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crime, geography of

  A sub-discipline focused around understanding the interplay between crime, space and society through analyses of offences, offenders and the effects of crime. Studies of the geography of crime have their roots in the mid-nineteenth-century work of European \'cartographic criminologists\' who sought to link regional patterns of crime and offender residence to the social and physical environment. At a local level, the mid-nineteenth century also witnessed the city become firmly connected in the popular imagination with notions of danger and crime, vividly portrayed, for example, in Henry Mayhew\'s ethnography of London\'s underworld. The urban focus of the geography of crime was sustained in the 1920s through the seminal contribution of the Chicago school and, in particular, Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay\'s meticulous mapping of the residences of juvenile delinquents. Shaw and McKay drew upon both human ecology and Burgess\'s zonal model to help explain the spatial regularities and temporal stability of juvenile delinquent residence in the city.

These early studies helped establish a broad distinction between analyses of where criminals live and where crimes occur, a distinction which has informed much subsequent work on the geography of crime and the cognate field of environmental criminology (see Bottoms and Wiles, 1997). Research on where criminals live repeatedly reveals the clustering of offender residences in the inner city and (in the UK) on some peripheral public-sector housing estates. Explanations for these patterns have focused around two main themes.

The \'social disorganization\' thesis advanced by the Chicago School links delinquency residence to the interrelations between economic deprivation, physical deterioration, high population turnover and cultural fragmentation. Although critics argue that this thesis fails to take account of relationships between neighbourhoods and the wider society, the so-called \'New Chicagoans\' address this weakness through their \'systemic theory of neighbourhood organization\' (see Bursik and Grasmick, 1993). According to this theory neighbourhood social control operates at the \'primary level\', via families and friendship networks; the \'parochial level\' of schools, businesses and voluntary groups; and the \'public level\' of external agencies like the police. Failure to integrate these levels of social control due to high population turnover will, it is argued, contribute to high offender rates.

Critics of the social disorganization perspective maintain, however, that high offender rates are also found in areas with low population turnover, suggesting that other influences are important. The \'Sheffield School\' focuses on how the operation of local housing markets may directly and indirectly contribute to the localization of offender residence. The argument is that residential communities, like individuals, can have \'careers in crime\' (i.e. an area may go from having low to high numbers of offenders living there) and that it is the allocative processes of the public and private housing markets that may initiate a clustering of people with a propensity to offend in particular residential areas. The effects of the housing market then interact with other processes, including the socialization of children, the work of social control agencies and the physical design of an area, to create differences between residential areas in their offender rates (see Bottoms, Claytor and Wiles, 1992).

Areas with high numbers of offenders are not necessarily the same as areas with high numbers of offences, given that offenders do not necessarily commit offences close to their homes. A second strand of the geography of crime has therefore focused on where crime occurs, involving both the mapping of offences (areal analysis) and more sophisticated efforts to link the distribution of offences to other socio-economic and environmental variables (ecological analysis). Rooted in positivism, these approaches have until relatively recently had to rely largely on official (police-recorded) statistics despite the acknowledged limitations of these data as an index of the occurrence of crime because of differential public reporting and police recording practices (see policing, geography of). With the development of national and local crime surveys (also known as victim surveys) in the 1970s, greater precision is now possible in mapping the contours of crime. These surveys ask samples of the public to describe the crimes committed against them within a specified time period, so avoiding the vagaries of public reporting and police recording practices. At the local level such surveys consistently reveal marked intra-urban variations in crime risk. High-risk neighbourhoods tend to be located both in the inner city and on the poorest council estates located in inner-city and peripheral locations. Low-risk neighbourhoods include agricultural areas, affluent suburbs and retirement areas. Explanations for this localization of victimization at the neighbourhood level have focused around four main themes:

The \'lifestyle-exposure-to-risk\' hypothesis (also referred to as the \'routine activities theory\') proposes that the differential risks of crime in time and space are a function of the convergence of likely offenders and suitable targets in the absence of so-called \'capable guardians\'. Two lifestyle variables are particularly important indices of risk: the size of a household because it is a measure of the extent to which capable guardians are able to provide protective surveillance of people and property; and spare-time activities because these connect with behaviour patterns at times (evenings and weekends) and in places (streets, clubs and pubs) when high levels of offending occur.

