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Prevention: Environmental and Technological Strategies

Environmental Determinism And Crime, Selection, Opportunities, Constraints, And Defensible Space, Social Reaction And Offensible Space

For many social scientists the physical environment is simply the space in which activity occurs. Others see this arena as a factor in affecting the behavior that it contains, but in so doing assign the physical context widely different levels of causal importance. Some take a direct, environmental determinist position, and argue that like any other variable, the built environment actively affects attitudes, conditions, and behaviors. In contrast, others argue that although environmental variables may be correlates of behavior, they do not directly affect it. This perspective sees ethnicity, income, life cycle, lifestyle, and other sociocultural factors as the ultimate generators of action, and a voluntary or forced affinity for specific types of physical environments as well. Thus, this selection model accepts that there is a strong association between environment and behavior, but suggests that assigning causality to it is spurious. Finally, a compromise position acknowledges causal importance in the architectural context, but stops short of determinism. This Darwinian model portrays physical settings as varying in the extent to which they permit or prevent behavior but locates the motivation for it elsewhere (see Michelson). All three of these positions can be found in explanations of criminal and delinquent behavior, and all have different implications for preventing it.

A. R. GILLIS

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law