Below are some common criminological definitions from my University days. These are by no means exhaustive but should give you a good starting point for common subjects / themes in criminology.
Eugenics is a concept heavily rooted in Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Sir Francis Galton, Eugenics creator, defined the concept as the study of agencies under social control that may improve or impair the racial qualities of future generations either physically or mentally. Under this theory, criminality was viewed as a genetic problem passed down from earlier generations. As a result, people equated criminality with physical deformities and mental retardation. At the time of Eugenics creation, there was a growing concern that these abnormalities would continue to spread throughout the population, eventually leading to the demise of the human race. Therefore, in order to save western civilization, eugenicists argued for the sterilization of people with these unwanted qualities in order to improve the human race. This theory is extremely problematic as it has essentially been proven to rely on racism and as a result has led to such problems as the Holocaust as well as the Alberta sterilization act which condoned the sterilization of over 2000 people, mainly aboriginal and poor. This theory is still significant in that people still believe that the human genome project may provide an explanation as to how crime and deviance are genetically coded thereby essentially providing another reason to practice eugenics.
A criminological theory which emerged in the 19th century and argued that social relations and events (including crime) can be studied scientifically using methods derived from the natural sciences. Its aim is to search for, explain and predict future patterns of crime utilizing biological, psychological and sociological disciplines in an attempt to identify key causes of crime which are thought to lie outside of a criminal's control. French and Belgium statisticians first applied positivism to criminology in light of the work. Adolphe Quetlelet found that crime rates were not random but mostly constant. He therefore inferred that crime obeyed the same rules as physical phenomenon like the movement of stars. However, in addition, Cesare Lombroso and his atavistic criminal research heavily influenced this criminological theory. Lombroso argued that criminals had similar physical features and as a result could be differentiated from non-criminals.
Positivism attempted to shift the focus of the criminal justice system back on to the criminal as opposed to classicism which focused on the criminal act. Also, in contrast to classicism, they viewed crime as deterministic disregarding the role of free will in its act. This has been a heavy criticism of positivism as it neglects to acknowledge free and rational choice.
This is an approach to criminology which heavily relies upon the notion of free will and rational acts. It was developed in the late 18th century and early 19th century by reformers who sought to create a clear and legitimate criminal justice system based on equality as opposed to the popular system of trial by ordeal. Central to the system of classicism in the idea that punishment should be proportionate to the criminal act and should be viewed as a deterrent by possible criminals. Two philosophers, Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham, heavily influenced this theory. Beccaria argued that society should create laws that may infringe upon the rights of a few but largely result in greater happiness for many. He maintained that punishment should be greater than the pleasure derived from the criminal act. Bentham argued that punishment should be calculated to match the harm caused to society by the criminal act and therefore argued for the abolishment of the death penalty while promoting his penal institution, the panopticon, as an alternate form of punishment. Classical criminologists focused criminal act as opposed to the criminal themselves as positivism did. This theory of criminology is important because it still has implications in the criminal justice system today. Prisons are similarly built to Bentham's panopticon and in Canada, we still do not use the death penalty.
The panopticon was a theoretical design for the penitentiary created by the philosopher and classicist Jeremy Bentham. As classicism argued for a more humane and proportionate form of punishment, Bentham designed this type of penal institution. The panopticon involved having the cells of prisoners surround the guard tower while being illuminated so that the guards could surveille the prisoners. However, prisoners would not be able to see into the guard towers, thereby restricting their ability to know if they were being watched or not. Benthams primary motivation for this design was the idea that the few would be surveilling the many. Foucault later argued that this design could be adopted to the factory, barracks and school. Bentham's panopticon is extremely significant to the study of criminology in that its principles are still applied today. In prisons, the guard tower is still employed with limited view as to what is going on within it as well as the increased use of closed circuit television cameras within the prison. Prisoners do not know whether they are being watched but do know that they have the possibility.
