Minneapolis – Cleveland: Comparison and Application of Criminological Theories to Crime

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Minneapolis – Cleveland: Comparison and Application of Criminological Theories to Crime


Evaluations of criminal activity are not a new concept. Researchers have attempted to explain why crime occurs by numerous theories and hypothesized queries. Understanding why crime occurs and how specific regions differ from one another presents not only the researcher but the community as a whole with an understanding of issues which may greatly affect their daily lives. This studies focus is the comparison of Minneapolis, Minnesota and Cleveland, Ohio in crime statistics. In addition to the evaluation and interpretation of crime statistics, three criminal theories are applied in the understanding, interpretation and evaluation of the data in quantifiable terms. Two criminology based theories are explained in their non-applicability of relevance to the evaluation in the exploration of conclusions from the study. To support the data in the study, census data of the average house hold income; size and population densities of both cities are applied to the research to support crime report information.

Summary of Home Town

Minneapolis Minnesota was first founded by French explorers in 1680 when native Dakota Sioux were already residing. The creation of Fort Snelling in the 1820’s contributed greatly to the growth of the region where in 1867 the city was incorporated (Schubach & Chambers, 2012). Throughout the development of Minneapolis’ history, the city had become a regional power for milling flour, lumber and iron works. Due to the boom in industry, crime had followed in street, white collar and organized methods or organizations. Further compounding the problem of crime in the city, during prohibition, illegal alcohol transport and sales played a significant role. Today, Minneapolis is a bustling metropolis which boasts its cultural diversity, high number of theaters and beautiful lakes in the backdrop of the urban landscape.

As of 2012 the reported estimated population of the city of Minneapolis was 392,880 and has risen 2.7 percent since 2010 (Minneapolis QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012). The ethnic majority of the residents of Minneapolis have been reported as 63 percent Caucasian with 18 percent African-American, 10 percent Hispanic, 5 percent Asian and 2 percent Native American (Minneapolis QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012). Minneapolis city limits cover 53.97 square miles with a population density of 7,088.3 per a mile (Minneapolis QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012). The median household income was reported as being $47,478 between 2007 and 2011 (Minneapolis QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012). In the period between 2007 and 2011 reported education levels of Minneapolis residents at high school levels or beyond was reported to be 88 percent of the population or 345,734 individuals (Minneapolis QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012). Due to the high correlation with factors such as population density, education, income and ethnicity in criminal justice research, the aforementioned figures hold relevance in highly sociological studies such this, a criminology based evaluation.

Crime in Minneapolis

Minneapolis has a history of organized crime, violence and gang activity which rivals other, much larger cities in the United States. Prohibition leading to the criminalization of alcohol production and consumption, opportunistic criminals took advantage of the 18th Amendment and aligned themselves with organized crime syndicates of Chicago and New York (Police Clips, 2012). This trend and relationship with Chicago gangs and organized crime has continued today with the coining of the nick name “Murder-apolis” in the 1990’s.

Minneapolis Police Department, founded in 1867, has developed a multitude of specialized departments, units and partnerships with other agencies to combat and prevent criminal activity within the city limits (About the MPD - City of Minneapolis, 2013). One such example is the partnership Minneapolis Police Department has had with the Federal Bureau of Investigations Twin cities Safe Streets Violent Gang Task Force (FBI Violent Gang Task Forces, 2013). The task force assists local law enforcement, in this case Minneapolis Police, in the reduction and prevention of violent gangs which have spread to the area from Chicago based organizations (Howell & Moore, 2010).

According the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Uniform Crime Report part one criminal offenses have decreased from 2009 to 2011 by a cumulative 3.54 percent (2012). A part one offenseis defined as: Homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2012). Table 1 represents the fluctuation in reported part one crimes by the Minneapolis Police Department to the F.B.I. during these periods. The most significant crime which saw an increase over this period was homicide, which was elevated by 77 percent by 2011. The largest observable decreased offense type was aggravated assault and was observed of a reduction of 20.1 percent from 2009 to 2011.