Environmental design may contribute to differences in crime risk via the impact of physical features of the built environment on opportunities for offenders and the capacity for informal, communal surveillance. Associated particularly with Newman\'s (1972) ideas about territoriality and the defensibility of space, research in this field has sparked an important debate over the relative importance of \'architectural determinism\' and \'social engineering\' on neighbourhood problems (see Coleman, 1985; Smith, 1987a).

Neighbourhood decline may contribute to increasing levels of crime according to proponents of the so-called \'broken windows\' hypothesis (Wilson and Kelling, 1982). A dynamic model is proposed in which initial signs of disorder in an area (such as broken windows, litter and graffiti) may be sufficient to initiate a spiral of decline, with residents retreating from these incivilities into their private, domestic space, so undermining those informal processes whereby communities maintain social control in public space leading, in turn, to more serious crimes occurring. In the US, this combination of physical and social disintegration of neighbourhoods has been linked not only to rising violent crime and drug abuse but also to deteriorating public health, homelessness and other pathologies to create an interacting \'synergism of plagues\' which, via diffusion, can spread rapidly beyond inner-city neighbourhoods to create regional problems of disease and violent crime (Wallace et al., 1997).

Offenders\' use of space might also contribute to the localization of crime given the findings of research which has drawn on insights from behavioural geography and work with offenders\' images of the city (see mental map), to show important relationships between the location of offences and offenders\' routine use of space (see Rengert, 1992).

Many of the more recent studies of offence data have used the technology of geographical information systems as a means of revealing patterns in crime statistics and the socio-demographic characteristics of areas with high levels of criminal activity (see Hirschfield et al., 1995). This technology has helped narrow the spatial scale of crime pattern analysis to pinpoint so-called crime \'hot spots\', particular locations such as street intersections, retail outlets and residential dwellings, which generate a disproportionate number of calls for police attention. The idea of hot spots is also of relevance to studies of repeat victimization (where the same person or property is the subject of more than one offence) which have shown that for crimes such as burglary and assault the rate of repeat victimization is far higher than would be expected under a random distribution. This indicates that crime is not only highly concentrated by neighbourhood area but is also focused on particular dwellings and individuals (see Johnson et al., 1997).

The use of crime surveys to measure the extent of crime has also provided access to information on the effects of crime and, in particular, the importance of fear (see Smith, 1987b). Like crime itself, the fear of crime shows strong geographical variations but these cannot be accounted for only by differences in the incidence of victimization. Fear is also related to features of the physical and social environment, ranging from poor street lighting to vandalism and youths loitering on street corners. Studies of the effects of fear have highlighted its contribution to inhibiting spatial mobility, particular among women who, because of their fear of crime, are much more likely than men to avoid going out alone after dark, to avoid certain streets, and to rely on men as escorts (Painter, 1992). Moreover, research in feminist geography on women\'s fear of sexual violence has identified the so-called \'spatial paradox\' of women tending to fear strangers in \'public\' spaces despite sexual attacks being more common in \'private\' spaces (see private and public spheres) by people known to the victim (Pain, 1992).

An understanding of spatial patterns of victimization and the fear of crime places researchers in a strong position to contribute to public policy (see public policy, geography and) via the development and evaluation of crime prevention and fear-reducing measures. Particular attention has focused on \'situational crime prevention\' which aims at reducing opportunities for, and the fear of, crime via the management, design or manipulation of the built environment. Examples of situational prevention include neighbourhood or block watch (Bennett, 1992), improved street lighting (Ditton et al., 1993) and the use of closed-circuit television surveillance (Fyfe and Bannister, 1996). Critics of situational strategies argue, however, that while they may reduce crime in one area they carry the possibility of displacing crime to other, unprotected areas.

Despite the impetus given to studies of the geography of crime by national and local governments struggling to cope with spiralling crime rates, the future development of the sub-discipline needs to address several broader issues. First, ever since the nineteenth-century studies of crime have focused overwhelmingly on urban environments and the local, neighbourhood scale. Not only is there therefore considerable scope for examining crime in non-metropolitan environments (see Duncan, 1997) but also for recognizing the increasing importance of the local-global dialectic in contemporary forms of criminal activity. The geography of illegal drugs, for example, involves large international networks of producers, distributors and consumers (see Rengert, 1996) while much corporate or \'white-collar\' crime exploits differences in regulatory regimes across the globe. Second, the politicization of law and order policy raises important questions about how governments regulate the social and political life of society by using the law (see law, geography of) to criminalize the use of space by particular social groups (Fyfe, 1995). Finally, a key theme to emerge from the analysis of postmodernism and the city is the way urban \'form follows fear\' (Ellin, 1996, p. 145). Gated and walled residential communities, video surveillance systems and the prevalence of the \'fortress impulse\' in urban design are increasingly common features of contemporary urban environments. Whether these developments give people a greater sense of security or accentuate their fears by \'increasing paranoia and distrust\' (ibid., p. 153) remains unclear but point to the continuing significance of crime and the fear of crime for an understanding of urban society and space. (NRF)

