Examining The Issue Of Burglary In Areas Criminology Essay

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The purpose of this study is to investigate disorderly conduct and burglary that occur in a particular area in Qormi. Qormi is the third most populated locality in Malta with approximately 16,576 residents (National Statistics Office Malta, 2006). Using the SARA model, a thorough analysis will be carried out in order to identify the problems and come up with suitable solutions.

In the scanning phase, it is important to define the urban area and its problem as clearly as possible. To begin with, this particular area is an urban park measuring at 0.004 km2 with a perimeter of 0.30km. This area is surrounded by residential houses, two schools (primary and all-boys secondary) and two shops - a confectionery and stationery. However this area also has two kiosks which are open during the summer season, especially during the week of the traditional town feast. This area is experiencing two main problems: disorderly conduct and burglary. In this case disorderly conduct is going to be a generic term that will encompass criminal activities such as youth misbehaviour, underage drinking, arson, vandalism, drug trafficking and drug abuse. This partially recreational environment features: predatory behaviour, which is clearly seen in the burglaries where the offender and the victims are two different entities and the victims frown upon the offender's actions; incivilities such as rowdy groups and loud music, where the offenders are affecting a number of victims yet these behaviours are only of minor annoyances; and endangerment where the offender and the victims are the same person like in cases of drug abuse (Clarke & Eck, 2003).

The victims affected by the problem are the residents that live around the area, and harms range from nuisance, with regards to the disorderly conduct; to financial loss or psychological harm especially in the cases of burglaries, with victims refusing to keep on living in the same house. The events are all similar in their nature and a pattern can be noticed over a substantial period of years. Most of the drug use seems to be more popular during the winter season considering that the park is more often than not deserted in the evening. Burglaries do not seem to be following a specific pattern as they do not have consistencies in time or specific period of the year. The whole area is regarded as a crime enabler hotspot (Clarke & Eck, 2003) as there is little regulation of the behaviours; this in turn propagates social disorganisation. There are feelings of widespread panic and paranoia amongst all the residents that live near the area. These have created lack of trust in public officials and law enforcers. For this situation the police are expected to eradicate completely the problem of drug use and burglaries, as well as restore back order in the urban park.

The analysis phase will improve the intelligence that has been collected in the scanning phase in order to gain full understanding of the problems of this particular area. For this phase, operational analysis as well as tactical analysis will be used in order to help accomplish the best solution possible. Study over a long term period will reveal that the area has different fluctuations with regards to the activities and the level of people that occupy this specific urban park.

The site gets daily visits from neighbouring residents throughout all the year, especially from elder residents in the morning. Moreover, in the winter the park is popular with mothers who bring their kids on the swings before or after school. Teenage boys from the secondary school also have a tendency to linger at the park especially after their school hours are over. In additional in the winter youths have a tendency to get together at the park especially in the weekends - drinking cheap booze, smoking, doing drugs and lighting the bins on fire. The situation takes a drastic turn in the summer season especially in the late afternoon hours, when the kiosk owner opens up his kiosk and the usual partisans all gather around listening to loud music, getting into arguments and other ruckus. Afterwards, in the late evening hours; especially after the kiosk closes down, some youths meet up at the park or they linger there after everybody is gone. Throughout all the year, especially in the late afternoon it is also customary for the 'confectionary' to get numerous visits from habitual individuals, most of whom come speeding around the park in the typical Maltese modified car complete with tinted glass. Up to six years ago, this area was flourishing with stereo thefts. Now, this crime, no longer popular due to the technological changes of car stereo/removal of stereo faceplate; has been replaced by home burglaries.

As already mentioned in the previous phase the burglaries do not follow a particular order, nevertheless there have been some similarities which have been noticed throughout all burglaries. The similarities include the victim component which is in most cases a female, aged 60+ and living alone; and the time component, where the offenders break-in houses whilst their residents are away and this would perhaps indicate premeditation before the offence. During these last three years a total of 7 burglaries have been carried out in this area. The criminals use the same modus operandi, the same techniques to open the front door and ransack through the personal belongings usually aiming for gold, silver, money or anything that can be exchanged for money. Moreover, in some of the cases the locals report that before the incident, a car with two 20-30 year old men was noticed passing frequently through the area. A similar analysis on the abuse of drugs and alcohol would prove difficult to carry out because in the absolute majority of the cases no report is made, due to the fact that the offender and the victim are the same person. Nevertheless, the amount of syringes and Lachryma Vitis cartoon packs constantly found laying in the park and the surrounding road indicate that drug and alcohol use are nowhere near the level of declining.

