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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Week 2 Paper - Criminological Theory

Even urban neighborhoods of low socioeconomic status should be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get out of the cycle of crime in which they find themselves.”

      The City of New York began a policy known as “Zero Tolerance” in 1994 to reduce crime levels in that city. The policy was sponsored by newly elected mayor Rudolph Guliani, and was based upon the “Broken Windows” theory put forward by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. The “Broken Windows” theory suggests that crime results from social disorder, and that relatively minor offenses such as vandalism, “broken windows” for example, can cause this social order if not addressed.
“In concluding that disorder causes fear of crime and also leads to more serious crime, Wilson and Kelling were proposing a different approach to dealing with crime. The underpinnings of this proposed approach lay in the ability of police and citizens to work together to maintain order in the community.” (Orlando, 1997, p.7) Following from this, the goal of “Zero Tolerance” was to arrest people these minor crimes, which were also referred to as “quality-of-life” crimes. “For example, young persons suspected of criminal or gang involvement were arrested for relatively minor crimes such as driving without a licence, driving through a stop light or loitering” (Marshall, 1999, p.3) The “Zero Tolerance” initiative of New York is interesting to examine due to it's controversial nature, and the amount of study, both pro and con, made of the endeavor.
      “Zero Tolerance” had the appearance of working in New York. In 2008, “the murder rate in New York has fallen to its lowest since reliable record-keeping started.” (Wigmore, 2008, para. 2). However, there were claims that the drop in crime rates was not due to “Zero Tolerance” but rather to other factors. The first counter claim was that New York benefited from the same drop in crime rates that the nation as a whole experienced; however, data shows that New York had reductions in the crime rate from 200% to 400% greater than the United States' rate:
(Orlando, 1999, p.2)
Another claim is made that New York's drop in crime rates was the result of the end of the crack epidemic. “If there is, as seems likely,a link between expanding drug markets, availability of guns and increases in violence, a reversal of those conditions would be associated with a decrease in violence” (Bowling, 1999, p 539). In addition, management reform of the New York Police Department by newly appointed police Commissioner , William Bratton, has also been credited with the reduction in the crime rate. Judith Greene contends that “He directly confronted the common wisdom of many experts--and, perhaps, most New Yorkers--that the NYPD was too large, too rigid, too bureaucratic, and too parochial to be able to embrace the kinds of radical changes in policies and practices that would be required in a serious effort to win measurable reductions of the city's high crime rates. And he proved that they were wrong.” (1999. p.171)
      The “Broken Windows” theory has it's clearest theoretical underpinnings in the social disorganization micro-theory of the Chicago School. 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). Kelling and Wilson contend that “two things must be borne in mind. First, outside observers should not assume that they know how much of the anxiety now endemic in many big-city neighborhoods stems from a fear of "real" crime and how much from a sense that the street is disorderly, a source of distasteful, worrisome encounters. The people of Newark, to judge from their behavior and their remarks to interviewers, apparently assign a high value to public order, and feel relieved and reassured when the police help them maintain that order. “(1982, para. 10) Fear and disorder are in direct conflict with a stable and cohesive neighborhood.
      And yet the method developed under the auspices of “Broken Windows” theory to control crime, the “Zero Tolerance” policy, depends heavily on the tactics of arrest and incapacitation These tactics are based upon Classical school principles. The argument could be made that arrest and incapacitation lead to the normalization of social mores on criminals, and thus that they are methods linked to the social control theory, in which “people are somehow socialized into the major values and lifeways of society. Deviance occurs when socialization somehow breaks down.” (Williams & McShane, 1998, p.268).
      The “Zero Tolerance” policy does not address issues brought up under the cultural transmission theory or the differential association theory, as methods were not inroduced with the purpose of removing the “teachers of crime” that these theories suggest cause crime. The policy does not address symbolic interactionism theory, either, as the methods do not suggest an attempt to consider criminals as a product of their social environment.
      “Zero Tolerance” policy could address the issues considered under the cultural transmission and the differential association theories by targeting gang leadership, and particularly the leadership of juvenile gangs. This would remove the authority figures that both teach crime and provide normalization for deviant behavior. Symbolic interactionism theory suggests that “social meaning was created through interaction and subjective interpretation with others” (Henry, 2009, p.4); in order to be effective policemen, police need to justify their work, “For instance, for one key interactionist, …, deviance is not ‘a quality that lies in behaviour itself, but in the interactions between the person who commits an act and those who respond to it’. The police are primary ‘rule enforcers’ in this moral enterprise who must justify their work and win the respect of those they deal with.” (McLaughlin, 2006, p.50)

Bowling, B. (1999, Autumn). The rise and fall of New York murder: Zero Tolerance or crack’s decline? British Journal of Criminology: VOL. 39 NO. 4. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from www.umass.edu/legal/Benavides/Fall2004/397G/.../7%20Bowling.pdf

Greene, J. (1999, April). Zero Tolerance: A case study of police policies and practices in New York City. Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 45 Issue 2. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from http://crab.rutgers.edu/~goertzel/ZeroNYC.htm

Henry, S. (2009). Social construction of crime. In J.Miller (Ed), 21st century criminology: A reference handbook. SAGE publications. DOI: 10.4135/9781412971997.n34

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

Marshall, J. (1999, March). Zero tolerance policing. Office of Crime Statistics and Policing. Information Bulletin. Issue No. 9. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.ocsar.sa.gov.au/docs/information_bulletins/IB9.pd f

McLaughlin (2006) Policing. SAGE Publications. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.uk.sagepub.com/.../26565_03_McLaughlin_(Policing)_Ch_03.pdf

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

Wigmore, B. (2008, January 1). New York murders at their lowest level thanks to zero-tolerance policy. Mail Online. Retrieved April 15, 2014 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-505588/New-York-murders-lowest-level-thanks-zero-tolerance-policy.html#ixzz2yzKjLOJq

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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