Monday, 14 August 2017

Crime and Disadvantage



Title:
Crime and Disadvantage

Paper:


The purpose of this paper is to discuss whether crime is caused by disadvantage. This is an extremely complicated, complex and length proposition: to answer it completely is well beyond the scope of this paper. There are a number of criminological theories that each has their own perspective on this subject. As a consequence, this paper will focus on a narrower perspective of the problem based upon the ‘Broken Windows Theory’.[1] This theory is discussed later in the paper; however, the advantage of this approach is that the theory is a product of ‘new right criminology’ that can be interpreted in both a conservative and liberal perspective. There is also some aspects of labelling and strain theories.

Furthermore, as part of this exploration the events of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans Southern United States will be drawn upon[2] which will give this discussion a ‘real’ and current perspective that will be used to explore these criminological theories. Details of events in New Orleans are sourced from reports of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation due to its statutory obligations to provide unbiased reporting[3] as apposed to the commercial media. Nevertheless, it is acknowledged that these reports do have some sensationalism. Further information regarding these events will is from Time Magazine.

Before going any further it is important to examine what is meant by disadvantage: a central point of this paper. The dictionary definition of disadvantage is “any unfavourable circumstance or condition” while to be disadvantaged is to be of “low … social-economic rank or background. [To be] deprived of financial security, educational background opportunity … as a result of discrimination.”[4] Furthermore, disadvantage relates to being placed in unfavourable circumstances that are normally associated with a lack of social opportunities. In the perspective of this topic, disadvantage is closely aligned with low socio-economic conditions. There is also a so-called cycle of disadvantage where due to the family situation successive generations of people are caught within the low social economic group. This has been said to have developed with the growth of affluence, the welfare state, the wider division between rich and poor, the availability of drugs, and the rise of absentee paternity.[5] Low social-economic conditions are interlinked with low intelligence which again add to this cycle. For instance, low-social economic conditions leads to a lack of ability for education which then leads to a lack of ability to improve social-economic conditions.[6] In essence causing disadvantage.

As this paper is also focusing on events in New Orleans it is important to look at manifestation of disadvantage this within United States communities. The highly visible disadvantaged groups within that community are African-Americans who’s average family income is less that one third that of others in the community. Unable to obtain the jobs in industry or in domestic service that had attracted earlier generations to cities: having formed ghetto, residents became trapped in economically depressed urban areas that offered few opportunities for upward or outward mobility. There has also been an increasing number of inner-city African-Americans are experiencing the disintegration of the family unit and a decline in job security.[7]

As stated above, the ‘broken windows’ theory will be used to contrast the new right approaches of conservatives and liberalism. The theory has its foundation in a paper written by James Wilson and George Kelling in 1982: the subtitle of the article is ‘The police and neighborhood safety’. The basis of the theory is that crime and disorder are inextricably linked and that unattended and uncared for property will be subject of damage. “[I]f a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon also be broken.”[8] It is the communal barriers which prevent crime from occurring: once these communal barriers breakdown the crime will generally become acceptable. This point was dramatically illustrated in William Golding’s twentieth-century classic story Lord of the Flies[9] and was dramatically brought to life in Lewis Allen and Peter Newman’s 1990 movie of the same name.[10] Here a group of private school students – from an English public school in the book and a United States military school in the movie – slowly and very quickly descent in anarchy – and subsequent violence – when the social norms of their school break down after being marooned on an island. 

According to the Broken Windows theory once these social norms in an area have broken down the area then becomes vulnerable to criminalisation. It is the disadvantaged – those of lower socio-economic position – who are unable to leave the area.[11] In an interpretative perspective it seems that this theory is suggesting that it is the condition of the community and the subsequent breaking down of communal norms that causes crime rather than the presence of disadvantage. However, it is also possible to suggest that it is the disadvantage which makes such communities more vulnerable to such a break down.[12]

