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Monday, May 19, 2014

Week 2 Discussion - Criminological Theory.

      I chose the City of New York to examine in terms of breaking crime cycles. I chose New York City due to the “zero tolerance” method used to reduce crime rates; a policy based upon the “broken windows” theory. In addition, I chose this policy to examine due to the fact that Deblasio has declared his intent to end the program, so in effect we are looking at a program that is complete. Finally, here has been a good deal written examining the policy from both pro and con positions.
      Before I explain which of the Chicago School theories are macro-level or micro-level, I will differentiate the concepts. “A micro-level theory explains why some individuals engage in crime and others do not. In contrast, a macro-level theory attempts to explain differences in groups” (Vito & Maahs, 2011, p. 12). The theories to define as macro-level or micro-level are: culture conflict, social disorganization, cultural transmission theory, social control theory, differential association theory,
and symbolic interactionism theory.
      Culture conflict is described by Williams and McShane “as a major social process, set in motion by the differences in values and cultures among groups of people “( 2014, p.53) They continue to explain that “the legal definition of crime is but the conduct norm for one particular social group” 2014, p.54) We can thus define the culture conflict theory to be a macro-level theory. Culture conflict is a prime example of why crimes should be defined on the basis of mala in se offenses, and not mala prohibita offenses. A specific example of culture conflict would be this past weekend's incident at the Bundy Ranch; a rancher who doesn't understand why the government would regulate the size of his herd to 1/15 of it's original size under the auspices of protecting a turtle; a turtle that the same government was euthanizing due to overpopulation.
      Social disorganization theory “is based on a conception of primary relationships similar to those found in a village. If relationships in the family and friendship groupings are good, neighborhoods are stable and cohesive, and people have a sense of loyalty to the area, then social organization is sound” (Williams & McShane, 2014, p.50). Because the focus is on the individual response to the presence of stable relationships, we can describe social disorganization theory as a micro-level theory.
Cultural transmission theory can be described to be a sub-theory of social disorganization theory. “the process by which social disorganization affects juveniles and leads to delinquency, commonly referred to as “cultural transmission theory.” According to this theory, juveniles who live in socially disorganized areas have greater opportunities for exposure to those who espouse delinquent and criminal values”(Williams & McShane, 2014, p.50). Again, as the focus is on the individual that commits a crime this theory is also a a micro-level theory.
      Social control theory is based on the premise that “people are somehow socialized into the major values and lifeways of society. Deviance occurs when socialization somehow breaks down.” (Williams & McShane, 1998, p.268). This theory, based on the individual, is also a a micro-level theory.
      Differential association theory is similar to cultural transmission theory, in that criminal behavior “is learned” and that “The principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups. Williams & McShane, 1998, p.80). There is another similarity in that differential association theory is also a micro-level theory.
      “Symbolic interactionism developed from a belief that human behavior is the product of purely social symbols communicated between individuals. A basic idea of symbolic interactionism is that the mind and the self are not innate but are products of the social environment “ (Williams & McShane, 2014, p.52). Finally, symbolic interactionism is a micro-level theory.
       There are three commonalities to Chicago School theories: the theories are based on Positivist grounds; they are based on consensus, or the concept that consensus “is the initial pattern of human behavior” (Williams & McShane, 2014, p.56); and finally, with the exception of culture conflict theory, the theories are micro-level theories.
      I don't feel that income disparity is a cause for crime at all. For example, “someone in New York would have to earn more than $21 per hour to be better off than they would be on welfare.” (Tanner, 2013, para. 3). When I was making that equivalent salary, I was a troubleshooter/backup manager for a high volume IT data center. There may be a correlated factor; victimization surveys show that higher rates of crime are linked to higher rates of population density. (I am stil digging through my PDF's for the source, but I remember using this data last quarter)
      Social control theories have more to do with crime then do social disorganization theories. My opinion on this is based on my concept that an individual makes a free will decision to violate social norms. Having said that I will not claim that social disorganization does not play a factor. Kelling and Wilson describe the “broken windows” concept as demonstrated by Zimbardo in the Bronx, New York City. A car was “ car in the Bronx was attacked by "vandals" within ten minutes of its "abandonment. (1982, para. 14) This phenomenon is not limited to New York; “In 1990, eight years after Wilson and Kelling first presented the "Broken Windows" theory, Northwestern University Political Science Professor Wesley Skogan published "Disorder and Decline: Crime and the Spiral of
Decay in American Neighborhoods." Using neighborhood surveys and field observations from six major U.S. cities, Skogan confirmed Wilson and Kelling's hypothesis: that causal relationship exists not only between disorder and fear, but also between disorder and serious crime.” (Orlando, 1997, p.7). However, it is still the criminal decides whether or not to “take advantage” of a poorly policed situation. Therefore, I will lean more towards social control theory.


Kelling, G. & Wilson, J. (1982, March 1). Broken windows: The police and neighborhood safety. The Atlantic. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/304465/?single_page=true

Orlando, J. (1997). ‎Fighting crime from the ground up: The "Zero Tolerance" approach. GW Policy Perspectives. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from ww.policy-perspectives.org/article/download/4187/2937

Tanner, M. (2013, August 2013). When welfare pays better than work. Cato Institute. Retrieved April 14, 2014 from http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/when-welfare-pays-better-work

Vito, G. & Maahs, J. (2011). Criminology: Theory, research, and policy. Jones & Bartlett Publishers

Williams, F. & McShane, M. (1998) Criminology Theory: Selected Classic Readingss (2nd edition). Anderson Publishing Co.

Williams, F. & McShane, M. (2014) Criminology Theory (6th edition). Pearson

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