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Criminology Social Ecology of Crime
by
Per-Olof H. Wikström

Introduction

Social (or human) ecology may be broadly defined as the study of the social and behavioral consequences of the interaction between human beings and their environment. It specifically explores the causes and consequences of processes of segregation—the emergence through selection of environmental differentiation along key dimensions such as population composition and land use. It investigates how exposure to different environments (area- and place-based differential social organization and activities) influences human development and action. The social ecology of crime is the study of one particular behavioral outcome of these processes, the violation of rules of conduct defined in law. It focuses on the role of the environment in the development of people’s differential propensity to engage in crime and their differential exposure to settings conducive to engagement in acts of crime. Although the label “social ecology of crime” is often used in reference to studies of cross-national, regional, intercity and urban-rural differences in crime, its prime concentration has been on researching and explaining variation in crime within the urban environment. It is therefore not surprising to find that the most important theoretical and empirical contributions of this perspective emanate from the study of urban areas. An ecological perspective (defined as a pure environmental approach) is often contrasted with, and sometimes regarded as being in opposition to, an individual (psychological, biological, genetic) approach to the study of crime causation. However, the advancement of a fully developed ecological perspective on crime (a full understanding of the role of the human-environment interaction in crime causation) requires a better integration of environmental and individual approaches in the study of crime causation.

General Overviews

There are very few modern, comprehensive, general texts introducing the social ecology of crime. A good recent overview of key topics and issues in the social ecology of crime is the Bottoms 2007. Bursik and Grasmick 1993 gives a good introduction to key topics and the key theoretical traditions (social disorganization and routine activity theory) that guide most contemporary research in this area. Brantingham and Brantingham 1984, although a bit outdated, presents broad, useful overviews of ecological research at different levels of aggregation, from cross-national differences to microspatial variation.

  • Bottoms, A. E. 2007. Place, space, crime, and disorder. In The Oxford handbook of criminology. 4th ed. Edited by Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan, and Robert Reiner. Oxford York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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    Excellent short introduction to key topics and issues in the social ecology of crime.

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  • Brantingham, Paul, and Patricia Brantingham. 1984. Patterns in crime. New York: Collier Macmillan.

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    A bit outdated but still very useful introduction to key findings of ecological relationships to crime at various levels of aggregation. Also covers temporal patterns.

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  • Bursik, Robert J, Jr., and Harold G. Grasmick. 1993. Neighborhoods and crime: The dimensions of effective community control. New York: Lexington Books; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International.

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    Good in-depth introduction to key topics and key theoretical approaches in the study of the social ecology of crime.

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Segregation

Segregation and its causes and consequences are central to social ecology. Segregation refers to the selection processes responsible for environmental social differentiation. The early Chicago School was particularly interested in the social and behavioral consequences of rapid urban growth as caused by heavy migration and immigration. They regarded the creation of natural areas (neighborhoods) as an outcome of competition between social groups (particularly ethnic/racial groups), on economic grounds, for desirable and affordable space (Park, et al. 1925). The fully developed early Chicago School theory on the causes of residential segregation has less prominence today (see Logan and Molotoch 2007, Timms 1971), partly as a consequence of general societal changes affecting segregation processes, such as suburbanization facilitated by better transportation and the emergence of more interventionist housing policies (by increased city planning and provision of public housing). However, the topic of residential segregation (on economic and ethnic/racial grounds) and its social and behavioral consequences is still high on the research and policy agenda. One key example is the recent studies and debates about the causes and consequences of neighborhood-concentrated disadvantage and (particularly in the United States) its links to race (see Wilson 1987 and Massey and Denton 1993). Although the causes and consequences of residential segregation and neighborhood effects have been a steady focus of the Chicago tradition in the social ecology of crime, in the 1980s, under the banner of “environmental criminology,” a broadened interest in urban differentiation emerged, particularly in regards to the links between land use (residency being only one form of land use), human activity patterns, and crime events (Brantingham and Brantingham 1981). Theoretically, the study of residential segregation and crime has mostly been guided by a social-disorganization/collective-efficacy perspective, while the study of urban social-activity differentiation and crime has mostly been guided by a routine activity–theory approach.

