Deviance is social behavior that departs from the usual or accepted standards set by society. There are many explanations as to why people or groups choose to be deviant. After reading chapters one and two in Cultural Criminology, the readings Deviant Places: A Theory of the Ecology of Crime, and Broken Windows, I have a new understanding as to why some people may deviate from society’s norms. There are a plethora of theories that focus on “kinds of people” such as their culture, biological factors, who they interact with and so on. Yet, a main theory to focus on is the Ecology of crime. This refers to the physical environment in which people live and interact socially. More than just the “kinds of people” explanations are needed to account for deviance.
Deviant Places: A Theory of the Ecology of Crime raises the point that high rates of crime and deviance can persist in specific neighborhoods despite repeated, complete turnovers in the composition of their populations. An example of this is provided by the reading. Norman Hayner noted that in 1934 an area in Seattle that had the highest delinquency rate consisted of mostly Italians. The businesses in this neighborhood were run down, the buildings were dilapidated, and its residents were mostly illiterate, unskilled workers of Sicilian origin. Today this district is still a prime delinquency area, yet it is now the heart of the Seattle black community. This example shows that there must be something about places that sustains crime rather than the characteristics of the populations. There are five key aspects of urban neighborhoods that characterize them as highly deviant. These factors are density, poverty, mixed use, transience, and dilapidation. One of the propositions brought up in Deviant Places: A Theory of the Ecology of Crime explains how the greater the density of a neighborhood, the more association between those who are deviant and those who are not. This idea relates to the theory of differential association. Differential association is an interactionist theory that states people learn to commit crime through their interactions with other people. In Cultural Criminology it states “… crime and deviance, rather than being a matter of individual pathology, are in fact ‘normal’ responses to particular cultural and structural circumstances” (Ferrell 33). So rather than looking at the “kinds of people” we focus on how they interact with other people and cultures within their society whether they are deviant or not. This theory of differential association can also be related to Broken Windows. In this reading it explains how the state provided money to help cities take police officers out of their patrol cars and assign them to foot patrolling the streets. This provides the society with a different kind of interaction with law enforcement. Although foot patrol had not reduced crime rates, it made residents feel more safe and secure. For example, cops would make sure stranger/regulars understood rules such as drunks/addicts not lying down on stoops, drinking only on side streets, bottles in paper bags, no begging or loitering, and much more. All these little things led to a more positive interaction within the community ultimately lowering deviance. Cultural Criminology states “…crime is caused by institutions unable to transmit cultural norms, or individuals unable to receive them; by social disorganization on a societal level…” (Ferrell 31). Police officers walking beats helps instill cultural norms on citizens and bring about social control and structure.