Below is an essay submitted by one of our Criminology students on solutions to crime proposed by Right and Left Realists. Essential reading for all A2 students - particularly for the additional studies incorporated...
Realist Solutions to the Crime Problem
By Kimberly Watts
Rather than just focusing on explaining crime, realists promote solutions to prevent and reduce crime. Right and Left realism are mostly opposing approaches. Both Right and Left Realism are connected to Right and Left politics, therefore the views of how societies should tackle crime are mostly down to political opinions of the government. This essay will look at the both the Right and Left Realists solutions to crime.
Right Realism suggests that tougher policing and methods to advise and inform people how to avoid being victims are key to reducing and preventing criminal activity. Wilson (1975, cited in Northampton College, 2015) suggests that criminals see an opportunity and then make a rational calculation as to whether the risk outweighs the benefits of committing the crime. Situational crime prevention comprises of opportunity reducing strategies, these strategies must be directed at specific types of crime and should make the crime more difficult to commit and reduce the rewards available to the criminal (Clarke, 1997).
Sandra Walklate (1996, cited in Northampton College, 2015) discussed the typology of prevention strategies, these included Offender centred, victim centred and environmental strategies. Offender strategies deal directly with criminals, harsher punishments would deter criminals, and therefore the death penalty would be the ultimate deterrent. Victim strategies would include public advice about reducing the likelihood of a crime being committed against you, for example the recent campaign advising people not to leave their valuables on display in their cars will reduce the chances of having their car broken into, this helps reduce the opportunities to criminals. Finally environmental strategies include CCTV and street lighting, these measures increase the risk of being caught therefore the appeal of the crime is reduced for the criminal.
Philip Zimbardo (1969) experimented with the broken window theory by placing two identical cars in two very different areas (cited in Wilson & Kelling, 1982). The first was placed in the Bronx, already renowned for its crime rate, and the second in Palo Alto, California. The car in the Bronx was attacked by vandals within ten minutes. However, the second car in Palo Alto was untouched, until Zimbardo smashed part of it with a sledgehammer, soon the car was destroyed. The experiment showed that crime will flourish in communities that have a ‘no one cares’ attitude, however within a community where there is a sense of morality, when signs of ‘no one cares’ show the community can break down quickly and crime will spread. Wilson & Kelling (1982) suggest that when a criminal act is committed within the community, if nothing is done about it and the act goes unnoticed, then crime will spread.
“The key is to identify neighborhoods at the tipping point—where the public order is deteriorating but not unreclaimable, where the streets are used frequently but by apprehensive people, where a window is likely to be broken at any time, and must quickly be fixed if all are not to be shattered.”(Wilson & Kelling, 1982, p.8)
Wilson & Kelling (1982) suggested that communities have an obligation to protecting their area, and a rise in police foot patrol will prevent the break down in communities. Finding areas that it will make a difference is the key, areas high in crime are ‘too far gone’ therefore police patrol would be a ‘waste of time’, it would also be unnecessary for police to patrol areas with little or no crime. ‘Zero Tolerance’, was applied in New York from the basis of Wilson & Kelling (1982) theory. The reduced rate in crime was commendable however ‘zero tolerance’ is now widely used to describe harsh street policing.
Although the Left Realist approach also suggest that stronger communities will help reduce crime, they mostly disagree with Right Realism. From the Left perspective society and the police should have a better relationship, Left Realists believe that zero tolerance and stop and search policing will only create a negative image of the police, criminals are created by disagreements with current policing. The Left perspective suggests there is a lack of approachability with modern policing, law abiding citizens are scared of the police. Instead communities and the police should be working together to reduce and prevent crime (Moodle, 2015).
Left Realist immediate solutions for reducing and preventing crime consist of building stronger communities, they suggest that everyone needs to fight against crime not just the police. Empowering victims, by using techniques such as restorative justice, allowing victims to talk to the offenders, in theory this should minimise suffering. The focus of the police should be on high-crime areas, community officers should be on foot patrol and establish a good relationship with the communities (Moodle, 2015).
Relative deprivation in relation to crime suggests that because people feel entitled to something that they don’t have it causes frustration which leads to crime.
“We can roughly say that [a person] is relatively deprived of X when (i) he does not have X, (ii) he sees some other person or persons, which may include himself at some previous or expected time, as having X (whether or not this is or will be in fact the case), (iii) he wants X, and (iv) he sees it as feasible that he should have X.” (Runciman, n.d., cited in Yitzhaki, 1979, p.321)
Runciman (n.d) explains that when an individual sees another individual or themselves at some point in time, with what they desire, they become jealous which transpires into frustration causing a rebellion, therefore crimes are committed. To reduce or prevent crime, removing or reducing inequality is key. Whilst there is such a large gap between the bourgeoisie, creating the crimes, and the proletariat, committing the crimes, crime will be present. Left Realist long term goals include changing social structure and narrowing the gap between the rich and the poor (Moodle, 2015). This should reduce inequality and frustration from poorer society, and in consequence reduce criminal activity.
In conclusion, both Right and Left Realism generally ignore white collar crime and focus on street crime, neither perspective give either explanation or solution for crimes committed by the rich and powerful. In relation to solving crime, a government of the centre- using a combination of both perspectives - would be ideal, for example, tougher policing with a better relationship between the police and the community.
Clarke, R. (1997) Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies [online]. New York: Harrow and Heston. Available from: http://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&q=situational+crime+prevention. [Accessed: 17th January 2015].
Northampton College, (2015) Realist views of crime [PowerPoint presentation]. Access Sociology: Criminology [online via internal VLE], Northampton College. Available from: http://moodle.northamptoncollege.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=22 [Accessed: 17th January 2015].
Moore, s. et al, (2006) Sociology A2 for OCR. 2nd ed. London: Collins.
Wilson, J. & Kelling, G. (1982) Broken Windows. The Atlantic online [online], 8/3/09. Pp.1-9. Available from: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/198203/broken-windows [Accessed: 17th January 2015].
Yitzhaki, S. (1979) Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient*. The Quarterly Journal of Economics [online], 93(2), pp.321-323. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1883197?sid=21105107171601&uid=2&uid=3738032&uid=4 [Accessed: 17th January 2015].
Crime & Deviance
A2 Unit: G673