You are on page 1of 8


Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it- Henry Thomas Buckle The problem of crime in cities has long been recognised as a growing and serious challenge in all parts of the world. Safety from crime and violence-including the resulting fear and insecurity-is increasingly being acknowledged internationally as a public good, as well as a basic human right. Although crime and violence are found in all cities of the world, most places are safe and most citizens are neither victims nor perpetrators of crime. Rather crime tends to be concentrated in certain parts of the city or neighbourhoods that are known to police and citizens. A crime is fundamentally defined as an anti-social act which violates the law for which a punishment can be imposed by the State or in the State's name1. The resulting range of punishable acts is extraordinary and varies across jurisdictions. The World Health Organisation defines violence as the intentional use of physical force, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person or against a group of persons or community,that either results in or has a high likelihood of injury,death,psychological harm,mal-development or deprivation. Crime and violence are related issues although many crimes may not entail violence (such as theft and drug related crimes) and vice versa. However there are significant overlaps between crime and violence such as in cases of murders, armed robberies or assaults,including sexual assault.

Categories of crime
There are 3 broad categories of crimes2 that affect people throughout the world:
y y y

Personal or contact (violent) crimes Property offences, and Crimes against public order and welfare

Contact crimes:
This includes violent acts against persons which are considered to be most serious offences. This includes homicides, assaults(including those suffered as a result of a domestic violence),robbery,rape,and in some jurisdictions kidnapping and pick-pocketing also. They often have significant long term areas in the way an urban area is perceived and used by residents and outsiders and how they are regenerated or ignored by public agencies.

Property crimes:
The most serious property crimes include larceny, burglary and theft, arson and other property related crimes that are specific to other areas. Lesser property crimes include vandalism and quality of life crimes such as graffiti and damage to property.

Crimes against public order:

This may include some types of anti-social behaviour as well as some types of sexual offences and infractions,such as corruption and trafficking of human beings,arms and drugs. Fraud,cyber-crime and so called white collar crimes are also included in this category.

Causes of crime
By the 21 st century, criminologists looked to a wide range of factors to explain why a person would commit a crime. These included social,economic,biological and economic factors. Usually a combination of all these factors is behind a person who commits crimes. As geographers, the sociological theories provide the best possible insight into the spatial variations of crime,both at the intercity and intracity level. By close of the 20th century,researchers have moved away from the notion that the city is itself criminogenic. Instead research on urban crime has become concerned mainly with explaining why urban crime rates vary, why some social, economic, and spatial characteristics are correlated with variations in urban crime rates, and how certain crime characteristics of urban places affect individual criminality.

Explaining the ecology of crime with the help of the social disorganisation theory
Social disorganization theory seeks to explain community differences in crime rates.The theory identifies the characteristics of communities with high crime rates and draws on social control theory to explain why these characteristics contribute to crime. Social disorganization theory is concerned with the way in which characteristics of cities and neighbourhoods influence crime rates. The roots of this perspective can be traced back to the work of researchers at the University of Chicago around the 1930s. These researchers were concerned with neighbourhood structure and its relationship to levels of crime. Classical Chicago School theorists, and Shaw and McKay in particular, were most concerned with the deleterious effects of racial and ethnic heterogeneity, residential mobility, and low socioeconomic status on an area's ability to prevent crime. However, since the work of Shaw and McKay and others, researchers who adopt the macrosocial approach to the study of urban crime have identified a number of additional "disorganizing" factors including family disruption (Sampson and Groves), relative poverty (Messner, 1982), and racial segregation (Peterson and Krivo).3 Crime is said to be more likely in communities that are economically deprived, large in size, high in multiunit housing like apartments, high in residential mobility (people frequently move into and out of the community), and high in family disruption (high rates of divorce, single-parent families). These factors are said to reduce the ability or willingness of community residents to exercise effective social control, that is, to exercise direct control, provide young people with a stake in conformity, and socialize young people so that they condemn delinquency and develop self-control.The residents of high crime communities often lack the skills and resources to effectively assist others. They are poor and many are single parents struggling with family responsibilities. As such, they often face problems in socializing their children against crime and providing them with a stake in conformity, like the skills to do well in school or the connections to secure a