The born criminal is a positivistic theory. Positivism argued that criminality was determined and undermined the notion of free will. The theory of the born criminal is that criminal's have a predisposition to crime that is genetically passed down from generation to generation. As a result, they have no control over whether or not they will commit a crime in the future. Cesare Lombroso created this idea through his research on the atavistic criminal. Lombroso studied known criminals in southern Italy in an attempt to discover common traits among them, thereby leading researchers to identify criminals before they committed crimes. Lombroso's research led him to conclude that criminals were atavists or evolutionary throwbacks which could be identified by big sloping foreheads, large jaws, and big ears. However, as Lombroso's research was flawed, so to is the theory of the born criminal. Firstly, Lombroso's research was based on caught criminals, therefore he selectively disregarded an unknown percentage of criminals in his study. Secondly, his research led him only to examine southern Italians and his physical traits were not in common with criminals but with southern Italians in general. Lastly, the notion of the born criminal largely undermines the notion of free will and rational choice. Despite the problems of this theory, it is still both significant and dangerous to the study of criminality. The notion of the born criminal has contributed to such theories as Eugenics as it argues that criminalitiy is inherited and eugenics argued for the restricted reproduction of criminals and others with physical and mental problems in order to breed out these undesirable qualities from society.
Trial by Ordeal
Trial by ordeal was a process used mainly by the Church before the creation of classical criminology. These trials involved alleged criminals enduring some form of punishment in order to determine their guilt. This often included mutilation, flogging, public humiliation and branding. Escape from the punishment was often viewed as an indication of innocence as it was seen that God had intervened on behalf of the alleged criminal in order to stop the punishment. These punishments were also carried out in public in order to serve as a type of deterrent both to the alleged criminal as well as other criminals.
The trial by ordeal is important to criminology as it provided the reasons for change. Philosophers began to argue for reform, citing that this type of trial was unjust and problematic in that people were being punished before their guilt was determined. This eventually led to the classicist movement which argued for a fair and just trial, abolishment of the death penalty, and a focus of punishment on the criminal act rather than the criminal themselves.
Ethnography is the study of small groups of people and of micro social situations and contexts with emphasize being on understanding how these people socially construct and interpret their worlds. In order to do this, the study of ethnography is done covertly rather than overtly in order to ensure the ethnographer does not interfere with the behaviour of the people he is studying which is referred to as the observer effect. Ethnography is studied two different ways; the first using participant observation and the second utilizing the anthropological gaze. Participant observation involves the ethnographer assuming a role within the group studied and recording his findings. However, the ethnographer must ensure that he does not get so close to the group that he loses objectivity, often referred to as 'going native'. The second method, the anthropolical gaze, involves the ethnographer watching a specific group in order to understand them. This involves the ethnographer keeping a distance between their subjects and themselves. This practice can also be problematic in that it can result in an observer effect whereby the people studied come to know they are being studied and change their behaviour. Another problem with this practice is that the ethnographer may witness a situation in which they would like to help but they cannot due to the risk of compromising their research. This practice is especially useful in studying areas like workplace crime which people are often hesitant about discussing openly.
Informal Social Control
Informal social control is usually a set of rules within society or a micro organization such as a neighbourhood which are not explicitly stated, however, they are understood by members of that group. Shaming, criticism, disapproval, and guilt often enforce this type of control. Sociologists do understand the importance of such rules however; they maintain that as societies grow, formal rules such as codified law become more important to order for the population. Despite the emphasis of formal social controls, informal controls also are significantly important to society in populations where social controls are lacking, such as ghetto neighbourhoods. Informal social controls are significantly interesting to ethnographers as they represent the ways in which people have socially constructed and interpret their world. These controls are significant to society because they are the responses of society to unwanted behaviour that is often not codified by law such as the responses by MADD to drunk driving before changes were made to existing law.
Ethnocentrism poses a detrimental problem to the study of comparative criminology. Comparative criminology is the study of crime as it manifests itself globally in an effort to explain crime which occurs domestically. However, ethnocentrism is the belief that generalizations from one country apply equally to other countries globally, that theft in America is the same as theft in China. As time and space convergence continues to increase, comparative criminology's importance simultaneously continues to grow because crimes have started to involve multiple countries, such as child pornography on the internet spreading across boarders. However, its findings become problematic as they are sometimes based on the fictitious belief of ethnocentrism being that laws apply universally to countries across the globe.
Cultural relativism is the belief that ethical truths are only true when discussed in relation to a specific culture. That is that nothing is universally right or wrong, but rather is only right or wrong when discussing a culture like American culture. This theory is important because it undermines what comparative criminology seeks to discovery and that is how crime manifests itself globally. However, as a cultural relativistic view argues that nothing is universally right or wrong, one cannot compare crime globally because what is right in one culture may not be exactly right in another culture. This theory is the opposite of ethnocentrism in that ethnocentrism argues that generalizations can be applied globally in an effort of comparison.
Cultural relativism is problematic in that it provides a scapegoat in the definition of universal rights and standards of living. It is impossible to establish universal rights in the world because rights and wrongs can only be established in relation to a given culture. This is problematic for the notion of international law as there can be no such thing, rather these problems must always be handled culturally.