Neighborhood Effects: Structural Factors

Research in the Chicago tradition of social ecology has focused on residential environments (neighborhoods) and their effects on crime, particularly the relationship between neighborhood population characteristics (socioeconomic status, population heterogeneity and instability, and more recently, level of family disruption) and residents’ involvement in crime and other related social problems. Most early research was based on official statistics for administrative areas and mostly studied variation in neighborhood offender rates (particularly young offender rates) rather than crime rates. The classic U.S. city neighborhood study is Shaw and McKay 1969. See also Chilton 1964. Pratt and Cullen 2005 presents a useful summary of key findings of U.S. ecological research into crime that, among other things, demonstrates that the key neighborhood population characteristics described in Shaw and McKay 1969 are still good predictors of neighborhood variation in crime and offender rates. Major European neighborhood studies that put the U.S. experience in context are Baldwin and Bottoms 1976 and Wikström 1991.

  • Baldwin, John, and A. E. Bottoms. 1976. The urban criminal: A study in Sheffield. London: Tavistock.

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    The most prominent UK study of urban neighborhoods and crime based on official data. Makes interesting comparisons and contrasts with findings from the U.S. literature on the social ecology of crime. Puts the U.S. experience in context.

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  • Chilton, Roland J. 1964. Continuity in delinquency area research: A comparison of studies for Baltimore, Detroit, and Indianapolis. American Sociological Review 29:71–83.

    DOI: 10.2307/2094642Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reports findings similar to those in Shaw and McKay 1969 from other major U.S. cities. Shows that delinquency rates are related to neighborhood structural variables.

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  • Pratt, Travis C., and Francis T. Cullen. 2005. Assessing macro-level predictors and theories of crime: A meta-analysis. In Crime and justice: A review of research. Vol. 32. Edited by Michael Tonry, 373–450. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A useful summary of key findings from U.S. ecological research into crime (covering research in the social disorganization and routine activity traditions), which, among other things, demonstrates that the key neighborhood variables Shaw and McKay 1969 found correlated with crime have remained good predictors of neighborhood variation in neighborhood crime and offender rates.

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  • Shaw, Clifford R., and Henry D. McKay. 1969. Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. Rev. ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    The classic study in the Chicago tradition of the social ecology of crime. Still inspiring today. A must-read to understand the background to today’s research topics and issues. Originally published in 1942.

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  • Wikström, Per-Olof H. 1991. Urban crime, criminals, and victims: The Swedish experience in an Anglo-American comparative perspective. New York: Springer-Verlag.

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    The major Scandinavian study of neighborhoods and crime based on official data. Combines social disorganization and routine activity approaches in the exploration of neighborhood-offender and crime-rate variation in Stockholm. Compares and contrasts the findings with those from U.S. research. Puts the U.S. experience in context.

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Neighborhood Effects: Social Organization and Control

Theoretically, the influence of neighborhood population characteristics (often referred to as structural characteristics) on residents’ crime involvement is mostly interpreted as mediated by its impact on neighborhood social organization and social control. The dominant theoretical approach here is social disorganization theory, and the best summary of this explanatory approach is still chapter 3 of Kornhauser 1984. Another important account of this theory is Bursik 1988. However, only recently has it become possible (as a consequence of the introduction of large-scale community surveys) to empirically study key hypothesized mediating theoretical concepts such as neighborhood social cohesion and informal social control (see, for example, Sampson and Groves 1989, Sampson, et al. 1997, Wikström and Dolmen 2001). The social disorganization perspective has been further developed theoretically and empirically by Sampson through the introduction of the concept of collective efficacy (Sampson, et al. 1997) and its application through ecometric methods (Raudenbush and Sampson 1999). Kubrin and Weitzer 2003 provides an insightful overview of current theoretical and methodological issues relating to social disorganization theory. Sampson, et al. 2002 provides an excellent overview of the more recent U.S. neighborhood-effects literature, although that article is not exclusively concerned with crime as an outcome. There are few cross-national comparative studies of neighborhood features and crime. One exception is Sampson and Wikström 2008, which presents a cross-national comparative study (Chicago versus Stockholm) of the neighborhood-level relationships between disadvantage, collective efficacy, and violence.

  • Bursik, Robert J., Jr. 1988. Social disorganization and theories of crime and delinquency: Problems and prospects. Criminology 26:519–551.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1988.tb00854.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Critically assesses the social disorganization perspective and discusses ways to address some of its major problems.

