Root Causes of Specific Crimes that Occurs in Low-Income Neighborhoods

Comparison Of The Root Causes Of Crime – Project Instructions

You are working as a criminal justice research specialist in a local television production company. The managing director has an assignment for you. The company will be producing a documentary on the root causes of specific crimes that occurs in low-income, “inner-city” neighborhoods. The focused crimes are personal assault, robbery, burglary, and theft. While race and ethnicity are not factors, there may be other identifiable factors or theories that motivate or predict a personal propensity to criminal behavior.  Your assignment is to:

  1.  Identify at least three (3) such factors/theories and,
  2.  Compare each with the other two (2) determining which is the most likely to be the primary contributor to criminal activity.
  3. Collectively, these comparisons must be supported by at least three (3) cited sources from the course instructional materials or outside scholarly sources.

Root Causes of Specific Crimes that Occurs in Low-Income Neighborhoods – Personal Assault, Robbery, Burglary, and Theft

Issues of crimes are normally experienced in urban centers, especially in a city surrounded by slums or a huge population of people with low-income. There are a number of reasons people of low economic status are engaged in crime. Some do it for fun, others do it to fight idleness and boredom, while others do it for survivals. There have been a number of researches conducted to develop theories that can explain the root cause of specific crimes which happen in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods. One of theories brought forward to explain this situation is economic theory where poverty is cited as a pushes for majority of people to commit a crime while focusing on survive. Others include social disorganization, local value structure, and offenders intersect of space and time, with attractive target and in guardianship absence (Graif, Gladfelter & Matthews, 2014). This paper focuses on determining the root cause of specific crimes that include theft, personal assault, burglary, robbery, and theft in the low-income, inner-city neighborhood. Three theories or factors will be compared to determine the primary contributor of criminal activities.

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Economic Theory

The economic crime theory is founded on the notion that people rationally respond to the benefits and costs of criminal opportunities. Therefore, aspects that increase the crime expected costs for instance increasing the apprehension likelihood or punishment severity or reduce the anticipated benefits for instance, improved job or educational opportunities can low crime incidences. The economic structure can in addition entail other crime theories which offer a richer understanding of decision-making and rationality that include the impulsivity biological basis, crime costs that include social capita in anti-social networks of peer and the crime benefits that include the conditions of local economy. In a low-income set-up poverty which is characterized by shortage of financial resources, poor housing, prejudice over people living in poverty, lack of meaningful options of employment, and lack of educational chances can help in propagating crimes (Ministry of Justice, 2009).

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Sociological Theory

Sociology comprises of a very extensive range of theoretical views. According to social disorganization theoretical perspective ecological conditions that include residential mobility and socioeconomic disadvantages erode social control of the neighborhood and facilitate crime. According to social perspective social ties independence, collective efficacy; an integration of trust, social cohesion, and neighborhood residents’ ability to realize common values and goals, minimizes neighborhood crime.

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In addition, crimes are said to be highly motivated when criminals intersect in space and time with attractive targets in guardianship absence a scenario that is highly common in a low-income setup where most of youths are idle as parents spend most of their time working to make ends meets. In such case the intersection of offender, space, time and target without guardian supervision can be common encouraging spread of crimes such as theft and personal assault. Local interactions and social ties, collective efficacy and norms, institutional resources and routine activities play a great role in determining the spread of crime in an area (Graif, Gladfelter & Matthews, 2014).

Psychology Theory

There are various views on how psychology influences crimes. Psychology theories explore the association between individual personality, developmental and cognition factors, and social factors and crime. Psychological theories contain varying levels of focus on societal, individual, group and family psychology. For instance family psychological theory of crime relates the parenting style with child’s criminal or anti-social behaviors. The parent role with regard to supervision, child-rearing practice, abuse, attachment, neglect, as well as the parents own criminal or antisocial behaviors are likely to influence child’s involvement in crime as a child or in the future (Lewis, 2014).

Theory 1 Compared to 2 and 3

Economic crime theory claims that people focus on the costs and benefits of crime before committing it.  Low income inner-city neighborhoods are characterized by people working for low wages, uneducated people, with poor life condition and little hope for survival. Some maybe not be in a position to cater for their basic needs and survive on one meal a day.  Committing a crime such as theft, robbery, or burglary may offer them a chance to ease their high level of poverty. They can get food, items to sell, money or even food through their crime activities which can ease their struggle. The main cost of crime would be arrest which may not be a high cost if a person is unemployed thus no job to lose and loss of freedom of movement. To the majority imprisonment may come with guarantee for food and other benefits such as technical training and life skills that can improve individual life. Thus, to individual with high level of poverty, the cost of crime is considerably low than its benefits and thus, they can be more inclined into committing crime (Ministry of Justice, 2009).

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This theory has a great weight in explaining the cause of crime in the low income inner-city neighborhood, compared to psychology theory. The benefits of crimes are higher than the cost especially for jobless, school dropout individuals who are struggling to have a single meal a day. This theory thus provides a convincing explanation of the root cause of high rates of theft, burglary and robbery in the area. Its contribution to the three forms of crime may be higher than in sociology and psychology theory since poverty drive and benefits of involving in a crime are much higher than the cost of the crime. However, its contributions to crimes such as personal assaults and robbery associated with crime will be considerably lower than cases caused by sociology theory and psychology theory. In addition, cases of gang robbery will be less in cases initiated in economic theory of crime compared to those initiated by sociological theory. Also the cases of burglary in economic theory of crime may be minimal as more people would tend to steal what they can see and after deciding that the item can address their current needs. Thus, seeing the item aggravates the desire unlike in sociology theory where most robbery and theft cases maybe planned. Ecological theory of crime can highly explain may cases of thefts that include snatch and run or pick pocketing.

