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Outline and assess Left wing + right wing crime prevention policies

Updated on February 28, 2017


Left wing policies focus more on how society can change in order to prevent crime, such as structural changes and social & community crime prevention; whereas, right wing policies focus more on what the individual can do to prevent crime and how the location/environment is also important in preventing crime.

AO1 - Knowledge

One Left wing approach is social and community crime prevention. This focuses on the role of the police and mainly their style of policing. Lea and Young say that the police use military style policing and this means zero tolerance; due to this the public have tension with the police and lose faith in them and see them as prejudice. Consensual style policing is much better, as a friendly police force promotes a better relationship between the public and the police, and therefore more trust and cooperation.

AO3 - Evaluation

Left Wing policies have been praised because they do offer an integrated approach to solving crime. Strengthening social bonds in society and consensual policing might help reduce the problem of crime. Multi agency approaches used on a local level might also be beneficial e.g. police, education, housing could all be improved to raise standards of living so that all of society benefits and becomes better off. Increasing equal opportunities for everyone would be very useful as a solution to crime. (+)

Left Wing policies of community style police (consensual) has been criticised by Gilroy (1982) as being too simplistic. Consensual style policing under-estimates the racist strategies that underpin policing in some communities such as inner city areas and London. Therefore consensual style policing is likely to fail in some areas and will not help prevent crime in the long run (-)

The idea that military styles policing can be problematic is supported by the research conducted by Hall. He focused on the crime of mugging that was carried out by young black males which lead to moral panics. This therefore increased military styles policing whereby police adopted a zero tolerance approach and stopped and searched young black males on the streets. This lead to an uneasy relationship between the police and the black community. The best way forward here would have been for the police to use a consensual style of policing to improve relationships with members of society (-)

An example of military style policing
An example of military style policing

AO1 - Knowledge

Restorative Justice consists of a set of principles rather than a practice. It recognizes the impact of the offender on the victim, community and the offender himself. This sees the benefit of offenders and victims taking an active role in the justice process and encourages offenders to take responsibility for their actions. The victim and the offender’s personal needs should be addressed so restorative justice becomes an inclusive process (rather than exclusive).

Braithwaite stated that, “Restorative justice is about the idea that crime hurts and justice should heal. Conversations with the hurt and those who afflicted harm are central to this process.” A dialogue between victim and offender should be fostered, and this has shown to have high rates of victim satisfaction and offender accountability. It can also reduce reoffending rates.

Some restorative justice schemes replace custodial sentences with community ones and allow victims to communicate and have a say in what happens to the offender. This has been applied to minor offences such as youth offending. For extreme offences where the offender has been given a custodial sentence, victims are asked about restorative justice. They have the opportunity to meet the offender in a controlled setting and the victim can explain to the offender the impact of the crime, and the offender can consider the reasons for their offending. This is becoming commonly used for rape and murder cases.

AO3 - Evaluation

Restorative justice has its limitations. It relies on the co-operation of all parties (victim and offender) and a more formal justice system will be needed when co-operation between victim and offender fails. Marshall (1998) stated that the majority of individuals who were offered the chance of restorative justice did take up the opportunity to participate. Restorative justice seemed quite successful, even more successful than ordering offenders to pay court fines. (-) (+)

Restorative justice has been criticized as a form of rehabilitation as it is seen as a soft option. The public tend to support more longer custodial sentences and more retributive approaches to punishment which is more favored by Right Wing Sociologists (-)

AO1 - Knowledge

Structural changes: Left Realists believe that crime is caused due to social structure, for example, inequality, deprivation and social exclusion which is unfair and unjust. Left Wing policies want long term crime prevention and want to focus on practical steps to reduce crime. Many people have blocked opportunities because of their age, gender or ethnicity, and this creates an unfair system which causes crime to thrive.

1. Remove income inequality, redistribute wealth

2. Welfare benefits remain the same, poor people rely on them

3. Increase leisure facilities, keep people busy

4. Raise living standards, improve quality of life

5. Improve education, reduce education inequality

AO3 - Evaluation

Marxists criticize left realists because the ideas posed tend to focus on managing and controlling capitalism, e.g. breaking the economic divide between rich and poor, in order to reduce crime. However, by doing this the problem of capitalism still persists and we will never be able to eradicate the rich/poor divide. Therefore this is not really a long term viable solution to crime, but only a short term one (-)

The way forward to reduce crime seems positive and plausible and can be done via Government intervention, however, left realists can be criticised by not really offering much information or guidance about how society can improve and get to this point whereby crime would be reduced and solved. (-)

Left Wing sociologists have been criticised because they need to ignore the point that many working class people or poor people are law abiding citizens and do not commit crime. Therefore the structural changes to prevent crime would be useless and would not change/reduce crime rates at all. Also these structural changes will have little or no effect on white collar criminals or corporate criminals (-)

AO1 - Knowledge

The first Right wing crime prevention policy is situational crime prevention. This is where the we have to take certain measures to make sure our homes aren't 'easy' or 'soft' targets for burglars. By installing CCTV cameras, or a house alarm, or even locking all windows and doors can make homes a 'harder' target for burglars and there is less chance of our home getting broken in to. For example, a home will CCTV all around, locked doors/windows, a gate and a beware of dog sign would scare any burglar away and there is very very little chance the house would get broken in to because there is such a high of the burglar getting caught. Compare this to a house which has no CCTV, no gate, and the back window open. This house is likely to get robbed as it is a 'soft' target, there isn't much risk.