Taking a liberal approach the causes of the activities listed above is that it is the product of rational choices that involve the evaluations of the advantages and the disadvantages. The criminal is fully responsible for their actions.[13] In this instance, the causes of this break down in social norms is caused by a rational choice that there is no ownership of the property and hence the disadvantages of damaging it – of breaking a window – are minimal. There is also an availability of such items.[14] On the other hand, from the conservative perspective, crime is caused by a lack of self-discipline: an undermining of traditional loyalties and a lack of respect for authority. The offender is inherently flawed.[15] This is the characterised by the Jack character’s rebellion against the school norms and the authority of the Ralph character in Lord of the Flies. In respect to this perspective the windows are smashed because the offenders have no respect for the property – as no-one shows ownership of it - and no self discipline. It is out of this interpretation of broken windows  that the ‘zero tolerance’ policing model evolved – first in New York – where it is argued that to stop wider crime and disorder a zero-tolerance approach is taken and people are prosecuted even for small offences.[16] This is part of the conservative emphasis on harsher penalties to enforce the moral order.[17]

In the conservative perspective, disadvantage is subordinate to the need to preserve the moral order; however, it is still relevant. Due to the focus on moral issues criminalisation of activities of the disadvantage – in an effort to improve the social order – which is not necessarily deliberate. When it comes to evaluating the impact of disadvantage it is liberalism which is more direct. Part of the ways liberalism sees to combat crime is through the lessoning of government regulation and control over individual lives. Consequently this results in the decriminalisation of ‘victimless’ crimes such as prostitution – as apposed to the criminalisation of this activity by conservatives – focusing on instances where people come to harm.[18] Therefore the decriminalisation of ‘moral wrongs’ in the liberal perspective also lessens criminality as it relates to the activities of the disadvantaged.

An interesting quandrum is whether being disadvantaged in some respects makes the actions of the person concerned be seen as criminal. This is where labelling theory can be useful. Labelling theory sees crime as a construct of those with the power to label a particular action as being criminal. This labelling has a psychological effect on those who’s actions are labelled as criminal or deviant in that they are effected by the stigma of the label which effects their subsequent behaviour.[19] With respect to disadvantaged people their can be an over focusing on their behaviour as being criminal because of the manner in which they carry out their lives: mainly within the public domain. Therefore, there is an arguable interplay between the conservative rightwing approach to criminalisation of ‘moral wrongs’ with the subsequent consequences of convictions of those offences. In my experience in law enforcement I have seen may young people from disadvantaged backgrounds quickly descend into criminal activity once convicted of ‘moral wrongs’ or victimless crimes such as drug possession.

In illustration of this, I will now briefly deal with the case of the Saints and the Roughnecks . This was a study conducted by William Chambliss at a United States high school. Both groups engaged in an equal amount of anti-social or delinquent behaviour, however, they seen differently by the community.[20] The Saints were from middle class families and seen as good kids, young leaders. The Roughnecks on the other hand, were from low-income families, had a disadvantaged background were seen as trouble and targeted by the local police. The difference in their activities were marked by the socio-economic advantages – or disadvantages – their families gave them. The Saints had access to motor vehicles and were able to ‘do their stuff’ well away from where they were known; however, lacking transport the Roughnecks were confined to their immediate neighbourhoods where they were known.[21] The local community was oblivious to the activities of the Saints while the activities of the Roughnecks were well known and they were labelled as deviant offenders.[22] In latter life all but one of the Saints went on to professional careers while two members of the Roughnecks subsequently would be convicted of murder. Another two Roughnecks received college scholarships because of their sporting ability and graduated becoming teachers. The interesting point is that the two Roughneck teachers moved out of a disadvantaged position - because of their scholarships – and were able to throw off their deviant label.

New Orleans is located on the Mississippi River and is a major port on that river. It is the major city – previously the capital under Spanish and British rule - of the southern United States state of Louisiana. New Orleans was acquired by the United States as part of the Louisiana Purchase when about 2,100,000 sq km of North America purchased France in 1803. [23] It has a thriving cultural life including Jazz festivals and the annual Mardi Gras. [24] New Orleans has a population of 444515 according to the 2004 United States Census. Of its population 54 percent of the population – compared with around 27% nationally - have an income below the national average of (US)$44000. The unemployment is 11.8% compared with 7.2% nationally and 18% of those over 25 years have less than ninth grade education compared with 9.3% nationally.[25] Indicating that New Orleans has an over representation of the disadvantaged.

