What evidence is there that crime is committed by certain sorts of people.
The different theories covered in this essay can be categorised into two main approaches the first is biological theories by Cesare Lombroso in which he has given his theory into why someone is deemed a born criminal. With the second being Sociological theories by Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay in which they suggest that crime stems from a multitude of factors. When trying to understand why crimes are committed by people, and when looking at the different viewpoints on whether a person can be born a criminal, or whether certain people commit criminal acts due to other factors such as peer pressure or the neighbourhoods they live in.
Being a Criminal is someone who breaks the law this could range from murder but it is anyone who breaks the law is technically a criminal, even if the crime is just not paying a speeding ticket REF. When trying to distinguish if crime is committed by certain sorts of people there is no one actual cause of being a criminal. Crime is seen as a vastly complex phenomenon that also changes across time and different cultures REF. Some activities that are legal in one country (e.g. Alcohol use in UK) are seen as illegal in other countries (e.g. strict Muslim countries). So what may be deemed as a crime by one person may not be seen as crime to another person depending on their cultural beliefs. Which results into that there is no real simple answer to the question is ‘crime is committed by certain sorts of people’. When looking at different studies that have been carried out to determine who could classified a criminal. With Criminology and other social sciences, go onto examine various features when making an attempt to try and explain which factors could cause individuals to stray away from the social normality. Sociologists have established some different social structure theories in an effort to try and connect behaviour patterns to social-economic control and also other social ecological factors REF. Sociological approaches suggest that crime is shaped by certain different factors that are external to the individual: these include their experiences within their neighbourhood, the peer groups, and also their family REF.
When Social disorganisation theory advanced out of research focused on by Sociologists who studied at the University of Chicago in the nineteenth century. From here it’s the main advocates were Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay (1942), who carried out their work using spatial mapping which they used to examine the different housing locations of various juveniles that had been referred to court REF. Using this Shaw and McKay went on to establish that the various patterns of delinquency were much higher in certain areas that were characterised by poor health, poor housing, socio-economic disadvantage and also the transient populations REF. With this it led them to suggest that crime was indeed a function of the neighbourhood’s dynamics and did not believe it was due to the individual’s actions and their actors. According to Shaw and McKay they described these patterns by reference to the certain problems that came with the immigrants to Chicago at this time. They believed that areas that had been settled by the newly arrived immigrants had experienced a breakdown of the social norms due to ethnic diversity and also by the different competing cultural traditions REF. With this the conventional institutions of social controls were consequently weakened and were unable to control the behaviour of local youths. According to Shaw and McKay they believed that social disorganization was connected to immigrant groups who were relocating to the more desirable neighborhoods Shaw and McKay also discovered that high delinquency rates had persisted in certain Chicago neighborhoods for lengthy periods of time despite changes in the ethnic and cultural structure of these neighborhoods REF. Their research also revealed that people were committing crimes in areas of declining population and decaying houses REF. With this Shaw and McKay believed that Social disorganization occurs when the neighborhoods occupants fail to achieve joint values or to solve mutual problems REF. Resulting in that Shaw and McKay connected Social Disorganization theory to people coming from poor unstable areas with people stemming from different ethnic backgrounds.
Biological explanations of crime suggests that some people are just ‘born criminals’, and who can be physiologically distinct from the non-criminals. The most famous advocate of this biological approach is Cesare Lombroso. Working as an Italian prison psychiatrist in the 19th century, Cesare Lombroso drew on the work and ideas of Charles Darwin REF and suggested that criminals were primitive: and deemed them as predominantly ‘evolutionary throwbacks’. He proposed that their brains were mal-developed or not even fully developed. In his evaluation of prisoners, he found that they all collectively shared a number of similar physical attributes, such as; high cheekbones, large jaws, low slanting foreheads, flattened or upturned nose, handle shaped ears, and prominent chins. In doing so Lombroso suggested that their involvement in crime was due to the product of their biology and having biological characteristics: which culminated in criminals being born that way. REF
According to Lombroso’s theory which proposed that criminals are distinguished from the non-criminals due to their various physical anomalies. He also claimed that criminals represented degeneration to a primitive type of man which was characterized by physical features that were similar to that of apes and early man REF. Lombroso’s theory of the ‘born criminal’ or of atavism was comprehensively influenced by his medical background in which he achieved a degree whilst at university in medicine and in surgery REF. While at university he developed a keen interest in psychology, which later advanced into an interest in psychiatry. Lombroso volunteered as a medical doctor for the army, during this time he observed three thousand soldiers and attempted to measure their physical differences (Wolfgang 1972). Lombroso supported the study of individuals using skull measurements in compiling data REF. He attempted to create a scientific method into calculating criminal behaviour and then identifying individuals capable of the most aggressive and also sadistic types of criminal activity. It was from this experience of examining soldiers that he formed his observations on tattooing. He later identified tattooing as another characteristic of being a criminal REF. Lombroso also carried out study’s female criminality. This also began with measurements of females’ skulls and photographs in his search for atavism. He found that female criminals were quite rare and showed little signs of showing degeneration. Lombroso also argued that it was the females’ natural passivity that withheld them from becoming criminals or breaking the law, as women lacked the intelligence and initiative to become criminals. Furthermore, Lombroso claimed women who commit crimes had different physical characteristics, such as excess body hair, wrinkles, and an abnormal sized skull (Lombroso 1980).
While it can be inferred that no one theory definitively explains why crimes are committed by certain sorts of people. Biological, Sociological and psychological crime theories address crime and deviance explanations from different, but equally feasible perspectives. The early biological ideas of Cesare Lombroso stimulated the emergence of more contemporary theories. Although his crime explanations are not widely used today, they provided a foundation for further thought in the criminology field. Also with Shaw and McKay’s social disorganization theory which continues to be used in clarifying the impact of neighbourhood characteristics such as, poverty, ethnic diversity, and residential stability, on crime rates, Social disorganization theory will still be functional to various forms of crime and will still continue to be the drive behind social scientists, criminologists and in their exploration of criminal behaviour.