Social structures theories/ perspective:
- Locate the causes or explanations of crime within the structure of our society. Poverty,
discrimination, and unemployment are all factors that tie to the social structure
- Ecological theories
• Founded on the Chicago School.
• Focus on society and the impact of the social structure on the lives of individuals
An approach that looks at the impact of demographics on crime.
• Park and Burgess
Looked at “concentric city zones” – as you move farther from the core of the
center of the city to the periphery, the number of crimes as well as the type of
Zone 1- where retail businesses and like manufacturing occurs.
Zone 2- a transitional zone because you start to move into residential areas
(houses, businesses, condos)
Zone 3 is the working class district (working class homes).
Zone 4 is mainly middle class.
Zone 5 would be the homes on the periphery of the city (real suburbs)
You can gear specialized policing to specific areas: ZONE POLICING
[through this process you can develop and target the type of offences in the
• Broken window theory
Physical deterioration in an area leads to increased concerns for personal safety
among area residents and to higher crime rates in that area.
Belief that since one window is broken, left unattended, invites other windows to
be broken, which leads to a sense of disorder that breeds fear and serious crime.
By ignoring minor crimes we lose opportunities to repair the first signs of
disorder and to hold offenders accountable
• Defensible space
Defensible space: using defined areas of influence and improved opportunities of
surveillance of its residents
Protecting your environment through surveillance
Taking proactive measures to reduce criminal activity
Tied to victimized individuals
Trying to create protection for people in neighborhoods
Reducing the opportunities for crime and limiting the areas where people
can commit crimes
- Anomie- Strain Theory- Robert K. Merton
• Anomie = normlessness. The state of a society that collapses when there is a
disjunction between institutional means and cultural break down – a level of
powerlessness and alienation is created • Society is the accumulation of wealth or money – not everyone has the same access
• In society not everybody has the same means of obtaining the same amount of money
• Income can be tied to education
• There is a disjunction between institutional means and cultural goals
The means to obtain the money and to fulfill the cultural goals that society creates
• Access to means and acceptance to means are part of a typology: MODES OF
Conformity- have the means and the goals – accept the way to earn the living and
Innovation- do not accept the means but accept the goals – Ex. Mobster, obtains
money through criminal behaviour
Arises when an emphasis on approved goal achievement combines with a lack
of opportunity to participate fully in socially acceptable means to success
Ritualism- accepts the means but doesn’t accept the goals, have scaled down their
aspirations. Ex: Likes their job and doesn’t want a promotion
Retreatism- abandon the means and the goals
Rebellionism- accept and don’t accept the means and goals – ex. Youth
- Differential Opportunity- Ohlin and Cloward
• This had substantial influence in the production of social policy (programs for youths)
• Subcultural paths to success that are not approved of by the wider culture
• Delinquent behavior may result from the ready availability of illegitimate
opportunities with the effective replacement of the norms of the wider culture with
expedient subculture rules. Hence, delinquent activity becomes “all right” or
legitimate in the eyes of gang members
• Argued that not everybody has equal access to opportunity
Legitimate: basic way of getting a job (going to school and getting a job).
Illegitimate: something that is viewed as not acceptable in society.
• Delinquent acts are acts that violate basic norms of the society and officially known,
it evokes a judgement by agents of criminal justice that such norms have been
• Delinquent subcultures have 3 identifiable features:
Acts of delinquency that reflect subcultural support are likely to recur with great
Access to a successful adult criminal career sometimes results from participation
in a delinquent subculture
The delinquent subculture communicate to the conduct of its members a high
degree of stability and resistance to control or change
• 3 types of delinquent subcultures:
Criminal subculture: criminal role models are readily available for adoption by
those being socialized into the subculture
Conflict subculture: participants seek status through violence Retreatist subculture: drug use and withdrawal from the wider society
- Culture Conflict Theory- Sellin
• The root causes of crime can be found in different values about what is acceptable or
proper behavior. Conduct norms are achieved through childhood socialization in
• Culture conflict theory sees the root causes in crime in clashes of values in social
• Primary conflict is where different cultures clash.
• Secondary conflict is when smaller cultures within the primary conflict clash.