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  • Kornhauser, Ruth Rosner. 1984. Social sources of delinquency: An appraisal of analytic models. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    The most in-depth theoretical treatment of the social disorganization approach. Defines social disorganization from a control perspective and discusses in depth the neighborhood social processes hypothesized to be responsible for variation in levels of social control.

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  • Kubrin, Charis E., and Ronald Weitzer. 2003. New directions in social disorganization theory. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 40:374–402.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022427803256238Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper provides a good overview of current theoretical and methodological issues relating to social disorganization theory.

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  • Raudenbush, Stephen W., and Robert J. Sampson. 1999. Ecometrics: Toward a science of assessing ecological settings, with application to the systematic social observation of neighborhoods. Sociological Methodology 29:1–41.

    DOI: 10.1111/0081-1750.00059Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A seminal paper on the improvement of the measurement of ecological settings. Argues that ecological research is hampered because of the lack of proper measurement of environments.

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  • Sampson, Robert J., and W. Byron Groves. 1989. Community structure and crime: Testing social-disorganization theory. American Journal of Sociology 94:774–802.

    DOI: 10.1086/229068Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Tests of the social disorganization theory empirically using data from the British Crime Survey.

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  • Sampson, Robert J., and Per-Olof H. Wikström. 2008. The social order of violence in Chicago and Stockholm neighborhoods: A comparative inquiry. In Order, conflict, and violence. Edited by Stathis N. Kalyvas, Ian Shapiro, and Tarik Masoud, 97–119. Cambridge, UK and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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    A cross-national comparative study of two specially designed community surveys that focuses on the neighborhood relationship between disadvantage, collective efficacy, and violent crime. Compares the U.S. patterns with those found in a classic welfare state (Sweden).

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  • Sampson, Robert J., Stephen W. Raudenbush, and Felton Earls. 1997. Neighborhoods and violent crime: A multilevel study of collective efficacy. Science 277:918–924.

    DOI: 10.1126/science.277.5328.918Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Introduces the concept of collective efficacy and tests its role in explaining neighborhood variation in violent crime using econometric methods. Available online.

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  • Sampson, Robert J., Jeffrey D. Morenoff, and Thomas Gannon-Rowley. 2002. Assessing “neighborhood effects”: Social processes and new directions in research. Annual Review of Sociology 28:443–478.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.soc.28.110601.141114Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An overview of recent neighborhood-effects research with a focus on studies that measure neighborhood social and institutional processes relating to problem behaviors, particularly among young people. Includes research at both the neighborhood and individual level.

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  • Wikström, Per-Olof H., and Dolmén L. 2001. Urbanisation, neighborhood social integration, informal social control, minor social disorder, victimisation, and fear of crime. International Review of Victimology 8:121–140.

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    Reports joint findings from two specially designed 1995 large-scale community surveys. One of the few ecological studies of crime that includes all types of neighborhoods from rural to inner city. Explores the links between neighborhood victimization (and fear of crime) and key explanatory concepts such as neighborhood social integration and informal social control.

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Effects of Neighborhood Changes

A key finding of Shaw and McKay 1969 is that neighborhood features tend to be stable over time. However, more recent research demonstrates that although many neighborhoods remain stable in their key population and institutional characteristics over long periods of time, others undergo prolonged or even rapid changes, such as declining or gentrifying. The reasons for these changes and their impact on neighborhood levels of crime (and disorder) have been explored in a number of studies, including the potential role of changes in the wider social context in which neighborhoods are embedded, changes in neighborhood structural characteristic, housing-market changes, changes in neighborhood residential stability, gentrification (the movement of affluent people into deprived areas) and fear of crime (see Reiss and Tonry 1986, Taub, et al. 1984, Taylor and Covington 1988). A particular topic of neighborhood change that has received considerable attention in the criminological literature is that of the role of neighborhood disorder (incivilities) for neighborhood decline. Disorder (and crime) have been discussed both as caused by neighborhood features and as a cause of neighborhood change (Skogan 1992). A number of recent studies have highlighted that particular neighborhoods and their changes are not independent of the characteristics of contiguous neighborhoods and therefore one needs to consider this influence when estimating neighborhood effects on neighborhood crime and offender rates and their changes (see Morenoff, et al. 2001).

