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Criminology Theories and Policies

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Running head: Criminology Theories and Policies

Criminology Theories and Policies to go With Them


All too often people assume that criminological theories are misguided, and are not relative to the world we live in today. These people rely on different policies, such as graffiti reduction programs, neighborhood watch programs and D.A.R.E. to help reduce crime in their area. This paper will discuss these policies and how different theories hold the foundation to these policies.

Criminology Theories and Policies to go With Them

Criminological theories are often times viewed as impractical when faced with crime. On the other hand, policing neighborhoods have shown proven results. Because of this, the theories behind these policies are overlooked. Many fail to realize that the base foundations of these policies are founded on different criminological theories. Graffiti reduction programs have many points in the neutralization theory. Neighborhood watch programs have many points in the routine activities theory. And Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or D.A.R.E., relies heavily on differential association theory.

One major issue many neighborhoods are facing is graffiti. To help battle this, communities are using several different tools to snuff out graffiti. Different programs, such as Graffiti Hurts, as well as offering at-risk kinds mural creations using paint brushes give children a sense of participation and pride in their neighborhood (Keep America Beautiful, Inc., 2015). Gresham Sykes and David Matza tell us that when an individual acts outside of the norm, they carry with them guilt and shame, which normally dissuade them from participating in criminal activity. Therefore, they must find ways to neutralize the guilt if they do commit crime. (Heith Copes, November 2010).

Neutralization theory plays a big role in graffiti reduction programs. Shoenberger, N., Heckert, A., & Heckert, D. (2012) puts it into context by saying, “High achievement, in many contexts, is a highly valued commodity and can lead to the status of positive deviance.” Therefore, it is safe to assume that providing outlets for adolescents, such as painting murals with paint brushes rather than doing graffiti, will help boost their self-esteem and help them feel as a highly valued commodity in the neighborhood. Educating community members on how to keep our neighborhoods beautiful, without destructive graffiti, yet still have an outlet for their artistic needs is the very foundation of graffiti reduction programs.

Neutralization theory not only encourages prevention, it also encourages treatment. Werner J. Einstadter, Stuart Henry, (2006) goes further into detail by saying, ““As a preventive strategy, neutralization theory would suggest a tactic of anticipating and undercutting typical excuses…” (Minor, 2005:106), and as a treatment intervention, neutralization “involves strategies for ‘overcoming denial’ and challenging offender rationalizations” (Maruna and Copes, 2004: 21).” By teaching offenders to not live in denial, to face their offense and to learn and grow from it is a base principal thought behind graffiti reduction programs, as well as many others.

Neighborhood watch is one of the oldest policies in America for fighting crime. It can be traced all the way back to the Colonial settlement days, when night watchmen patrolled the streets. It became prominent in the late 1960’s as a response to a rapid increase in burglaries (National Sheriff's Association, n.d.). Routine activity theory plays a major role in neighborhood watch programs by making sure that there is a close watch, or protection, for the local property in the area.

Routine activity theory was developed by Marcus Felson and Lawrence E. Cohen. They theorize that three elements must be in place in order for a crime to be committed. The first element is that a person must be motivated to commit the offense. The second is that there needs to be an available victim who is vulnerable. The third is that there needs to be insufficient protection to prevent the crime (USLegal, Inc, (n.d.). Implementing neighborhood watch will greatly increase the protection, reducing the chance of a crime happening.

Neighborhood watch primarily addresses the guardianship component of routine activities, which can take many forms. Examples include guardians of targets, handlers of offenders and managers of places, which correspond with the elements in routine activities theory. These points are those which targets, offenders and places coincide. (Steven P. Lab, 2014). This theory gives us a simple understanding at what causes crimes. The base principle is that without effective preventative measures, offenders will go after their target. Neighborhood watches implement preventative measures, thus reducing the ability for offenders to go after their target.

Drug Abuse Resistance Educate, or D.A.R.E., was developed in 1983 by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District to not only educate kids about the dangers of drugs, but to help build their social skills and enhance their self-esteem (, n.d.).  Differential association theory focuses on how people learn how to become criminals. As you can see by their simple definitions, D.A.R.E. is heavily influenced by differential association theory.

Differential association theory was developed by Edwin Sutherland which theorizes that people learn criminal behavior through their interaction with others. (Boundless, November 14, 2014). It is through our upbringing, the people we associate with in our personal time and those we idolize we learn different crimes. No one is born a criminal. There are a million reasons why someone could commit a crime. However how these criminals determine to take this path is what differential association theory focuses on. D.A.R.E. teaches children the dangers of drugs, and how to resist the urge to turn to drugs. Without differential association theory, D.A.R.E. would have no foundation.



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