This area, regarded by many as one of the 'hot spots' in Qormi was not given any attention from local councils or law enforcers for a long period of time. This means that for a substantial period of years the area was a disorganised dump, where drugs were abused freely in the park's toilet in the presence of children playing. As Wilcox, Quisenberry, Cabrera and Jones (2004) illustrate in their study by using the broken windows hypothesis one can prove that a socially disorganised environment could be the main factor affecting criminal activity. This has now been addressed as during the last year the area has been cleared up of all graffiti and broken swings. Moreover to the resident's greatest pleasure the toilets where knocked down, their access has been changed as they are no longer accessible from the park but from the road and they were given a total facelift. Results have been positive and a year later the park is still in an optimal state. However even if there has been a decrease in vandalism reported, crimes such as drug abuse and underage drinking and surrounding theft are still taking place.

The sub-cultural theory also plays an important part in explaining why certain crimes occur. Through differential association the youth culture which is obviously present in the park will learn criminal behaviour. Furthermore criminal sub-cultures encourage neutralisation techniques that make it easier for them to commit crimes and thus crime rates rise. One must not forget to mention the routine activities hypothesis that can be easily applied to this area considering that all three elements (suitable targets, motivated offenders and lack of guardians) are present. This theory can also be applied to the series of house burglaries that have occurred during these last three years. The trend that these burglaries are following is that of the choice of victims. Moreover these burglaries were carried out whilst nobody was occupying the house. This could be considered as evidence that these offences were committed with criminal intent where, as Beccaria's rational choice theory clearly illustrates, both risks and rewards were considered before the attempt. The patterns of the break-ins per se are not similar to each other, thus each case is specific; however there has been a case of repeated victimisation where one of the houses was burglarised two times over a short period of weeks. Burglary can be attributed with Merton's theory of anomie where the act can be described as the individual's way of obtaining economic success through illegal means. In additional, the concept of criminal career can be used to explain the escalation of theft of car-stereos to burglaries. Although there is no proof that the perpetrators are the same, this indicates that the criminals involved are rather versatile - using the resources they find.

The responses in this report are not goin to be crime specific considering that Clarke and Eck (2003:25) state that solutions for difficult neighbourhoods should be considered together for the sake of costeffectiveness. However, recomendations will be classified into two: recomendations that require active intervention from law enforcers and those that need not.

Considering that this site had practically non-existent visible policing, it goes without saying that active intervention will be recomended, however not necessarily community policing. Whilst community policing has only given results linked with a reduction in fear of crime, hot-spot policing has strong empirical support showing that geographically-focused police practices are more effective in reducing crime and social disorder (Weisburd & Eck, 2004). Moreover residents should be encouraged to work with the police in order to ensure well being. This can be carried out through education and seminars by the police and through an implemented system whereby the residents can report shady characters and illegal behavior that they see.

Most of the tactics that do not require active involvement from the police are built upon Clarke's situational crime prevention techniques. These techniques focus on five elements: increase effort needed to commit crime, by installing alarms, install speed calming techniques and educating people on how to safeguard their homes; increase percieved risks, by adding CCTV cameras and increase street lightening; reduce reward - again through education, by warning people not to keep many valuable items in their houses and removing excuses (Clarke, 1997). This also addresses the routine activities theory; as guards are increased and attractive targets are removed or hidden. Moreover these techniques also address the rational choice theory as the risks are greater than the rewards. Lastly, Hilborn (2009:14) advises that one drastic measure should be made; that is, taking back the guardianship of the park. This can be carried out by organising neighbourhood watches and involving the residents. In this way Hirschi's social bonds are strengthed and this will increase social disapproval.

One of the strengths evident through the recommendations is that of empowering and working closely with the people. In this way the police force is no longer a segregated group of people wearing blue, but full members of society that can offer insight on various problems. On the other hand the issues of costs and police staff are major weaknesses that make most recommendations difficult to implement. Either way, the expected outcome out of all the proposals is that of improving the problem area, making the site a safe zone for all members of society. As far as retaliation goes, this should not be a major issue if the members of the neighbourhood work together through participation and delegation. As for displacement, Eck (1993) states that "despite the concern about displacement, police seldom have good evidence of displacement" explaining that more than half of the studies he carried out found no evidence of displacement.

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