Table 1: Offenses Reported - Minneapolis Police Department (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2012)

Crime in Cleveland

Cleveland Ohio historically has had a reputation for industrial manufacturing, labor union conflict and gang activity similarly to that of Minneapolis (Cleveland Historical, 2013). Due to the population size and density of Cleveland, Ohio being similar to Minneapolis the city was an excellent example to compare crime data against one another. In 2010 the U.S. Census Bureau reported the population of Cleveland at 396,814 with 37 percent Caucasian, 53 percent African-American, 10 percent Hispanic and 1.8 percent Asian (Cleveland QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012). At 77.7 miles, Cleveland occupies a slightly larger area than Minneapolis but its average population density being 5,107.2 per square mile, the ratio remains roughly the same between the two cities (Cleveland QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012). The median household income of Clevelanders was reported to be $27,470 and persons 25 or older with a high school diploma numbering 76.3 percent (Cleveland QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau, 2012).

The F.B.I. Uniform Crime Report lists part one crimes reported by law enforcement agencies which operate in Cleveland at a similar scale to Minneapolis but with higher frequency of commission (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2012). A dramatic difference between both cities reported offenses lies in the number of burglaries and robberies and is represented by table two which are nearly double the rate of frequency in Cleveland compared to Minneapolis. From 2009 to 2011 burglaries in Cleveland have increased 15.87 percent whereas all other crime has had an average decrease over the same period. Compared to Minneapolis’ 3.54 percent in the overall reduction of part one offenses between 2009 and 2011, Cleveland has had a 1.84 percent decrease.

Table 2: Offenses Reported - Cleveland, Ohio (FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 2012)

Theories of Criminal Behavior

General strain theory, first introduced by Robert Agnew in 1992, is based on Anomie theory (Kaufman et.al., 2008). The parameters of the theory include social, economic and status based stressors on an individual and the failure to reach the expected goal of each sphere of one’s life. The failure of the individual to reach the goals may likely result in anger or frustration in the individual and lead them to criminal activity as a means to reach the desired goal(Cullen & Agnew, 2002).The pressures to reach social, economic or cultural expectations create negative emotions and are reinforced by cultural norms such as the American dream built on the post-World War II era prosperity. Conklin quotes Agnew from 2006 and states that “research indicated juveniles are most likely to turn to crime when they experience strain in their relations with family members, including ‘parental rejection of the child; parental punishments that are erratic, excessive, and/or harsh; child abuse and neglect; family conflict; and parental separation and divorce’” (2013).

Broken windows theory was introduce by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982 and is the concept that refers to the act of disregard for small crimes of social control leading to larger criminal behavior. As one researcher states, “The theory further argues that as more windows are broken, a sense of anarchy will spread to the streets and people will believe that there are no rules (Lorenz, 2010). Lorenz adds that the theory has been so influential that public policy has been shaped to conform to the theory, specifically in 1980’s and 1990’s New York (2010). Public and political response to Wilson and Kelling’s theory, zero tolerance policies began forming to combat the proposed result of the theory; and the first policies of this form were founded by educational institutions (Lorenz, 2010).

Evolutionary psychology has also been used to help explain the causes and sources for criminal activity. Although no single researcher is responsible for an all-encompassing theory using evolutionary psychology, the approach uses the principals of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as its basis for reasoning and explanation. Conklin points out “… men commit much more crime than women in all societies, and this suggests at least some of the difference is due to biological difference between the sexes” (2013). Additionally, “According to evolutionary psychologists, motives of sexual rivalry and proprietariness evolved over time in a sexually differentiated way to ensure reproductive success: Men became more concerned with their partners’ sexual infidelity, and women became more concerned with the allocation of their partners’ resources and attention” (Conklin, 2013). By males subconsciously competing in gaining sexual dominance and genetic legacy with females, their competition can lead to violence again females and other males. This competition concept supports the theory of sex hormones, specifically testosterone, playing a correlating factor in general crime and a large role in domestic violence committed against women.