Occupational crime is often viewed as part-time crime where it is motivated by personal gain. This type of crime is often viewed as a supplementation to wages or as a perk by employees. Jason Ditton argued that there were three different types of occupational crime, fiddling, dealing, and stealing. Stealing involved direct theft from the employer by an employee, dealing involved stealing from the employer but by a number of conspiring employees. Fiddling is a situation whereby an employee steals from a customer by inflating prices and pocketing the profits or sometimes where both the customer and employee alter prices in an effort to steal from the company. This type of crime is extremely important to society for a number of reasons. First, it is often performed covertly so that little is known about the true phenomenon of workplace crime. Secondly, the effects of this type of crime are largely felt by the customer as any loses sustained by the employer through occupational crime are passed on to the customer through increases prices. Lastly, the government also feels the effects of workplace crime as these profits are undeclared and therefore the government loses money on potential taxation.
Occupational crime has often been studied by ethnographers with an effort to understand its phenomenon like Gerald Mars and Jason Ditton. Both these ethnographers argued that workplace crime is a regular occurrence though largely not discussed.
Area Offender Rates
An Area offender rate is the number of offenders which reside in a specific geographical area. This rate is similar to area offence rates which record the number of offences which occur within a given geographical area. On occasion, when taken together, both offender rates and offence rates do coincide especially when dealing with instances of repeat vicitimization such as domestic abuse. However, more frequently, there is large difference between both these rates, especially when dealing with crimes similar to that of vandalism and theft. Area offender rates though do provide significant information to police when dealing with sexual offenders as it provides police with a geographical representation of offender residences to compare with offence locations. On the other hand, these rates also are problematic in that they do not provide a full clear picture of offender residences because they are based upon know offenders. Therefore, only a selected population of offenders are represented within these statistics.
Area Victimization Rate
An area victimization rate is similar to area offence rate in that it measures the number of offences within a specific geographical area. However, where area offence rates include crimes committed against businesses, area victimization rates do not. Rather, area victimization rates record offences against people living in a specific geographic area, regardless of where they occur, excluding those offences which occur against businesses. These statistics are beneficial because they are often gathered through victimization surveys which help reveal more crime than is reveal through official police records. In addition, area victimization rates are especially useful in mapping crime which occurs within specific geographical areas such as ghetto neighbourhoods or crimes which occur against minorities living in a given neighbourhood.
The adversarial system is the current judicial process used in North America. It is characterized by a competition between the state and the defence as a synonym for adversarial is opponent. This system has three major players involved, the judge who is responsible for ensuring fair and equal opportunity within the trail. The second player is the defence who is responsible defending the accused during the trial. The last player is the prosecutor who is responsible for presenting and laying the criminal charges against the accused. This type of judicial system evolved from the inquisitive system whereby the judge was responsible for the investigate phase and any pre-trial actions. This system has recently been heavily criticized by legal theorists in that it promotes a competition between the prosecutor and defence rather than promoting the search for justice. A lawyers track record is based upon whether or not they win a trial rather than whether or not they have achieved justice.
General Deterrence is a goal within criminal sentencing which seeks to prevent other potential criminals from committing similar crimes to the crime currently being punished by making an example of offender. General deterrence strives to influence behaviour by reducing the likelihood of future citizens turning to crime as opposed to specific deterrence whose aim is to reduce recidivism or repeat offending. General deterrence is not a new concept but rather existed alongside trials by ordeal. These types of trials subjected alleged criminals to physical punishment in order to determine guilt. However, the punishment also served to reduce the likelihood that other citizens would turn to crime once they witnessed these brutal punishments. General deterrence is also related to psychological theory of operant and classical conditioning in that these theories believe that peoples behaviour can be influenced by stimuli incurred after an action, general deterrence represents an example of positive punishment for future criminals.
The term lex talionis refers to a law of retributive justice based on the notions derived from the oldest legal code, the Hammurabi of Ancient Babylon, while its literal definition can be traced back to the Old Testament being, "an eye for an eye". This concept argues that the essential characteristic of justice should be revenge. This concept is dangerous to a society of order in that it promotes individuals taking justice into their own hands in order to extract revenge. The classical school of criminology was the first to speak out against the concept of lex talionis when they argued for the disbandment of the death penalty as it provides no chance for penance or rehabilitation but rather is a concrete example of retributive justice. Lex talionis and the notion of eye for an eye, despite its primitiveness, is still highly influential in society today through the continued use of both the death penalty and life imprisonment. Both of these punishments only serve to punish the offender equally to the pain they have caused in society without offering a change at rehabilitation.