good job. These residents are also less likely to have close ties to their neighbours and to care about their community. They typically do not own their own homes, which lowers their investment in the community. They may hope to move to a more desirable community as soon as they are able, which also lowers their investment in the community. And they often do not know their neighbours well, since people frequently move into and out of the community. As a consequence, they are less likely to intervene in neighbourhood affairs like monitoring the behaviour of neighbourhood residents and sanctioning crime. Finally, these residents are less likely to form or support community organizations, including educational, religious, and recreational organizations. This is partly a consequence of their limited resources and lower attachment to the community. This further reduces control, since these organizations help exercise direct control, provide people with a stake in conformity, and socialize people. Also, these organizations help secure resources from the larger society, like better schools and police protection. It is seen that the inner city areas are usually characterised by the above mentioned characteristics.

Broken Windows Theory:

The Broken Windows Theory was developed by social scientists James Q.Wilson and George Kelling.4 This theory says that when one window is broken in an abandoned building,soon after all the windows will be broken-that is public disorder leads to breakdown of public order. The essence of broken windows theory is that neighbourhoods disorder and decay;if left unchecked,combined with drinking and vagrancy,it signals to criminals that no one is watching and that crime can take place. Disorder in these areas creates fear among the citizens and they avoid these areas allowing the criminals to gain a foot hold. The neighbourhood is caught in a vicious cycle of crime because as crime increases,disorder too increases and this leads to even more crimes. Thus,these areas hardly have a chance of recovering from this cycle of disorder and crime. This theory suggests that the best way to control crime is to prevent it and the best way to prevent crime is not by concentrating police efforts on solving major crimes but focusing on minor quality-of-life offences such as vandalism. This counter-intuitive approach suggests that it is the feeling of public order that acts to dent criminal behaviour.5

Urban crime : conditions and trends.

Global and regional trends and conditions: The crime rates at both the global and regional levels have increased over the period 19802000,rising from 2300 to over 3000 crimes per 100000 individuals 6. But this is not the case for all the regions. Some crime rates,such as those in North America fell significantly over these two decades even though the general level of crime was higher there than other regions,except for the European Union beginning in approximately 1999. Crime in the LAC region rose during this period reflecting in part political transitions from autocracy to democracy. Comparatively high general crime rates in higher income regions of North America and Europe are explained by the greater propensity of people to report crimes.

National crime trends and conditions: When various types of crimes are aggregated cross nationally,the sums are staggering. For example,there were 50 million property and violent crimes recorded y police in 34 industrialised and industrialising countries7 in 2001. These countries account for less than 1/6th of the worlds population according to the 2006 estimates.8 In India,a total of 309929 cognizable crimes under IPC were reported in 35 mega cities in 2004 as compared to 291246 in 2003 there by recording a growth of 6.4%. Crime and violence are more severe in urban areas and are compounded by their rapid growth. A recent study has shown that 60% of urban dwellers in developing and transitional countries have been victims over a five year period,with the victimisation rates touching 70% in parts of LAC and Africa. 9 Homicides at the global and regional levels: The definition of homicide includes both intentional and non-intentional homicide. It is a rare crime as compared to theft and larceny. Figure shows homicide rates for selected regions of the world. It clearly indicates that LAC region and sub-Saharan Africa have the highest rates of homicide while the European states and the Arab countries have the least. Between 1990 and 2000, WHO data shows that violent crime,including homicide,has grown 8.8% per 100000 individuals.