  • Morenoff, Jeffrey D., Robert J. Sampson, and Stephen W. Raudenbush. 2001. Neighborhood inequality, collective efficacy, and the spatial dynamics of urban violence. Criminology 39:517–559.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2001.tb00932.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Neighborhoods surrounded by other neighborhoods with high rates of homicide tend to have increases in homicide rates, controlling for neighborhood disadvantage, collective efficacy, and prior level of homicide. Available online.

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  • Reiss, Albert J., Jr., and Michael Tonry, eds. 1986. Crime and justice. Vol. 8, Communities and crime. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    A comprehensive reader of mostly original research with a particular focus on studies exploring changes in crime and neighborhood features. Includes chapters on the role of changes in the wider community in which neighborhoods are embedded, changes in neighborhood structural characteristics, changes in the housing markets, gentrification, and fear of crime.

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  • Shaw, Clifford R., and Henry D. McKay. 1969. Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. Rev. ed. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    The classic study in the Chicago tradition of the social ecology of crime. Demonstrates stability in neighborhood features over long periods of time. Originally published in 1942.

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  • Skogan, Wesley G. 1992. Disorder and decline: Crime and the spiral of decay in American neighborhoods. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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    The classic study of the role of disorder (incivilities) in the process of neighborhood decline.

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  • Taub, Richard P., D. Garth Taylor, and Jan D. Dunham. 1984. Paths of neighborhood change: Race and crime in urban America. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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    In-depth study of eight neighborhoods in Chicago. Explores why some neighborhoods decline, others gentrify, and others remain stable.

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  • Taylor, Ralph B., and Jeanette Covington. 1988. Neighborhood changes in ecology and violence. Criminology 26:553–589.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1988.tb00855.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the impact of gentrification and decline on neighborhood violence. Argues that increased neighborhood instability leads to increased violence in neighborhoods that both gentrify (have increased socioeconomic status) and decline (have decreased socioeconomic status).

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Neighborhood Selection and Aggregation Bias

Neighborhood effects have mostly been studied on the neighborhood level of analysis. The question of whether neighborhood differences in offender and crime rates are due to neighborhood social conditions, or if they are just a consequence of more crime-prone families/individuals being segregated into certain neighborhoods, has haunted the neighborhood-effects research since its early days (Jonassen 1949) and is still debated today (Sampson 2008). Another key problem facing neighborhood-level research, when it aims to draw conclusions about the influence of neighborhood environments on individuals’ crime involvement, is the potential ecological fallacy (see Robinson 1950, Hammond 1973), that is, that relationships on aggregate (neighborhood) levels may not always accurately reflect individual-level relationships; as a rule, they are weaker, and sometimes may even be different.

Neighborhood Effects on Individual-Level Outcomes

An emerging, but still limited, body of research investigates neighborhood effects on the individual level. This research helps to address the problems of neighborhood selection and aggregation bias by exploring whether individuals’ crime involvement is predicted by measures of their neighborhood environments and whether such influences still hold up when taking into account individuals’ characteristics and experiences. This research includes studies that, for example, aim to disentangle the effects on offending of neighborhood disadvantage and family/individual disadvantage (Reiss and Rhodes 1961, Braithwaite 1979, Jarjoura and Triplett 1997); explore whether neighborhood structural influences are mediated by socialization experiences (Simcha-Fagan and Schwartz 1986); assess neighborhood effects while controlling for individual-level variables (Gottfredson, et al. 1991); study whether the effect of individual characteristics is dependent on neighborhood context (Lynham, et al. 2000); investigate whether there is an interaction between family/individual variables and neighborhood disadvantage in predicting early versus late onset in offending (Wikström and Loeber, 2000); and research whether changes in individuals’ crime propensity and exposure to criminogenic settings predict changes in their crime involvement (Wikström 2009).

  • Braithwaite, John. 1979. Inequality, crime, and public policy. London: Routledge.

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    Includes analyses of whether individual social class is related to crime after controlling for neighborhood social class. Explores neighborhood class-mix hypotheses.

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  • Gottfredson, Denise C., Richard J. McNeil, III, and Gary D. Gottfredson. 1991. Social area influences on delinquency: A multilevel analysis. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 28:197–226.

    DOI: 10.1177/0022427891028002005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study explores the influence of neighborhood structural context on delinquency while controlling for demographic and some key family, school, and peer variables.

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  • Jarjoura, G. Roger, and Ruth Triplett. 1997. The effects of social area characteristics on the relationship between social class and delinquency. Journal of Criminal Justice 25:125–139.