Manichean World View
This is a viewpoint of the world which is underlined by the notion of dualism, it considers the world as a battlefield for control between an evil material god and a good spiritual god. Manicheanism contends that there is a constant struggle between these good and evil forces with no area in the middle, everyone is either good or evil. This religion was founded by Mani over hundreds of years ago. This world view is significant to the study of criminology because it reflected in such criminological theories as positivism. Positivism argues that people are either born criminal or they are not born criminal. One of its most influential contributors, Cesare Lombroso, argued that criminals could be identified by physical characteristics and indirectly argued that criminal behaviour was deterministic thereby revealing a Manichean view of criminal behaviour. This theory is significant in society today because powerful people like George Bush subscribe to the theory and base wars around an axis of evil.
Natural Justice emphasizes the basic principles of fairness in legal proceedings, both civil and criminal. Its distinct features are that no one can judge themselves and that no one should be condemned without representation. To be natural, justice must be derived from characteristics all people have in common and not derived from cultures or institutions of a particular society. Natural justice has a number of guidelines which are that a person accused of a criminal charge should be given adequate notice of their proceedings, that the person making the decision should declare any person interest they may have in the proceedings and make a decision in good faith without bias. The proceedings should be conducted so that they are fair to all parties and each party should have equal opportunities to ask questions. Finally, the decision maker should take into account only that which is relevant. This notion of natural justice is contradictory to the idea of cultural relativism in that cultural relativism argues that things can only be right or wrong within a given culture and therefore, cultural relativists would argue that there can be no standard for justice universally. This notion of natural justice is important because it is part of the fundamental rights held by citizens in North America and ensures a fair hearing in determining ones guilt.
Restorative justice is based on the notion that responses to crime should emphasize the healing of both offenders and victims. It proposes that offenders and victims should meet after a crime has been committed in an effort to repair the harm done to both the victim and society. It therefore argues that the basic response to crime should be an attempt to mend all damage done to society. This type of justice is significant to the study of criminology as it presents an alternative form of justice and punishment than has typically been presented. Classical criminology emphasized the need for punishment without mention of victims, where as positivistic criminology emphasized the need to treat the criminal, both in contrast the motivation surround restorative justice. This notion is highly influential in the Canadian criminal justice system and demonstrated through community service. Similarly, there has been an increase in alternative forms of punishment reflecting restorative justice such as drunk drivers who have killed people behind the wheel meeting with the families of victims in order to understand what it is they have done.
This is the opposite of restorative justice which seeks the mend the damage done by offenders to society by having victims an offenders discuss the committed crime. Retributivism argues that criminals should be punished rather than rehabilitated. Supporters of this theory maintain that stiff punishments will act as general deterrents persuading potential criminals not to commit crimes. They argue that in order to maintain the balance of justice, people must be punished deservingly. Retributivistic punishment is not new but rather an old notion related to the concept of lex talionis which believes in an eye for an eye. This type of punishment was used in trials by ordeal where people were punished for crimes physically in an effort to deter future criminals. This concept is important to the study of crime today because of the increasing use of criminalization and penal populism. The answer to crime is slowly being transformed from rehabilitation to punishment which is clearly demonstrated in America as their incarceration rate has steadily increased over the past decade.
The cognitive behavioural theory assumes that maladaptive thinking patterns cause maladaptive behaviour and 'negative' emotions. This theory suggests that in order to change a persons behaviour, for example from criminal to non-criminal, an individuals thoughts or cognitive patterns, must be altered. Treatment involves the person or criminal identifying both the thoughts and behaviours that are causing the distress and making an attempt to change those thoughts thereby altering their behaviour. In some cases, people may have fundamental beliefs called schemas which are flawed and need some modification. The social information process created by Crick and Dodge can be viewed as a cognitive behaviourist theory. It argued that individuals move through six states of processing social information and if a person does not progress properly through each stage, they would have an inability to socially interpret interactions. Crick and Dodge said that criminals represented individuals who did not progress properly and as a result have difficulty establishing proper behaviour within a social environment. When applied to criminology, this theory tends to be positivistic in that it views criminality as an illness to be treated rather than a temporary lack of ration thought as classicists would argue.
