Crime Are Positivist Criminology

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18 March 2016

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Positive Criminology, an approach which attempts to explain criminal actions not as an exercise of free will or of one’s choosing, but rather as a consequence of multiple different internal and external.  Cesare Lombroso (1835 – 1909), an Italian criminologist views that criminals are born not made, and criminal an example of nature, not nurture. Focused on biological and psychological factors to explain criminal behavior, and studied cadavers of executed criminals in an effort to determine scientifically whether criminals were physically any different from non-criminals, he believed that people were born criminals and facial features of criminals included things like enormous jaws and strong canine teeth. “Atavism” In the 1960s, positivist criminologists argued that criminal behaviour lies in abnormal chromosomes, the XYY theory argued that violent male (genes)criminals have an abnormal XYY (super male) chromosome (XY is the normal pattern in males) The Positivist theory of criminals being born rather than made died out, and there were moral implications with this.

Classical criminology is an approach to the legal system that arose during the Enlightenment in the 1700s. Philosophers like Cesare Beccaria, John Locke, and Jeremy Bentham expanded upon social contract theory to explain why people commit crime and how societies could effectively combat crime. The concepts continue to play a large role in the legal systems of many nations today, although the approach in the modern world tends to be a bit more flexible. It is important to understand the context in which classical criminology was developed. During the Enlightenment, Europe was changing radically, with many nations emerging from feudal monarchies and radically reforming their laws. Across Europe, the law was wildly inconsistent and applied even more inconsistently. Judges and other legal officials often lacked extensive training, and prescribed punishments totally out of proportion to some crimes while ignoring others.

Many people recognized the need for a more uniform and effective justice system, and this approach was the result. According to the theorists, human beings are self-interested animals, but they are also extremely rational. While people will tend to do things that are in their own self interest, they also understand that some actions actually conflict with this, and many societies develop a social contract that dictates human behavior, with humans mutually agreeing to refrain from activities that hurt each other or society. People also have free will, which means that they can opt to violate the social contract. For example, someone might steal or murder to accomplish a self-interested goal. By having consistent punishments in place that are proportional to the crime and applied rapidly, classical criminologists argue, the legal system will create deterrents to crime.

Rather than committing a crime with a degree of uncertainty about the punishment, people in a nation with a clear and concise legal system will be well aware of the consequences of violating the law and the social contract, and they may think twice before committing crime. One of the big problems with classical criminology is that it does not allow for extenuating circumstances. Someone who robs a business for profit is treated exactly the same as someone who robs a business in order to eat, and some people feel that this is inhumane. Others feel that the assumption of free will is also somewhat questionable, as people may be forced into making decisions as a result of their circumstances or socioeconomic class.

Sociological criminology is the largest number of criminological theories have been developed through sociological inquiry. These theories have generally asserted that criminal behavior is a normal response of biologically and psychologically normal individuals to particular kinds of social circumstances. Examples of these approaches include the theory of differential association, which claims that all criminal behavior is learned and that the learning process is influenced by the extent of the individual’s contact with persons who commit crimes. The more an individual associates with such persons, the more likely it becomes that he will learn and adopt criminal values and behaviors.  Sociological criminology include the following theories;

Social Disorganization(Chicago School) is identified with neighborhood studies of crime and delinquency that focus particularly on the spatial patterns of such behavior, especially as reflected in maps of their spatial distributions. It assumes crime as a product of geopolitical environmental, or call as urban ecology(by Park and Burgess). The rapid social changes (e.g. population growth, rapid immigration or migration) causes the breakdown of normative structure or community, the left-alone youngsters becomes the delinquent subcultures, the crime is the transitional neighborhoods that manifest social disorganization and value conflict. And the urban ecology urban cities can be compartmentalize in five zones, from centre to outside are 1.Central Business District; 2.Transitional Zone; 3.Working Class Zone; 4.Residental Zone and 5.Commuter Zone, and the crime and social problems are usually happened in Zone 2, which is contained many recent immigrant groups, deteriorated housing, factories and abandoned buildings. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2)

Strain Theory is a sociological theory that tries to explain why people may be drawn to delinquency or crime. According to the theory, some crime may be linked to the presence of anger and frustration that is created by societal or personal strain. When a person cannot legitimately achieve the accepted goals of a society, he or she may turn to illicit means to create success. Three of the fundamental goals that contribute to strain-related crime are the pursuit of wealth, achievement of status and respect, and the need for autonomy. Sometimes is known as “American Dream”. Peoples see crime as a function of relative deprivation, and the theory assumes that the social structure as the source of crime. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2) Subculture Theory is that human behavior is learned via social interaction, most of the delinquency/ crime is learnt by exposing to anti-social definitions or becoming part of a group were delinquency is already established. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2)