Application of Theories to Reported Crime

General strain theory appears to be a reasonable explanation for the considerable majority of crime in Minneapolis, Cleveland and the United States as a whole. Assisting in the agreement in the theory, the American dream of being successful, free from oppression and the opportunity for achievement by hard work, defines the American cultural standards which all citizens appeared to be measured internally and externally. The recent economic decline in the United States significantly contributes to the application of general strain theory as more American citizens every day are experiencing stressors in financial hardship. New media outlets commonly have referred to the economic climate of the U.S. as being in such a recession it rivals The Great Depression. Great pressure being placed on citizens facilitates the justification for crime as a potential means to achieve the goals they may have once had reach by legitimate means.

Broken windows theory has been the most universally applied criminological theory in law enforcement and public policy. Responsible for the adoption of zero tolerance regulation, it was been widely accepted as having accurate relevance to the causation of crime. The implications of the theory to crime in Minneapolis, Cleveland and the U.S. in general are relative to the rates of offenses. Areas of poverty, or lower income in general when compared to higher average income regions contributes to the need of individuals to work harder and longer than those with high degrees of economic flexibility. In support of this prospect, families with parents who are near the poverty line may not have the luxury of day care or after school programs to occupy their children while they work to support their family. Unsupervised children are generally been considered be at risk for influence by gang member and criminal deviants. Cleveland having a lower income per household average than that of Minneapolis could be used as an explanation of higher rates of property crimes.

Evolutionary psychology is also accurate in the explanation of crime in certain circumstance. Domestic violence and revenge killings are easy to imagine being a result of evolutionary psychology. The concept of males competing for dominance and the impression of females due to ingrained human nature is not as farfetched as many may think. The attraction of the opposite sex, expressions of dominance and control, and subconsciously fulfilling gender roles are argued by the concept of the theory to be ingrained in each of us as a process of evolution and socialization. If these factors are considered in the lifestyle of a gang member it is easy to correlate these concepts with criminal activity of the gang members. Initiation beatings, sometimes called blood in blood out, larceny, burglary and homicide can be used as the expression of loyalty to the gang. Additionally, females seeking associating with gangs may be sexually assaulted by the members as an expression of loyalty to the gang in trade for protection from others. Ultimately, the human species although cranially developed, still seeks the same fundamental goals that majority of the animal kingdom does.

Table 3: Percent of change in criminal activity by category, 2009-2011




Aggravated Assault



Motor Vehicle Theft

















Non-Applicable Theories

Labeling theory, though it may explain recidivism and repeat offenders it seemingly would have loose associations with first time or single event offenders. This theory was not considered in this evaluation due to the limited applicability to the first time offenders and limitations in reports of criminal activity. The theory does have considerable weight when it is applied to the topic of recidivism by previously convicted criminals. Labeling theory holds considerable weight in the strain experienced by ethnic minorities and can contribute to a rejection of the ability to achieve legitimate means to reach the previously referred to American dream in addition to racial charged biases which can be formed. Additionally, labeling theory can be applied to other social aspects outside of criminology such as the glass ceiling effect felt by women and minorities in the workplace.

Routine Activities theory suggests crime can become a regular occurrence for some and is an explanation of crime but does not appear to be all encompassing theory which would apply as broadly as general strain theory. Routine activity theory relies on three factors of applicability to remain relevant to criminal studies; these three elements are: An accessible target, the absence of capable guardians that could intervene and the presence of a motivated offender (State of New South Wales Department of Attorney General and Justice, 2011). Routine activities theory is useful in determining deterrence and prevention measure to specific crimes. The theory however fails to recognize the sociologically relevant motivating factors of the offender such as poverty or unemployment.


In conclusion, any number of combinations of theories from criminology, psychology or other disciplines can applied to crime in the pursuit of understanding the scope of the issue and its causes. No single theory is perfect in its explanations and thus the reasoning for theory versus law. The most useful method to understand crime would be a combination of theories, data and researcher experience in the interpretation of criminology for evaluation. The economic status of the United States provides an opportunity for evaluation of economic status as a determinate factor of its influence in crime rates. By measuring income and economic data with increased or decreased crime rates over the same period correlations of each factor can be resolved from the data. Report accuracy and thoroughness of data collection techniques by agencies are absolutely essential to any research being conducted on the subject matter. Without quality reporting fundamentals the existing theories would cease to exist.


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