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Prevention: Environmental and Technological Strategies - Social Reaction And Offensible Space

urban crime offenses police

Disorganization theory and the opportunity-constraint argument suggest that the built environment can reduce community control and inflate crime rates. Directly opposed to this, a social reaction perspective alerts us to the possibility that variation in official rates of crime and delinquency may measure different patterns of enforcement and recording of offenses more than in patterns of criminal behavior. In the case of the physical environment, the likelihood of detection, apprehension, and recording of offenses may be higher in some locations than in others. Rather than seeing cities as places to commit crime with impunity, then, the reaction perspective suggests that because of their high density and more extensive surveillance, urban areas may actually increase the likelihood of criminal activity being detected and apprehended than in the countryside. Although many urban neighborhoods may look disorganized, especially to middle-class social scientists, the communities which they contain may be alive and well, with strong patterns of surveillance and intervention. Moreover, police are more likely to patrol high-density areas and detect any offenses that occur within them. Juveniles in high-density locations in urban areas corroborate this by reporting higher levels of police contact than do adolescents in low-density neighborhoods (Hagan, Gillis, and Chan). This may also occur on the macro level. Historically, the ratio of police to population is higher in urban than in rural areas (Gillis, 1989). Further, bureaucratized urban police forces are more likely to process and record the offenses that they detect than are their rural counterparts. Between increased informal surveillance of residents and formal control of urban policing, then, higher official rates of crime in cities may reflect heightened bureaucracy more than higher rates of criminal activity. Thus, a feedback model may best capture the relationship between crime and space.

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