    DOI: 10.1016/S0047-2352(96)00056-6Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Explores the interaction between neighborhood status and family status in predicting delinquency.

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  • Lynam, Donald R., Avshalom Caspi, Terrie E. Moffitt, Per-Olof H. Wikström, Rolf Loeber, and Scott Novak. 2000. The interaction between impulsivity and neighborhood context on offending: The effects of impulsivity are stronger in poorer neighborhoods. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 109:563–574.

    DOI: 10.1037/0021-843X.109.4.563Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Demonstrates that the effect of an individual characteristic (impulsivity) on offending is dependent on the neighborhood context. Available online.

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  • Reiss, Albert J., and Albert Lewis Rhodes. 1961. The distribution of juvenile delinquency in the social class structure. American Sociological Review 26:720–732.

    DOI: 10.2307/2090201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The original study aiming to disentangle individual and neighborhood socioeconomic status influences on offending.

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  • Simcha-Fagan, Ora, and Joseph E. Schwartz. 1986. Neighborhood and delinquency: An assessment of contextual effects. Criminology 24:667–703.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1986.tb01507.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Individual-level study in which the authors argue that the effects of neighborhood structural characteristics are mediated by socialization experiences.

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  • Wikström, Per-Olof H. 2009. Crime propensity, criminogenic exposure, and crime involvement in early to mid adolescence. Monatsschrift für Kriminologie und Strafrechtsreform 92:253–266.

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    Demonstrates an interaction between individual crime propensity and individuals’ exposure to criminogenic settings in predicting crime involvement, and that change in propensity and particularly exposure predict changes in crime involvement.

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  • Wikström, Per-Olof H., and Rolf Loeber. 2000. Do disadvantaged neighborhoods cause well-adjusted children to become adolescent delinquents? A study of male juvenile serious offending, individual risk and protective factors, and neighborhood context. Criminology 38:1109–1142.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb01416.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Demonstrates that neighborhood structural characteristics have a different impact on young people’s crime involvement and onset in crime depending on their family and individual characteristics.

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Beyond Neighborhood Effects

Most research in the Chicago tradition into the role of the environment in crime causation equates an individual’s environment with his or her neighborhood. This is problematic when exploring environmental influences on individual outcomes (such as individuals’ development of crime propensity or crime involvement) because residents of a neighborhood spend, to a varying degree, time outside their neighborhood in other neighborhoods or in nonresidential areas. To fully assess environmental influences on individual outcomes, one therefore needs to also take into account individuals’ exposure to environments outside their neighborhood (Oberwittler and Wikström 2009). Recently, a space-time budget technique has been introduced within the Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study to help overcome this problem. Most environmental units used in neighborhood-effects research cover quite large areas, often with populations in the range of five thousand to eight thousand inhabitants. Wikström 2006 argues that people’s actions and development are only influenced by environmental units they can access with their senses, and Oberwittler and Wikström 2009 argues that the implication of this is that the unit of analysis in ecological research should be small, approximating behavior settings. Taylor 1997 makes a strong theoretical argument for behavior settings as a unit of analysis in the study of environmental influences on crime and related outcomes. His argument is based on insights from environmental psychology and the fact that neighborhood environments are socially and physically differentiated.

Environmental Criminology: Crime and Place

Environmental criminology is a branch of the social ecology of crime that particularly concentrates on explaining environmental influences on the spatial and temporal distribution and concentration of crime events (Wortley and Mazerolle 2008). It tends to focus on place rather than area (neighborhood) as the unit of analysis (Weisburd, et al. 2009), although some applications are undertaken at the neighborhood level. Compared to research in the social disorganization tradition, environmental criminology brings in a stronger focus on the role of land use and the nonresidential environment (such as commercial and industrial areas), the role of the built environment (for example, its role as a defensible space—see Newman 1972), and the role of people’s movements (often referred to as the study of crime and distance—see Brantingham and Brantingham 1981) in explaining spatial and temporal patterns in crime. Theoretically, this perspective is mostly guided by routine activity theory (Cohen and Felson 1979) and the related pattern theory (Brantingham and Brantingham 1993), which not only applies a routine activity approach to the spatial and temporal analysis of crime events but also uses rational choice theory to explain the action process behind the observed patterns (Wortley and Mazerolle 2008). Opportunity is a key explanatory concept within this approach (Warr 2001). Ecological research in the routine activity and social disorganization tradition is rarely integrated, although there are some tentative exceptions (Smith, et al. 2000, Bursik 2001). Environmental criminology has strong links to policy-oriented research, particularly in the area of situational crime prevention and policing (see Wortley and Mazerolle 2008). The offender plays only a passive role in this perspective, which largely ignores environmental influences on people’s development of criminal propensities and the role of people’s differential sensitivities to particular environmental influences (such as in different developmental phases or as influenced by their individual characteristics and experiences).