Criminological psychology is the application of psychological theory and ivestigation to the understanding, explaining, and attempting to change criminal behaviour. This term was introduced to more accurately describe the application of psychology to antisocial behaviour which previously only had the term forensic psychology describing it. Early Criminal psychologist, such as Sir Cyril Burt had three basic assumptions about criminal behaviour, that it was biologically and psychologically predetermined, that criminals were in some way different from law-abiding citizens and that criminal behaviour is pathological. These three assumptions led psychologists to believe that criminal behaviour was the result of an individual failing or dysfunction and therefore criminal behaviour should be treated, not punished. This notion is positivistic as positivism argued for a focus of the individual in crime study and maintained that the behaviour was determined and the result of an illness which should be treated not punished. These basic assumptions about criminality are somewhat problematic, by claiming that criminality is a psychological dysfunction, psychologists made an assumption about a large population of people. Secondly, if crime was the result of a genetic disposition, criminals would be more or less evenly distributed among upper and lower classes which has not been displayed in criminal statistics.
In the 1930's, there was three main assumptions linking psychology to criminology and they were determinism, differentiation, and pathology. Differentiation is the belief that criminals are in some way, either biologically, psychologically or sociologically different from non-criminals. Two theories have emerged from the concept of differentiation, differential association and differential reinforcement. Differential association was first developed by Edwin Sutherland and is an attempt to account for the acquisition and maintenance of criminal behaviour in terms of association with particular environments and social groups. There are six main points to the theory of differential association and those are that criminal behaviour is learned, taking place through interactions with other people. The main setting for this learning is within close personal groups and the learning includes techniques to carry out various crimes with attitudes and motives supporting the actions of crime. These learning experiences will vary in frequency and importance for each individual and lastly, that the process to learn criminal behaviour is no different from learning other types of behaviour. The concept of differential reinforcement refers to the relationship between the criminal act and the outcome as a result of it. Positive outcomes often are seen as reinforcing this type behaviour.
Impaired or abnormal functioning, or failure to function normally due to a medical abnormality in the functioning of an organ or other part or system of the body, dysfunction is described as a psychological cause of criminal behaviour and is a positivistic view of criminality. The psychiatric profession specializes in the treatment of this type of disorder, consequently, many of the early practitioners applying psychological theories approached the task of dealing with offenders with an implicit understanding of criminal behaviour as a result of an individual failing or dysfunction. The solution for criminal behaviour favoured by practitioners of psychological theory was to rehabilitate the criminal to eliminate the dysfunction causing the criminal behaviour. Change is thus brought about by the application of psychological methods such as psychotherapy, counselling, and group therapy. Therefore, from a psychological perspective, criminal behaviour is a consequence of individual dysfunction, and once the dysfunction is corrected, the individual will no longer by criminal. This theory is problematic in that it sees criminals as either black or white, either having a problem or not having a problem. It neglects to examine crimes of necessities or momentary lacks of judgement.
Forensic psychology is the practice of psychology with the explicit motivation of being used in a court of law. Forensic psychologists are often called upon expert witnesses are therefore allowed to provide opinions about an individual in question. Forensic psychologists are also utilized during jury selection in order to ensure that jurors do not have existing prejudices that could affect the outcome of a trial. Also, these psychologists are often called upon by the police in an effort to create a criminal profile sometimes predicting future behaviour. Forensic psychologists are important to criminology in that they represent one of a selected few types of witnesses that may present opinions within a court case. Also, they are beneficial to stopping repeat offenders by offering insights based upon their knowledge of behaviourisms.
Social Information Processing
Social information processing refers to the way in which people interpret themselves, their environment and their actions. The way one processes the information and interprets it affects their beliefs about what kind of behaviour is acceptable and effective in achieving results. Aggressive people believe that the use of aggressive means is normal, legitimate and will bring about desired results. Aggressive people do not think that their victims suffer. They also interpret their world as hostile and their interactions, no matter how neutral, as being against them and people are out to "get them". This theory has 6 stages, the first two are concerned with encoding and interpretation of social cues, the third is with clarification of goals/some desired endpoint; the fourth is to judge how best to respond to a situation; the fifth is the response decision, and consideration of alternative responses. Here, people also consider the consequences and plan to achieve different outcomes. Lastly is behavioural enactment. When applied to criminology, this theory argues that criminals have a inability to properly examine cues and consider possible results. This is another positivistic theory of criminality which argues that criminality should be treated, not punished.