References Bennett, T. 1992: Themes and variations in neighbourhood watch. In D.J. Evans, N.R. Fyfe, and D.T. Herbert, eds, Crime, Policing and Place: Essays in Environmental Criminology. London: Routledge, 272-85. Bottoms, A.E. and Wiles, P. 1997: Environmental criminology. In M. Maguire, R. Morgan, and R. Reiner, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 305-59. Bottoms, A.E., Claytor, A. and Wiles, P. 1992: Housing markets and residential community crime careers: a case study from Sheffield. In D.J. Evans, N.R. Fyfe and D.T. Herbert, eds, Crime, Policing and Place: Essays in Environmental Criminology. London: Routledge, 118-44. Bursik, R.J. and Grasmick, H.G. 1993: Neighbourhoods and Crime. New York: Lexington. Coleman, A. 1985: Utopia on Trial. London: Hilary Shipman. Ditton, J., Nair, G. and Phillips, S. 1993: Crime in the dark: a case study of the relationship between street lighting and crime. In H. Jones, ed., Crime and the Urban Environment: the Scottish experience. Aldershot: Avebury. Duncan, C.J. 1997: Victimisation beyond the metropolis: an Australian case study. Area 29: 119-28. Ellin, N. 1996: Postmodern Urbanism. Oxford: Blackwell. Fyfe, N.R. 1995: Law and order policy and the spaces of citizenship in contemporary Britain. Political Geography 14: 177-89. Fyfe, N. R. and Bannister, J. 1996: City watching: closed circuit television surveillance in public space. Area 28 (1): 37-46. Hirschfield, A., Brown, P. and Todd, P. 1995: GIS and the analysis of spatially-referenced crime data: experiences in Merseyside. International Journal of Geographical Information Systems, 9 (2): 191-210. Johnson, S.D., Bowers, K., and Hirschfield, A. 1997: New insights into the spatial and temporal distribution of repeat victimization. British Journal of Criminology, 32 (2): 224-41. Newman, O. 1972: Defensible Space. New York: Macmillan. Pain, R. 1992: Space, sexual violence and social control: integrating geographical and feminist analyses of women\'s fear of crime. Progress in Human Geography 15: 415-31. Painter, K. 1992: Different worlds: the spatial, temporal and social dimensions of female victimization. In D.J. Evans, N.R. Fyfe, and D.T. Herbert, eds, Crime, Policing and Place: Essays in Environmental Criminology. London: Routledge, 164-95. Rengert, G.F. 1992: The journey to crime: conceptual foundations and policy implications. In D.J. Evans, N. R. Fyfe and D.T. Herbert, eds, Crime, Policing and Place: Essays in Environmental Criminology. London: Routledge, 109-17. Rengert, G.F., 1996: The Geography of Illegal Drugs. Boulder: Westview Press. Smith, S.J. 1987a: Design against crime? Beyond the rhetoric of residential crime prevention. Journal of Property Management 5: 146-50. Smith, S.J. 1987b: Fear of crime: beyond a geography of deviance. Progress in Human Geography 11: 1-23. Wallace, R., Wallace, D. and Andrews, H. 1997: AIDS, tuberculosis, violent crime, and low birthweight in eight US metropolitan areas: public policy, stochastic resonance, and the regional diffusion of inner city markers. Environment and Planning A 29: 525-55. Wilson, J.Q. and Kelling, G.I. 1982: Broken windows: the police and neighbourhood safety. Atlantic Monthly, March: 29-38.

Suggested Reading Bottoms, A.E. and Wiles, P. 1997: Environmental criminology. In M. Maguire, R. Morgan and R. Reiner, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 305-59. Evans, D.J. Fyfe, N. R. and Herbert, D.T., eds, 1992: Crime, Policing and Place: Essays in Environmental Criminology. London: Routledge. Herbert, D.T. 1982: The Geography of Urban Crime. London: Longman. Lowman, J. 1986: Conceptual issues in the geography of crime: toward a geography of social control. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 76 (1): 81-94. Smith, S.J. 1986: Crime, Space and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



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