AO3 - Evaluation

Felson and Clarke criticise SCP because it displaces crime rather than reduces crime. Criminals simply move to areas where there are softer targets. Chaiken found that a crackdown on New York subway robberies, displaced the robberies to the street above. Burglars might simply stop breaking into houses that have high security alarms (middle class and upper class neighbourhoods) etc. and simply concentrate on poorer neighbourhoods whereby people cannot afford good security (-)

Marxists criticise SCP because it creates a new social inequality amongst the poor who are often the victims of crime and do not have enough money to defend themselves against crime (-)

Marxists would criticise SCP because it tends to ignore white collar crime, corporate and state crime which are very costly to society, but instead focuses on petty crime and street crime which tends to be more visible than white collar crime (-)

AO1 - Knowledge

The next Right wing approach is environmental crime prevention. This right wing idea links to Wilson and Kelling’s “Broken windows theory.” Wilson argued that environmental deterioration sends out the message that the community does not care much about the neighbourhood and this might invite and attract anti-social and criminal behaviour to occur and escalate. In order to increase ECP, Right Wing sociologists would emphasises the following:

a) Authorities need to take more responsibility for improving local neighbourhoods, by repairing broken windows, removing graffiti and removing abandoned cars etc.

b) Neighbourhoods should have an excess of police officers who should be intolerant (zero tolerance) of anti-social and criminal behaviour, this includes begging, bring drunk and disorderly, littering and drug use etc.

AO3 - Evaluation

A criticism of ECP is that it over emphasises controlling crime rather than tackling the underlying causes of neighbourhood decline such as government funding (lack of it) and businesses failing to invest money in inner city areas or failing to tackle poverty. Left realists do address these issues (see above) which gets to the root causes of crime, but Right wing sociologists fail to acknowledge these factors. (-)

Feminists would support the idea that inequality in society needs to be addressed so that males and females can have the same opportunities as each other so that there is a reduction in crime. Feminists would argue that females in society are marginalized and therefore might be forced to commit crime, e.g. single parent families, females who have been abused or had a poor upbringing. Pat Carlen conducted supporting research looking at working class women in jail who were all either underclass or working class and had experienced abusive childhoods. (+)

ECP might be very difficult in inner city areas where there is a high turnover of people moving in and out of properties (high rental market). Shaw and McKay studied inner city areas of Chicago and found the zone of transition was the city centre where there was a high crime rate. This could be because many people do not know their neighbours and therefore do not share a value consensus (Functionalism) to bond together, therefore they will not unite together to beat crime occurring in flats or apartments. ECP could be very difficult in some inner city areas (-)

AO1 - Knowledge

The last Right wing policy is control. Right wing sociologists want more police and state intervention into community and family life. The police should increase their foot patrols and increase order maintenance of society.

Murray (1984) argued that the overgenerous welfare state system encourages feckless behaviour and prevents families from talking responsibility for their actions. He argued that if parents cannot bring up their children properly, then the parents should go to prison or the children should get adopted. Murray argues that benefits should be cut for poor families that rely too heavily on the welfare state. By increasing control of society the crime rate can reduce. Society would stigmatise and label deviant behaviour and this can be very effective through the community who can sanction reckless behaviour and not tolerate it.

Garland stated that a new culture of control is emerging. The government identify groups of people in society who pose a threat in terms of committing potential crimes. The key idea is to intervene at an early stage with social and educational programmes to change how people think and act. This has been referred to by Feeley and Simon as, “Actuarialism” which is a culture of control that identifies and manages unruly groups rather than focusing on catching criminals. The agencies of social control work out who poses the greatest risk of committing deviance and then will identify them, e.g. the police can pinpoint the working class and ethnic minorities, use stop and search, exclude the homeless from shopping centres, focus on beggars on the street etc.

AO3 - Evaluation

Simon (2012) has criticised the idea of control as a way of reducing crime. Changing people is difficult and expensive and policy makers have tended to abandon programmes such as the troubled family programme because it is too expensive and not sustainable in the long run. Instead, government and local agencies should focus on restricting people’s actions and movements in order to reduce crime. Right wing policies tend to not address the real causes of crime and therefore crime will continue to increase because of this issue (-)

Cohen (1985) supports the idea of social control being extended from government all the way down to the local community. He stated, “We should catch people in ever larger nets of even finer mesh” which means that punishments can extend from prison into smaller sections of the local community. Unofficial social control can come from neighbourhoods (neighbourhood watch, pub watch, shop watch), whereby the local community can be responsible for patrolling and keeping a regulated lookout for would be criminals, and hopefully reported their behaviour. This could lead to a reduction in crime (+)

Davis criticised the right wing ideas of social control because it can lead to racial tensions between the police and the local community, especially if the police are using stop and search or military style policing to prevent crimes from occurring. This could lead to labelling and stereotyping and poor community relationships with the police, and might not necessarily reduce the crime rate (-)

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