Drift Theory is telling that human beings will look crime in conformist, give excuse to make the crime become reasonable and not as an illegal action, individual drift in/ out of delinquency by ‘neutralization'(e.g. denial). (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2) Social Control Theories tells that there is a non-pathological relationship between a criminal and a non-criminal, delinquent act due to a weak or the broken of ‘social bond’ (attachment, commitment, involvement, belief) to conventional significant reference groups (e.g. family, school) causes the less reluctant to commit crime. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2) Labeling Theory assumes that individuals would be influenced by stigmatization, crime/ deviance as a result of labeling / stereotyping, a Primary deviance (yet to be labeled) will be reinforced by limited opportunities and ‘self-fulfilling’ prophecy, and then to become a Secondary deviance (subsequent behavior according to the lable given). (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2) Critical Criminology is telling that the source of conflicts inside the society is the political interest and inequality (capitalist vs working class), base on this assumption, the criminal law seems only a protection of the dominance, and the crime defined by the powerful. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2)

Environmental Criminology is including four main theories which are Jane Jacobs’s compartmentalization; Oscar Newman’s defensible space; Rational Choice Theory(RCT) and Routine Activity Theory(RAT). Jane Jacobs’s Compartmentalization is a modern design change lead to breakdown of social control hence lead to crime, compartmentalization of urban space into different zones lead to breakdown of social control (e.g. insufficient social interaction, unattended areas )hence lead to crime, the application of compartmentalization theory is to change the land use,(e.g. mixing land use) , or increase security for unattended areas. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2) Oscar Newman’s defensible space is similarly to Jane Jacobs’s theory, but focus more on building design or location, for example on these main points:

1.Territoriality, 2.Surveillance, 3.Image, 4.Envirnment, the theory thinks that the factors of the high crime rate is because anonymous open public space, many corridors and exits, insufficient lighting, location next to ‘bad areas’, etc, which is a bad design in the building or locations. To solve these problems , Oscar Newman suggest a thinking is call Crime prevention through environmental design(CPTED). (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2) Rational Choice Theory(RCT) emphasize the crime ‘opportunity’, offenders which is rationally weigh information on their personal needs and situational factors involved in the difficult and risk of committing a crime which is gain greater than lose. It will become easier to reduce crime by increase the risk of the offenders and reduce the opportunity of the offenders to commit crime. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2) Routine Activity Theory(RAT) emphasize social context, it thinks that crime is a function of 1.motivated offender, 2.availability of suitable target and 3.absence of capable guardians. In this theory, assumed that motivated offender can not be change, we have to reduce availability of suitable target and increase security measures to reduce crime. (OUHK, 2013, tutorial 2, unit 2)

As a result, Environmental Criminology is the most practical approach to the security manager, consider the Positive Criminology is the theory that criminals are born, and which their biological problems makes them to commit crime, a security manager can not control the customers biological problems and how they are born, so this Positive Criminology is not a suitable approach a security manager to use; the Classical Perspective suggested that the greater punishment issue, the less crime will be, but as a security manager, when they detected crime happen, they can only refer the crime to the legal system and the security manager do not have to right to issue any punishment to the criminals; the Sociological Criminology is telling that criminals are infect by the social structure, economic, social interactions, which are the factors that a security manager can not control any of them, the Environmental Criminology suggested that Crime prevention through environmental design(CPTED), which a security manager can change the design of a shop furnishings, or a plaza settings that can reduce availability of suitable target in the shop or plaza and increase security measures inside to reduce crime happen in a security manager control area.

References List

The Open University of Hong Kong (2013). LESM A204 tutorial 2 Criminology for the security manager (unit 2). Hong Kong :OUHK

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"Crime Are Positivist Criminology" StudyScroll, 18 March 2016,

StudyScroll. (2016). Crime Are Positivist Criminology [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 29 September, 2023]

"Crime Are Positivist Criminology" StudyScroll, Mar 18, 2016. Accessed Sep 29, 2023.

"Crime Are Positivist Criminology" StudyScroll, Mar 18, 2016.

"Crime Are Positivist Criminology" StudyScroll, 18-Mar-2016. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 29-Sep-2023]

StudyScroll. (2016). Crime Are Positivist Criminology. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 29-Sep-2023]

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