  • Brantingham, Patricia L., and Paul J. Brantingham. 1993. Environment, routine, and situation: Toward a pattern theory of crime. In Routine activity and rational choice. Edited by Ronald V. Clarke and Marcus Felson, 259–294. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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    Probably the best available theoretical treatment of the application of routine activity theory to the spatial and temporal analysis of crime events.

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  • Brantingham, Paul J., and Patricia L. Brantingham. 1981. Notes on the geometry of crime. In Environmental criminology. Edited by Paul J. Brantingham and Patricia L. Brantingham. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

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    Theorizes offender movements in urban space and their sources.

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  • Bursik, Robert J., Jr. 2001. The unfolding of criminal events within neighborhood contexts. In The process and structure of crime: Criminal events and crime analysis. Edited by Robert F. Meier, Leslie W. Kennedy, and Vincent F. Sacco, 197–212. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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    Explores the role of community structure and its dynamics in shaping crime events. Integrates insights from social disorganization and routine activity theory.

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  • Cohen, Lawrence E., and Marcus Felson. 1979. Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review 44:588–608.

    DOI: 10.2307/2094589Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The classic paper on routine activity theory in criminology. Introduces its ecological origins and specifies its situational model.

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  • Newman, Oscar. 1972. Defensible space: Crime prevention through urban design. New York: Macmillan.

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    The classic study on defensible space. Argues that the built environment (architecture) of residential areas influences residents’ motivation and the possibility of exercising informal social control and therefore affects the area’s level of crime.

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  • Smith, William R., Sharon Glave Frazee, and Elizabeth L. Davison. 2000. Furthering the integration of routine activity and social disorganization theories: Small units of analysis and the study of street robbery as a diffusion process. Criminology 38:489–523.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb00897.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This study demonstrates interaction effects between social disorganization and routine activity variables in the prediction of street robbery. Argues for theoretical integration.

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  • Warr, Mark. 2001. Crime and opportunity: A theoretical essay. In The process and structure of crime: Criminal events and crime analysis. Edited by Robert F. Meier, Leslie W. Kennedy, and Vincent F. Sacco, 65–94. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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    Provides an in-depth discussion of the concept of opportunity in the explanation of crime events. Discusses the relationship between motivation and opportunity.

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  • Weisburd, David, Wim Bernasco, and Gerben J. N. Bruinsma, eds. 2009. Putting crime in its place: Units of analysis in geographic criminology. New York: Springer.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-09688-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Focuses on the problem of selecting units of analysis in ecologically oriented research on crime. Includes theoretical and methodological discussions as well as empirical illustrations.

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  • Wortley, Richard, and Lorraine Mazerolle, eds. 2008. Environmental criminology and crime analysis. Cullompton, UK, and Portland, OR: Willan.

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    A good recent introduction to the field of environmental criminology and its analytical approaches. Includes chapters by most key figures in environmental criminology and covers most key topics raised by this perspective.

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Integrating Individuals and Environments

It has been convincingly argued that to advance our understanding of crime and its causes, there is a need to theoretically integrate (see Reiss 1986) and design studies (see Tonry, et al. 1991) that can explore environmental and individual influences and their interaction in crime causation. A key problem has been that many prominent longitudinal studies on crime lack adequate measures of subjects’ neighborhoods and their exposure to the wider social environment (Brooks-Gunn, et al. 1993). However, new generations of longitudinal research increasingly incorporate more advanced measures of the subjects’ exposure to neighborhoods and the wider social environment. A prime example in the United States is the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, and in Europe a prime example is the Peterborough Adolescent and Young Adult Development Study. Wikström and Sampson 2003 provides a tentative integrative theoretical framework for the ecological study of crime and pathways in crime. Wikström 2006 provides a situational action theory through which individual and environmental influences on crime can be integrated.

LAST MODIFIED: 12/14/2009

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396607-0027

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