to the town of Blackburn, to see if a more accurate portrayal of the hypothesis can be found.


Figure 3, is taken from the Lancashire County Council website and shows an image of Blackburn and levels of multiple deprivation.

Figure 3.


(Lancashire County Council, 2008)

The red shading shows the areas with the highest levels of deprivation. The lightest shading represents the areas with the least deprivation, whilst different shades of blue are representative of varying deprivation levels.

As for the population of the town, the recent ONS experimental REFstatistics estimates it at being seventy-seven percent white and therefore twenty-three percent ethnic ( BWDBC, 2010) with a high percentage of the ethnic population residing in the most deprived areas.


Blackburn shows a very definite zone in the centre of town, where the highest levels of deprivation are concentrated as Parks and Burgess suggested. Whilst the outskirts of the town shows a very definite zone where the most affluent areas of Blackburn tend to be. The theory can be criticised within the 'in-between' zones as the image does not show a clear distinction between these zones, as they appear to be knitted together. It could be said that Zonal Hypothesis does not fully apply to Blackburn as the subject (?).

As a geographical image of Everpool is not available, it would be difficult to attempt to apply the Hypothesis, however given the information about the estate, it could be argued that Everpool has features-high deprivation and just outside of the centre, that certainly fit into the idea of the zone of transition.

3.3. Social Disorganisation Theory.


Social disorganisation theory was popularised by the works of Shaw and Mckay (1931), who linked life in disorganised areas to neighbourhood crime rates. They empirically tested zonal hypothesis by looking at court statistics and records (in Chicago) spanning several decades and found that offending behaviour flourished in the zone of transition, decreasing as they moved to the outer zones. This led them to conclude "It was the nature of the neighbourhoods-not the nature of the individuals...that regulated involvement in crime" (Burke ,2002:104).


Accurate data and statistics have not been provided in relation to the extent of certain problems on the estate, therefore in order to attempt to analyse the theory it would perhaps be relevant to use Blackburn once again. As proven with zonal hypothesis, Blackburn has a very definite problem with high levels of deprivation within the centre of the town, therefore, it could be said that these areas suffer from social disorganisation. As the theory links this to higher crime levels this is what the report will look at next.

Figure 4.


(Lancashire County Council,2008)

Figure 4, shows an image of Blackburn using crime data. The red highlights the areas with the highest crime, whilst the lightest colour shows the areas with the lowest crime.


Figure 4 appears to give credibility to the applied theory. Whilst the crime is not as widespread as the deprivation (figure 3), it is concentrated in the centre of the town with levels getting less as the town moves outwards, as Shaw and Mckay theorised.

According to Siegel (2009) indicators of social disorganisation include high unemployment, deteriorated housing, low income levels, law violating gangs as well as inadequate social control. The estate is suffering from all these problems, so can be considered to be suffering from social disorganisation, and if, as Shaw and Mckay concluded, neighbourhoods rather than individuals are to blame for crime rates then it could be considered that the theory can fully explain the issues.

4. Conclusion

Whilst only four theories have been applied in this report and there have been some criticisms each has, to some degree, been able to explain some of the behaviours on the estate. However, it should be noted that the evidence within this report suggests that the most relevant theory should be social disorganisation. No criticisms of this theory could be found, whilst it appeared to fully explain the problems and behaviours of both Everpool and Blackburn.

The use of only a small number of theories gives reason for this report to conclude that criminological perspectives do play a huge part in providing explanations for criminality, not just on the Everpool estate but in all situations and the application of these theories can only be beneficial in finding solutions for certain behaviours.

5. Interventions and Recommendations.

5.1 Crime Prevention Methods.

Neighbourhood policing teams are a good place to start for residents who are concerned about any issues within their areas, they usually conduct residents meetings and have panels for residents to join enabling them to have a say in community sentencing and policing priorities (direct.gov.uk, 2010). A neighbourhood watch scheme could work on the estate if there are enough interested residents, and as the local council has received complaints about gangs and problem families, this could be a starting point. Anti-social behaviour teams consist of a number of agencies working together such as drug action teams and crime and reduction partnership (Home Office, 2006). This could provide a solution to the criminal behaviour, gangs and drug misuse At local council level, a solution could be to look into 'designing out crime' within the estate. Many local council's are looking into or using this initiative to attempt to combat crime, with leading industry experts, including government advisors, police, and the Home Office at the helm (Design Council, 2010).

5.2 Behaviour Therapy.

Behaviour therapy may be of benefit to some individuals on the estate. Addressing certain issues they may have with their lives could potentially have a direct impact on their actions.

Cognitive Analytical Therapy is a therapy that focuses on what has gone wrong in the past, and how to make sure things go right in the future by looking into coping mechanisms that have been used and attempting to improve their ways of coping. It can be done individually or in a group which may be of more interest to residents.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy aims to help a person manage their problems by changing how they think and act. It does not focus on the past, only what is happening at the present time. It is particularly helpful for depression or drug and alcohol misuse (NHS Choices, 2010).

5.3 Focused Interventions

Family based intervention- Youth intervention- drug intervention.