Middle-class values, upon which the criminal law is based, may find fault within
inner-city or lower-class norms. Ex: prostitution and gambling in Sellin’s time
- Violent subcultures- Ferracuti
• Violence is a learned form of adaptation to certain problematic life circumstances and
that learning to be violent takes place within the context of a subcultural milieu that
emphasizes the advantages of violence over other forms of adaptation
• Violent subcultures expect violence from members and legitimize its occurrence
No subculture can be totally different from or totally in conflict with the society
of which it is a part
To establish the existence of a subculture of violence does not require that the
actors sharing in these basic value elements express violence in all situations
The potential to resort or willingness to resort to violence in a variety of situations
emphasizes the penetrating and diffusive character of this culture theme
The subcultural ethos of violence may be shared by all ages in a subsociety, but
this ethos is most prominent in a limited age group, ranging from late adolescence
to middle age
The counter-norm is non-violence
The development of favorable attitudes towards and the use of violence in a
subculture usually involves learned behavior and a process of differential
learning, association, or identification The use of violence in a subculture is not necessarily viewed as illicit conduct,
and the users therefore do not have to deal with feelings of guilt about their
• If a member of the subculture kills another member of that subculture, the punishment
is most often less severe. Ex: gangs
• Punishment is related to the seriousness of the offense, and if members of the
subculture within which a crime occurs accept the offense as part of the landscape,
then so too will the members of the wider culture that imposes official sanctions on
the perpetrator. Ex: gangs
Social process theories
- Talk about the interaction between people and the interpersonal relationships people have
with one another. How strong your bond is that you have with and within society. Place
the emphasis on communication and socialization
Social Learning Theory (all things before social control)
- Maintains that all behavior is learned in the same way (whether it is legal or illegal
behavior) and that crime is also learned
- Social learning theory: Places primary emphasis upon the role of communication and
socialization in the acquisition of learned patterns of criminal behavior and the values
that support that behavior
- Conduct norms apply- you learn what the rules are
- DifferentialAssociation- Southerland
1. Criminal behavior is learned
2. Behavior is also learned in interaction with others, and through a process of
3. Criminal behavior also occurs within intimate groups.
4. When criminal behavior is learned, it involves: the techniques of committing the
crime and the specific direction of motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes.
5. The specific direction of motives and drives are learned from definitions of the legal
codes that are either favorable or unfavorable.
You break the law because you have no respect for the law
6. A person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to
violations of the law over unfavorable violations of the law.
7. The same mechanisms involved in learning criminal behavior are the same in learning
8. You cannot explain criminal behavior by general needs and values, since non-criminal
behavior is the same expression of the same needs and values.
9. Differential associations vary by intensity, propensity and duration. - Neutralization techniques- Matza and Sykes
• Away of mitigating (making excuses) behavior- justifying why you did something
1. Criminals deny responsibility
Ex: pointing out background like poverty, abuse, lack of opportunity, etc...
2. Denial of injury
Claims that “everyone does it” or victim could “afford it”
3. Denial of the victim
Claiming the person deserved what happened. Ex: I only beat up drunks, or
the person had it coming
4. Condemning the condemners
The police are corrupt and responsible for their own victimization. May claim
society made them who they are, and must now suffer the consequences
5. An appeal to higher loyalties
Like in defense of family honor, gang or girlfriend. Have greater loyalty to the
gang or w/e
• Justifications that are valid to the criminal but not to the justice system
• When opportunities arise, they use these justifications to relieve their guilt
Labeling Theory- Becker
- Points to the special significance of society’s response to the offender, and sees continued
crime as a consequence of limited opportunities for acceptable behavior that follow from
the negative responses of society to those defined as offenders
• Becker studied how drug users were treated as outsiders in society.
• All social groups make rules and attempt to enforce them.
• Social rules define situations and the types of behavior that are appropriate to them.
• Deviance is not a quality of the behavior itself, but rather the consequence of the
• Social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction constitutes deviance
and by applying the rules to particular people and labeling them as outsiders.
• From this perspective, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits but
rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an
• The deviant is one to whom the label has been successfully applied.
• Deviance continues to occur in, say, a young shoplifter, because opportunities for
conforming behaviors are seriously reduced, leaving, for the majority, only deviant
• Pure deviant: commits norm-breaking behavior and whose behavior is accu