Theory 2 Compared to 1 and 3

The second theory is the sociology theory. This theory focuses on social structural aspects that are believed to create arenas or behaviors where socialization to criminal or conventional behavior and values are impacted. The theory focuses on aspects such as social disorganization and poverty, demonstrating how they can propagate crimes. It also touches on how social structures can propagate formation of gangs that would propagate crime in an area. Based on this perspective, poverty and other socioeconomic challenges are likely to push members of a society into a crime, especially theft. Negative peer pressure is likely to recruit more young people into gang crimes which can include drug abuse and crimes such as robbery, theft and personal assault (Krohn, Massey, & Skinner, 1987). Lack of respect and social cohesion is likely to propagate petty theft that includes pickpocketing among members of the society along the streets and in crowded places.  Lack of social cohesion, trust and respect is also likely to encourage the growth of personal assaults and other related criminal behaviors. This is highly likely especially when the target comes from a higher social class that prejudices the poor, due to their lack. The anger, bitterness and desires for revenge are likely to influence offender’s behaviors in a social setting where there is a clear separation between rich and poor and prejudice of the poor by the rich.

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In addition, the intersection of the offender, time, space and a great target in absence of guardian supervision is likely to push offenders into committing any form of crime including burglary, theft, robbery and personal assault. High cases of burglary are likely to be initiated by sociology based situations than economic theory based situation. Idle delinquent teens sited near someone’s home can be tempted into breaking in to find anything they can steal if they realize there is no one home. With perfect target, time, space, and without supervision, their chance of exercising the crime without being caught is considerably high. This means that sociology theory has a high ability to explain the largest percentage of burglary cases in a low income, inner-city neighborhood with high rate of unemployment, high cases of school dropout, drug use and poverty. In addition, sociology theory of crime can also be used to explain high cases of gang robbery where groups of young people perform well planned robberies in an area. Formation of social groups especially among peers is likely to initiate grouping of youth with similar behaviors and life interest, which include youths interested in crimes and easy money.

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The analysis shows that sociology theory of crime can explain all cases of the identified crimes including personal assault, theft, robbery and burglary. It has high similarity with economic theory initiated crimes since it also considers the socioeconomic aspect of the crime. However, unlike in economic crime theory where crimes are committed by individuals and mostly in circumstantial situation, crimes according to sociological theory of crime are mostly planed and conducted by groups of people rather than individuals. Crimes in this case are more likely to be severe than crimes initiated by aspects identified by the economic theory of crime. Sociology theory based crimes are also more common in a low-income inner-city neighborhood compared to psychological theory based crime. However, the manner in which these crimes are conducted may be influenced by the psychological theory of crime. For instance, the use of violence in robberies activities may be instigated by individual development of violent behaviors that are determined by the form of parenting given to a child. While sociological crime theory can be used to explain all sorts of identified crimes, psychology and economic theories of crime can only be used to explain some of the crimes. This makes sociological theory more superior in explaining the root cause of burglary, robbery, theft and personal insult in a low-income inner-cite neighborhood. .

Theory 3 Compared to 1 and 2

 The third theory is psychological theories of crime. According to psychology theory, children from low-income social set-up are likely to be delinquent due to neglect, lack of attachment with their parents, and experiencing violence through certain parenting techniques where children are subjected to physical abuse. This kind of upbringing is likely to nature antisocial or violent behaviors among children, increasing their chances of being delinquent (Weatherburn, 2001). The poor socioeconomic setup is likely to have a higher number of parents that are depressed and hence increasing the possibility of violent parenting techniques. Life hardship mostly translates to population distress and inability to create healthy relationship. This results to emotional distress, increasing chances of impulsive reaction among members of the society, during normal interaction (Lewis, 2014). Thus, psychological theories of crime can be the main root cause of personal assault related crimes, since majority of individuals are violent, and with antisocial behaviors.  

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This theory contributes to the highest cases of personal assaults followed by the sociological theory. However, individual antisocial and violent behaviors are less likely to cause crimes such as theft, robbery or burglar. In addition, psychological theories are more likely to explain the cause of violence in other crimes such as robbery compared to economic theory or sociological theories. An act of violent in an individual or group crime is likely to be demonstrates that the offender may have violent behavior or is antisocial, though this does not necessarily means that the initial crime was initiated by the psychological perspective of the offender. For instance a robber crime can be highly initiated by aspects identified in sociological or economic theory of crime. However, the act of violence in the robbery may be initiated by the psychological aspect of the offender. Based on this analysis, it is evident that psychological theories of crime play a minimal role as root cause of robbery, theft and burglary compared to sociological and economic theories of crime. It however contributes a great deal as the root cause of personal assault crime.


The three selected theories to explain the root cause of crime in low-income, inner-city neighborhood include the economic theory of crime, sociological theories of crime and psychological theories of crime. Among the three, sociological theory of crime was found to contribute to all the crimes, though with less magnitudes to crimes such as personal assault compared to psychological theories and individual theft crime compared to economic theories. This implies that aspects identified in sociological theories of crime are the main root cause of robbery and burglary in the society and also contributes a considerable magnitude in causing theft and personal assault crimes. In addition, economic theory is the main contributor of theft crime and plays a considerable role in causing robbery and burglary. Psychology theories of crime are the main contributor of personal assault crime. It is also important to note that the three can work together in propagating high spread of crime in the identified settings. This means, the three hardly occur in isolation. This means a child facing violence is highly likely to be delinquent. This child is likely to join peer groups in the society during teenage which he can influence to delinquency. The teenagers’ poor economic status which includes lack of education and unemployment can give them ample time to organize crimes such as robbery.

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