Social Learning Theory
The social learning theory focuses on the learning that occurs within a social context. It considers that people learn from one another, including such concepts as observational learning, imitation, and modelling. Alberta Bandura is considered the leading proponent of this theory. Social learning theory has been applied extensively ot the understanding of aggression. This theory explains human behaviour in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioural, and environmental influences. The component processes underlying oberservational learning are attention, retention, motor reproduction and motivation. This theory is similar to Edwin Sutherland's theory of differential association in that Sutherland argued that criminal behaviour was learned through social interaction and was the same as learning any other type of normal interaction. The social learning theory is influential to the study of criminology because it presents an explanation for the reproduction of criminal behaviour. In contrast, positivistic theories have just argued that criminality was determined and classicists argued it was simply a moment of irrational thought without making an attempt to explain how it is learned.
Somatotypes is a theory developed by William Sheldon who studied the physiques of juvenile delinquents in the 1940's. Sheldon argued that there were three different body types, endomorphs, mesomorphs, and ectomorphs. He based his findings on a study of 200 delinquent boys. He argued that endomorphs had a tendency to put on fat, they had small bones and velvety skin while their personality reflected relaxation with a love of luxury, essentially being an extrovert. Sheldon argued that mesomorphs had a predominance of muscle, bone and motor organs. They were muscular however, they personality was very aggressive and assertive. Lastly, the ectomorph was characterized by a predominance of skin, with a lean fragile body. They were sensitive, distractible and frequently had skin troubles. Sheldon published his findings with Eleanor Glueck arguing that mesomorphs accounted for 60% of criminals as their aggressive traits naturally led them to delinquency. This is important because it demonstrates yet another deterministic view of criminality as examining a persons physical traits, similar to Lombroso's theory, can help predict criminality.
The term cognitive map refers to a person's representation of a spatial environment, a mental framework that holds some representation for the spatial arrangement of the physical environment. In essence, cognitive maps are people's mental imprints of their daily routine routes from each location. These maps are acquired though experience. This is significant to the study of crime in that it suggests that people are more likely to commit offences in areas of higher familiarity. It is based on the idea that people are more comfortable in areas which they have knowledge about. Cognitive mapping has proven significant in the criminal profiling as it allows for the police to map out possible locations that offenders may commit crimes due to their mental knowledge and routine activities. It has also been combined with area offender rates as utilizing both together demonstrate where an offender lives and what areas surrounding their residence they could have a possible knowledge of.
Collective efficacy is the ability of a community to collectively express unified values and enforce them against deviant threats, thus reducing crime for the good of everyone. It can also be described as members of a community effectively using their time and energy to join together and patrol their own communities similar to neighbourhood watches. According to Robert Sampson, high crime neighbourhoods lack a collective efficacy as they lack the capacity to define collective goals and effectively organize to achieve them. Therefore, according to this theory, high crime rates could be explained as a result of social disorganization. The motivation driving collective efficacy is to prevent crime through the expression of a common set of values. However, Sampson also noted that collective efficacy can be employed negatively when there are organized criminal groups within a neighbourhood which are capable of influencing the collective efficacy of the neighbourhood with their own negative values. Collective efficacy is an example of informal social controls, but not equal to formal control.
The placement of people and places as well as activities arranged in such a way as to maximize visibility. Natural surveillance involves designing windows, lighting and landscaping to improve the ability to see what it going on around these areas. The purpose of natural surveillance is to constantly allow people to see what is going thereby reducing the opportunity to commit a crime as the increased possibility of witnesses act as a general deterrence to crime. This type of surveillance is useful because it offers an inexpensive method to deter crime. Natural surveillance is significant because it can alter a victims cognitive map. Women often associate locations with a large level of natural surveillance with their cognitive map as an effort of self-policing. By frequently using these locations, women are able to significantly lower the possibility of being victimized as the presence of witnesses has been shown to reduce the likelihood of criminal activity.
The concept of social disorganization emerged with the Chicago School's zonal model. Shaw and Mckay argued that social disorganization exists when the structure and culture of a community are incapable of implementing and expressing the values of its own residents. Social disorganization was highly linked to the zone of transition because incoming immigrant communities could not provide for their young people common and clear non-delinquent values and control as a result of the social diversity within the zone. Social disorganization is the opposite of collective efficacy which is the ability for a community to collective express their values which in turn reduces crime. Social disorganization theory is influential to the study of criminology because it incorporates the significance of socio-economic factors which contribute to crime. It emphasizes the fact that the community has a role to play in crime prevention and when the community fails, there is the possibility for criminal activity.