Environmental Crime Control

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Outline and critically discuss what you see as the main examples of attempts to control crime using ‘environmental controls’

It is generally understood that crime prevention strategies developed with the neo-liberal governance that began in the 1970’s soon after the decline of welfarism. The rise of the neo-liberalism meant the weakening of rehabilitation efforts, the return of punitive punishment and an increase in the prison population, as well as an increase in society’s fear of crime leading to politicisation and populism linked to crime (Matthews, 2002). Attempts to eradicate or prevent crime have often focused on punishment and a ‘prison works’ system that deals with the offender once the criminal act has occurred, rather than specifically focusing on preventing the crime from happening in the first place. The past decade has shown that the British government’s dogmatic response to crime “gives priority to case-processing and the punishment of offenders” particularly due to the public’s fear of crime and want for a more punitive response to crime (Garland, 2000, pg2). Although environmental control theories are not particularly recognised by the public nor have they been chiefly researched by criminologists in the past, evidence suggests that some forms of environmental control have proven to be highly successful (Clarke, 1983). The idea that crime can be prevented by the analysis of places in which crime occurs most frequently, followed by the alteration of the design of a building or reducing the criminal’s opportunities and temptation to offend, will be examined throughout this paper. Situational Crime prevention emphasises the use of target hardening, surveillance and access control in order to reduce the temptations of crime in urban areas that would usually experience high crime rates (Vellani, 2007). The fundamental theories behind situational crime prevention are rational choice theory and routine activity theory which will be analysed in order to understand their contributions to environmental crime controls today. Lastly, and most importantly, is the influence of ‘Crime Prevention through Environmental design’ in the decline of criminal activity in certain geographical areas. The ‘Defensible space’ theory relies on residents to practice the use of territorial surveillance (Clarke, 1983). All of these theories will be analysed in order to highlight the main examples of attempts to prevent and manipulate crime using environmental controls.

Situational crime prevention, or control theory, is an important theory used by academics and criminologists in order to analyse environmental controls used to manage crime. Situational crime prevention emphasises the need to focus on the settings of a crime rather than specifically focusing on the offender (Clarke, 1997). By sourcing out the geographical areas that crime occurs most regularly, law enforcement can then anticipate and prevent that crime from happening. In the 1970’s, UK policy makers had a tendency to focus their attention on ‘dispositional’ rather than ‘situational’ variables when interpreting and approaching crime prevention, which meant focusing specifically on the individuals character and not on the situation or setting that the crime may take place (Hughes, 1998). Jock Young coined the term administrative criminology in the 1980’s in order to argue that “the search for causes is futile, but the opportunities to commit crime can be controlled” (Hughes, 1998, p59). Administrative criminologists’ focus their research on the setting in which the crime has taken place, ignoring the social causes of crime by assuming that the offender has made a rational decision by means of weighing up the costs and benefits of their behaviour (McLaughlin and Muncie, 2001). As said by Vellani, the four main goals that situational control theory aims to achieve are; “increasing perceived effort, increasing perceived risk, reducing anticipated awards, and removing...
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