Rational Choice Theory
Routine Activity Theory
High Risk Populations / The Who Of Crime
Brantingham and Brantingham (1981, 1984) focus on how crime happens in specific locations and in time. This focuses on the offender and target set in place and time with emphasis on the place of the criminal event. The criminal event can be understood in the context of peoples normal movements through those places in the course of the day, week and year. Normal activities strongly shape crime patterns of both the offender and the victim or target. Pattern theory looks at differing scales from patterns of crime on the city level to the building level. It tends to study crime statistics or the geographic layout of crime occurrences as opposed to the offender=s perspective. If we understand what motivated an offender to get to the criminal event (rational choice), and we see that these decisions fall with the normal activities of street, cities and countries (routine activity) then is crime uniformly placed throughout these places? No, pattern theory looks at the non-uniform location of crimes. It is based on the following assumptions;
1) that there are individuals motivated to commit crime,
2) that there is a multi-staged target selection process,
3) the selection process is influenced by cues emitted by the environment,
4) environmental cues and cue clusters are used and re-used by offenders forming templates,
5) templates are relatively fixed and have similar qualities within groups of offenders.
Then patterns of crime can be drawn from these repetitive templates. Looking at the selection process from the perspective of occurrences in space and time, then spatial qualities can be understood again, based on behavior in the environment.
1) most crimes are committed close to home or at major activity nodes,
2) offenders tend to cluster together,
3) crime happens in the action spaces of the offenders.
Based on the above, patterns can be drawn that crime happens on pathways and nodes along those pathways that are used by clusters of offenders where and when suitable targets are available.
Rational Choice Theory
This focuses on offender decision making offers a more fruitful framework within which to consider deterrence than do most existing criminological theories, which seem geared toward rehabilitation and social prevention. Clarke (1986) looks more at the distal and proximal risks of offending. Rational choice looks at the offender=s perspective of how they use the environment rather than just looking at what motivated the offender.
Routine Activity Theory
Routine activity theory was based on the work of Shaw and McKay (1929, 1942) who examined the way sociological factors affect community structure that generate illegal acts. It was also based on human ecology because of the interdependence between social activities that were carried out everyday within the community. Specifically, human ecology contributed not just spatial but also the temporal interdependence of these everyday human activities. Routine activity theory made two basic assumptions about the criminal event;
1) there had to be a convergence of 3 elements for a successful crime; a motivated offender, a target, and a lack of guardianship, and
2) that illegal acts form part of the routine activities of people living and surviving in a city.
Cohen and Felson (1979) looked at large scale crime patterns in the 1950's. They suggested that the shift of women into the work force leaving an empty home and the increase in small electronic appliances lead to increase in break and enter on a large scale. The change in culture is explained to have an effect on increased crime due to the overwhelming availability of easy targets and lack of guardianship thereby decreasing the necessary level of motivation. It is likely that the increased interest in criminology in Britain and United States is due to the sharp increase in crime in the 1950's and 1960's and therefore related to population increase due to the post war baby boom.
Pathway Theory is a way of visualizing the crime environment through the paths people use as they go about their regular, daily activities. It draws on the fields of environmental criminology, criminology, urban sociology, behavioural psychology, urban design, architecture, landscape architecture and planning.
How do we see the city? We have a sense of ourselves within the city, as part of the collective culture, we have memories of the city with strong visual images, our identity and our self image is affected by the city.
Christian Norberg-Schulz, in the book "The Concept of Dwelling" suggests that the city reflects the human condition. People=s hearts seek a home, a place to dwell. In many ways, the city is that place. The human condition relates to settlement versus wandering. The city is a settlement, a grouping, a trusting and acceptance of others, of being settled. Wandering suggests initiative, achievement, toward goals. Within the city, the path is the initiative and the node is the goal. We are drawn to the city of possibilities. Paths and nodes are basic to human nature.
In the book "The Image of the City" (1960), Kevin Lynch studied peoples perceptions of the city and suggested that a legible city had positive effects on people. Contributing to legibility was the way that people imaged the city. Lynchs research used cognitive mapping to find common features. Primary features of cognitive maps were:
For visualizing the crime environment or developing a "crime picture", paths and nodes are the most important feature. Moughtin et al, in the book "Urban Design" (1999) suggests that the path is the most important element of peoples images;
"The path is probably the most significant structuring element in image building. Most people relate other imaging features to their main network of paths. Paths are the main channels of movement, whether by foot, bicycle, bus or car. Paths are the routes we take to move about the city." Moughtin et al, 1999, p. 43-44.
Christopher Alexander, in the book "A New Theory of City Form", suggests that interesting and lively paths have nodes of activity at a maximum distance of 300m along their length. Nodes are places.
The statement "Crime happens on pathways and at activity nodes where there is a presence of high risk populations" sums up pathway theory. The primary determiners of crime to pathways, activity nodes and high risk populations. Before considering any type of design solution to reduce crime and nuisance activity, the impacts of these first order determiners must first be considered.
This can be any type of pathway where people go; vehicular, pedestrian, cycling. Some pathways have little crime because they do not carry high risk populations or people that are searching for targets. Others have mostly nuisance and vandalism, for example, where kids walk from school to a convenience store and tag with graffiti or break windows on the way. Some pathways carry more serious crime, for example, a pathway to and from mass transit stations may have increased levels of robbery and assault .
This is any type of stopping point or place where people go. It could be a destination such as a liquor establishment or going to work. It could be as simple as a car stop at a street light where the corner become node.
High Risk Populations / The Who Of Crime
This includes anyone who chooses to undertake a crime or nuisance activity. But, as in any type of human behaviour, those who choose to undertake crime or nuisance carry similar characteristics primarily related to gender, age and socio-economics variables. Over the broad spectrum of different types of crime, a high risk population is most often young males in their teens and twenties (Clarke 1978, Light, Nee and Ingham 1993, Wright and Decker 1994). It is important to note that this is profiling and there are dangers of discrimination making it particularly important to acknowledge that just because a group of people can be identified by characteristics, the vast majority of people with those same characteristics do not get involved in crime i.e. not all young males in their teens and twenties are stealing cars for joy-riding but most of those people involved in that activity have similar gender and age.
When discussing high risk populations it is also important to make note of vulnerable populations; those people that are most likely to be the targets of crime such as seniors, older aged new immigrants with limited knowledge of language. Young males in their teens and twenties are often the victims as well as the perpetrators of some types of crime such as robbery and assault.