Cities the size of New Orleans violent and property crimes decreased in 2004 compared with 2003 according to the FBI Uniform Crimes Reports. However, although crime in both categories in New Orleans did decrease it was not to the same extent nationally. What is significant is that the decrease in violent crime was -2.86% compared with -3.4% nationally (-0.66% compared with -3.5% for property crime).[26] What can be seen from these figures is that New Orleans is following the national trend in a reduction in crime -  more so for violent rather than property crime – however, it is in line with national trends.

As with the majority of jurisdictions throughout the United States, New Orleans law enforcement agencies pursue a zero tolerance policy of strict enforcement. This follows the conservative perspective of the offender being inherently flawed.[27] In the perspective of the focus of this paper on the association between disadvantage and crime an interesting – however also tragic – event recently occurred in this region: Hurricane Katrina. Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans around 1 September 2005, causing the levy banks around the sub-sea level city to fail and the city was inundated with sea water. The city was evacuated before this occurred, however, thousands remained – the less mobile, the poor, elderly and sick – who would reasonable be described as disadvantaged. The evacuations and disaster relief effort are not subject to this paper – it is the chaos in the streets which does.

After Katrina New Orleans reportedly quickly descending in to a Lord of the Flies style anarchy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) states that the first 72 hours after a disaster is crucial to prevent chaos and lawlessness. During this period victims need to received supplies – food, water, ice and medication – that did not occur in this case.[28] Looting, shootings and general anti-social behaviour began to be reported especially around the Superdome and Convention Centre where the disadvantaged of the city had taken shelter. After shooting occurred at a military helicopter the New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin ordered police to stop rescue operations and begin to ‘fight crime.’[29] This was further expressed in President Bush’s statement “I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking law during an emergency such as this, whether it be looting … It is very important for the citizens in all affected areas to take personal responsibility and assume a civic sense of responsibility so that the situation don’t get out of hand…”[30]  This is a classic conservative new right approach and was directly targeted at the disadvantaged – whose disadvantage had increased after the disaster due to the lack of services[31] – remain in the city.

As previously explained the new right conservatives see crime as that which violates both the law and morality[32] while liberals focus on the violation of the natural order.[33] Both focus on the protection of private property. Those involved in the ‘looting’ of New Orleans are most notably made up of the disadvantaged people left behind by the evacuation. It is true that there was some looting of valuable items; however, a review of media footage shows that the majority of the premises looted were in initially shops which stocked essential supplies - food, water, clothing shelter etc – rather than for personal gain.[34] It would seam illogical as such to take more that is required for survival as these people were ‘trapped’ and could not take advantage of such items. However, it did show a disregard for private property.

Furthermore, the labelling of criminality was important. There are cases where people from disadvantaged background – notable African-Americans - were labelled by the media as looters whilst other where labelled as ‘finding’ the items and therefore not criminal.[35] After a period of time this activity moved to general destruction of symbols of wealth and the establishment. Those left behind also turned on each other and rescuers. This was a classic Lord of the Flies scenario but it wasn’t as such from the beginning before the lack of emergency response became evident and authorities focused on zero-tolerance law enforcement rather than rescue. What this shows is that in certain situations disadvantage – especially extreme disadvantage such as a disaster – along with increase opportunity[36] can cause crime as it is defined by the new right criminologists. However, this is also partly due to the constraints and lack of community caused by the zero-tolerance interpretation of broken windows and there is also the labelling of activities as criminal.

In this paper the connection between disadvantage and crime has been explored, this exploration was based upon the Broken Windows Theory. Through the examples of the Roughnecks and Saints and more recently events of Hurricane Katrina have shown that criminality can be linked to disadvantage, however, it is the disadvantage which leads to people being labelled as criminal rather than necessarily their disadvantage causing them to be criminal. Furthermore, it appears that communal breakdown – rather than disadvantage – may be the cause of crime. Such break downs, however occurs more likely in disadvantaged areas. There is also the possibility that some law enforcement activity towards the disadvantaged – especially zero tolerance – can cause a criminal backlash. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that there is a correlation between disadvantage and crime but not necessarily a causational one.

 


Bibliography.