Fig 2 - Rates of homicide:selected regional trends,1986-2000

Robbery and Burglary: Primarily a contact crime,robbery is both a violent crime and a property crime in many jurisdictions. Consequently it is more likely to be reported to the police than lesser crimes. Global robbery trends increased between 1980 and 2000 for about 40 to over 60 incidents per 100000 individuals. Data for Eastern Europe,Latin America and Africa shows that countries in these regions have very high robbery rates. North America on the other hand witnessed a remarkable decline from 200 in 1992 to 120 per 100000 recorded cases in 2000. Although often targeted against vehicles,burglary is the most common property crime connected to local built environment and design features. On an average,1 out of every 5 urban residents report being victimised. Most Africans believe that they will be victimised by burglary than in any other region. Nonetheless,the reporting rate for burglary in Africa is 55%,with only Asia reporting a lower 40%. Other reporting rates are 84% for Oceania,72% in Europe and 59% in the Americas.10 Intimate Partner Violence and Child Abuse: Intimate partner violence (IPV) has global,regional and local significance as a type of contact crime that may culminate in homicide,physical/sexual assault or property damage or public order offences. Due to sensitive nature of this crime,it is not often reported. Surveys in the UK show that there were 500000 official reports of domestic violence in 2000. Further more,4% of women and 2% of women were victims of non-sexual domestic violence. Globally,women are significantly more likely to be victims of IPV than men. The majority of women (between 51%-71%) from Peru,Ethiopia,Tanzania and Bangladesh reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse. Sexual victimisation was less common for most women than physical abuse by an intimate partner for most women.11 Violent households are often venues for child abuse. Child abuse includes physical abuse,sexual abuse,psychological/verbal abuse,commercial or other exploitation of women,as well as negligent treatment of children. The UN estimates that between 133 million and 275 million children experience violence at home annually,with the largest proportion in Southern,Western and Eastern Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa. However girls make up 98% of children who are sexually exploited. The World Report on Violence and Health reports that 57000 children were murdered intentionally in 2000. Apart from the fundamental violation of human rights that these cases present,child abuse has often been cited as a major risk factor linked to future criminal behaviour. Corruption and White Collar Crime: Corruption is generally classified as a crime against public order. There is no universally accepted definition of corruption;but it has been summarised as the use of public power for personal gain. One of the most widely used measures of corruption is Corruption Perceptions Index which calculates a score based on the perceived levels of corruption in a country. The index for 2005 shows that the high-income countries in Europe and Oceania are the least corrupt countries. The low income countries of Eastern Europe and Asia and Africa rank high in this list.

White collar crime tends to refer to crimes committed at a business by a businessman or woman. Such crimes might includeembezzlement or fraud. Criminology expert and sociologist, Edwin Sutherland, in a 1939 speech, coined the term. Sutherland posited that people are more likely to commit crimes when they are surrounded by criminal behavior of others. This philosophy relates to punishment of white collar crime by the US justice system. A white collar criminal is considered less likely to commit another crime, and punishment may be softer than for crimes involving violence. Most believe that white collar crime is a less punishable offense, than for example a mugging where violence is threatened. However, white collar crimes like embezzlement, the stealing of company funds, may ultimately harm more people. If funds are irrecoverable, a white collar criminal might technically steal all the savings of people who depend upon those savings in order to live. When the money cannot be recovered, the white collar criminal has caused more damage by his actions than the mugger. However, the mugger is likely to receive a stiffer sentence Generally, a white collar criminal also has the advantage of being housed in a minimumsecurity prison. Such an environment offers greater freedom and is generally considered a safer environment than maximum-security prisons. Thus a white collar crime is not considered with the same gravity as other offenses, even when a person has damaged beyond repair the lives of others. Organised Crime: The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime defines organised crime to mean a structure of 3 or more persons existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or obtain directly or indirectly material or other benefits. An enormously diverse series of enterprises,this profits from drug trafficking,trafficking in fire arms,trafficking in human beings and money laundering among others. The UN Drug Control Programme has estimated that US$ 1 billion in illicit capital is circulated by criminal groups in worlds major financial institutions.12 Drug trafficking: Illicit drug trafficking and drug use are fundamental risk factors underlying crime and violence in urban areas. It not only increases policing costs and health care costs but also diminishes quality of life and disintegrates families. The strong association between drug use and crime has been proved beyond point and research shows that for atleast certain drugs,there use or purchase does cause more income-generating crimes. During periods when heroin addicts are consuming the drugs heavily,the rate at which they are commit crimes are much higher than periods when they abstinent. The reason is that the illegality of drugs produces a black market where prices rise to the point where an addict can only support their habits by theft or prostitution13. Drug and crime dont follow each other in a neat sequence;rather they both stem from deep rooted causes. Arms Trafficking: Arms trafficking is often the focus of organised crime. There are more than 640 million small arms worldwide which is enough to arm one in ten persons in the world and almost 1000 people are killed everyday with small arms14. Human Trafficking:

Human trafficking is a global problem that involves organised criminal groups and disproportionately affects women and children. Although accurate data is unavailable,it is estimated that around 70000 to 1 million people are trafficked around the world every year. Trafficking is a huge source of revenue for the traffickers. Trafficked persons are later exploited sexually(forced into brothels) or in domestic servitude. Juvenile Delinquency: An antisocial misdeed in violation of the law by a minor is termed as juvenile delinquency. The ongoing process of urbanization is contributing to juvenile involvement in criminal behaviour. The basic features of the urban environment foster the development of new forms of social behaviour deriving mainly from the weakening of primary social relations and control, increasing reliance on the media at the expense of informal communication, and the tendency towards anonymity.These patterns are generated by the higher population density, degree of heterogeneity, and numbers of people found in urban contexts15. The family as a social institution is currently undergoing substantial changes;its form is diversifying with, for example, the increase in one-parent families and nonmarital unions. The absence of fathers in many low-income families can lead boys to seek patterns of masculinity in delinquent groups of peers. These groups in many respects substitute for the family, define male roles, and contribute to the acquisition of such attributes as cruelty, strength, excitability and anxiety. immigrants often exist in the margins of society and the economy and have little chance of success in the framework of the existing legal order,they often seek comfort in their own environment and culture.Differences in norms and values and the varying degrees of acceptability of some acts in different ethnic subcultures result in cultural conflicts, which are one of the main sources of criminal behaviour.Native urban populations tend to perceive immigrants as obvious deviants.

Crime hotspots:
High crime density areas are known as hotspots of crime. It clumps in certain areas and is absent in others. People use this knowledge in daily life. They avoid some places and seek out others. Their choice of neighbourhoods,streets,schools,recreation are partially affected by their understanding that their chances of being a victim are greater in certain areas. Other than the usual elements of crime (,offender and place),there are other important factors which make a place a hot spot of crime. These can be briefly summed up as the onset of crime in an area,the frequency of recurrence of crime,intermittency of crime and crime types etc. For eg: In Minneapolis, for example, an analysis of 323,000 calls to the police in 1986 found that a small number of hot spots produced most of the crime in the city. Only 3% of the places produced 50% of the calls to which the police were dispatched. This concentration was even greater for the predatory crimes of robbery, criminal sexual conduct and auto theft: only 5% of the 115,000 street addresses and intersections in the city produced 100% of the calls for those, usually stranger-perpetrated, offenses.

The impersonated and segmented human relationships in the city weaken moral sanity and heighten the sense of instability and insecurity. Conditions, of city life tend to break down rigid social structure and render informal control on individual behaviour almost ineffective.Therefore the city is considered to be more conducive to normlessness and hence deviance. On the other hand;human relationships are more stable in rural areas.There are more interpersonal controls on conduct that operate through traditional social institutions.Therefore the degree of lawlessness is lesser in the countryside. The excess of crimes in urban areas are however sometimes taken for granted without enough evidence to support it.