‘Blacks in the Americas’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation 1998.

‘Class’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation. 1998.

‘Louisiana Purchase’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation 1998.

‘New Orleans’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation 1998.

FBI Uniformed Crime Reports June 2005. [www.fbi.gov]

United States Census 2004 [www.census.gov]

Bottoms, Anthony and Wiles, Paul. ‘Environmental Criminology.’ In Mike Maguire, Rod Mordan and Robert Reiner. The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. 3rd edn, South Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2002.

Braithwaite, John. Crime, Shame and Reintegration. Sydney, Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Chambliss, William. ‘The Saints and the Roughnecks.’ in W. Chambliss and M. Mankoff (eds) Whose Law, What Order. New York, Witey, 1976.

Cherney, Adrian and Sutton, Adam. ‘Crime Prevention and Reduction.’ In Andrew Goldsmith, Mark Israel and Kathleen Daly. Crime and Justice: An Australian Textbook in Criminology. 2nd edn, Pyrmony, Lawbook Co, 2003.

Clarke, R. ‘Situational Crime Prevention: Theory and Practice. British Journal of Criminology. 20(2): 136 – 147, 1980.

Coleman, Clive and Moynihan, Jenny. Understanding Crime Data: Haunted by the dark figure. Buckingham, Open University Press, 2000.

Gant, Frances and Grabosky, Peter. The Promise of Crime Prevention. 2nd edn, Canberra, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2000.

Golding, William. Lord of the Flies. London, Faber and Faber, 1954.

Grabsky, P. ‘Zero Tolerance Policing.’ Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, Canberra, Australian Institute of Criminology, 1999.

Peace, Ken. ‘Crime Reduction’ in Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. 3rd edn South Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2002.

Sutton, Adam. ‘Community Crime Prevention: A National Perspective’ In Duncan Chappell and Paul Wilson (eds) The Australian Criminal Justice System: The mid 1990s. Sydney, Butterworths, 1994.

Whites, Rob and Haines, Fiona. Crime and Criminology: An Introduction. 2nd edn, South Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2001.

Wilson, James and Kelling, George. ‘Broken Windows.’ Atlantic Monthly. 16: 29-38, 1982.

 

 

News articles:

‘A Calamity Waiting to Happen.’ Time Magazine. 36: 54 - 55, 2005.

45 bodies found in New Orleans hospital. 14/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/news]

Bush allies secure post-Katrina rebuilding contacts. 11/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Bush declares emergency in post-Katrina Aizona, Virgina. 13/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Bush denies discrimination in hurricane relief effort. 13/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Bush takes blame for hurricane relief problems. 14/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/news]

Bush to tour swamped New Orleans. 13/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Bush vows zero tolerance for post-hurricane looting. 1/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Bush’s ratings hit all-time low. 11/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Embattled US emergency chief quits. 13/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Finders, looters and the media. 12/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/mediawatch]

Forced Evacuations begin in New Orleans. 9/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/news]

Former US emergency chief ‘not a superhero’. 28/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/news]

Frustration awaits Bush in hurricane zone.12/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Hundreds feared dead on storm ravaged US coast. 31/8/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Hurricane death toll climbs past 650. 14/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Hurricane death toll may be lower than initially feared. 10/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Hurricane homicide charges ridiculous says lawyer. 15/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Hurricane Katrina: Reporter’s diary. 8/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Hurricane Ophelia pelts North Carolina. 16/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/news]

Katrina victims may be homeless for years. 13/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Looting hampers New Orleans effort. 1/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

New Orleans plunges deeper into chaos. 31/8/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

New Orleans residents invited back. 30/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/news]

Officials see normality returning to New Orleans. 11/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Survivors flee New Orleans. 1/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

US backs off Katrina media ban. 11/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/news]

US military bars media from Katrina corpse recovery. 10/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]

US Officials defend recovery efforts. 15/9/2005. [www.abc.net.au/news]

Allen, Mike. ‘Living Too Much in the Bubble.’ Time Magazine. 37: 32 - 35, 2005.

Booth-Thomas, Cathy and Padgett, Tim. ‘Life Among the Ruins.’ Time Magazine. 37: 38 - 41, 2005.

Cloud, John. ‘Mopping New Orleans.’ Time Magazine. 37: 42 - 44, 2005.

Cooper, Matthew. ‘Dipping His Toe Into Disaster.’ Time Magazine. 36: 28, 2005.

Dworzak, Thomas. ‘Ghost Town’ Time Magazine. 37: 18 - 23, 2005.

Gibbs, Nancy. ‘New Orleans lives by the water and fights it.’ Time Magazine. 36: 24 - 27 , 2005.

Kluger, Jeffrey. ‘The Fragile Gulf.’ Time Magazine. 36: 48 - 52, 2005.

Lacayo, Richard. ‘Rebuilding a Dream.’ Time Magazine. 36: 42 - 46, 2005.

Ripley, Amanda. ‘How Did This Happen?’ Time Magazine. 36: 30 - 35, 2005.

Rourke, Matt. ‘An American Tragedy.’ Time Magazine. 36: 12 - 23, 2005.



[1] James Wilson and George Kelling, ‘Broken Windows.’ Atlantic Monthly. 16: 29-38, 1982.
[2] See reports from ABC Online listed in bibliography
[3] Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983 (Cth) s6
[4] A. Delbridge, J Bernard, D. Blair, P Peters and S Butler. The Macquarie Dictionary. 2nd edn Macquarie University, The Macquarie Library, 191. p501
[5] ‘Class’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation. 1998.
[6] Frances Gant and Peter Grabosky, The Promise of Crime Provention. 2nd edn, Canberra, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2000. p30.
[7] ‘Blacks in the Americas’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation 1998.
[8] James Wilson and George Kelling, ‘Broken Windows.’ Atlantic Monthly. 16: 29-38, 1982. p30
[9] William Golding, Lord of the Flies. London, Faber and Faber, 1954.
[10] Lewis Allen and Peter Newman. Lord of the Flies. Castle Rock Entertainment, 1990.
[11] Ken Peace, ‘Crime Reduction’ in Mike Maguire, Rod Morgan and Robert Reiner (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. 3rd edn South Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2002.
[12] Adrian Cherney and Adam Sutton, ‘Crime Prevention and Reduction.’ In Andrew Goldsmith, Mark Israel and Kathleen Daly. Crime and Justice: An Australian Textbook in Criminology. 2nd edn, Pyrmony, Lawbook Co, 2003.
[13] Rob Whites and Fiona Haines, Crime and Criminology: An Introduction. 2nd edn, South Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2001. p141
[14] Anthony Bottoms and Paul Wiles, ‘Environmental Criminology.’ In Mike Maguire, Rod Mordan and Robert Reiner. The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. 3rd edn, South Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 2002. p629
[15] Whites et al. op. cit. p143
[16] Grabsky, P. ‘Zero Tolerance Policing.’ Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, Canberra, Australian Institute of Criminology, 1999.
[17] Whites et al. op. cit. p143
[18] ibid p140
[19] ibid p81
[20] William Chambliss, ‘The Saints and the Roughnecks.’ in W. Chambliss and M. Mankoff (eds) Whose Law, What Order. New York, Witey, 1976. p155
[21] Chambliss op. cit. p157
[22] ibid. p152
[23] ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation 1998.
[24] ‘New Orleans’ Microsoft Encarta 99 Encyclopedia. Microsoft Corporation 1998.
[25] United States Census 2004 [www.census.gov]
[26] FBI Uniformed Crime Reports June 2005. [www.fbi.gov]
[27] Whites et al. loc. cit.
[28] Amanda Ripley. ‘How Did This Happen?’ Time Magazine. 36: 30 - 35, 2005.
[29] Looting hampers New Orleans effort. 1/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]
[30] Bush vows zero tolerance for post-hurricane looting. 1/9/05. [www.abc.net.au/news]
[31] See media articles listed in bibliography.
[32] Whites et al. op. cit. p143
[33] ibid. p141
[34] See media articles listed in bibliography.
[35] Finders, looters and the media. 12/9/05 [www.abc.net.au/mediawatch].
[36] R. Clarke, ‘Situational Crime Prevention: Theory and Practice. British Journal of Criminology. 20(2): 136 – 147, 1980. p142
 

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