Crime and Poverty
Many factors can be viewed as reasons for crime. The amount of morality needed in order to rise against the temptation to commit crime can be difficult. It is even harder when you are coming from a place where crime is considered to be a normal part of society and looked at as a way of daily living that is supposed to be incorporated into daily lifestyles. The question can be posed. What is the main cause of crime in areas where poverty is everywhere?
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True, this is not an easy question to answer considering that crime happens for many different reasons and sometimes location is not the problem. Crime has been around since man and there is no doubt that it will continue to be around, until there is an existence of a perfect world. But for now, we must study how crime and poverty are linked to one another, and why it is possible for studies to be done on such a topic. In the United States there are specific areas that have been overwhelmed by the infestation of crime and violence and it appears to be at its peak in areas where poverty is high.
In this essay we will examine the connection between poverty and crime and attempt to better understand the relationship between the two. The relationship between poverty and crime is not a new subject to be talked about. In fact it has been an extremely controversial subject among many over the years. There have been arguments made stating that poverty does not have a direct link to crime based off the notion that there are countries where poverty is high but the crime rates in those countries are low. Others have argued that it is impossible to think that there isn’t a direct link between the two.
What is crime and poverty? Crime can be defined as an act committed by an offender that is forbidden by the law and punishable. The punishment of a crime can vary depending on the severity of the crime from a fine, to a prison sentence. Crime can also be defined as an act against society, and it comes in many different forms. There are many different types of crimes. Poverty is defined as an economic state where one does not have the necessary means to provide sufficiently for a comfortable state of living.
Poverty in the United States is disturbing with approximately 15 to 20% of Americans living below the federal poverty line. There are many factors that contribute towards poverty but the ones with the most impact are government corruption, crime, substance abuse and a lack of education. According to Stretesky, Paul B, Schuck, Hogan, and Micheal J (2004), crime and poverty rates can be traced back to poverty clusters, which is the area where poverty is at its highest as well as the rates of crime.
They observed the patterns for which crimes were happening and which locations they were happening in, comparing non poverty areas, and areas where there are a high number of people living in poverty they were able to conclude that when poverty is present there will be crime. Using the Uniform Crime Reports they were able to map out the specific areas where the most crime was taking place. This gives a vivid picture of the connection between crime and poverty.
In a city like Detroit there would be a greater degree of clusters, but right outside the city limits going into a neighboring city like Oak Park, or Southfield, you could see the difference. This made is easy to track what crimes were being committed, who was most likely to commit the crime, and where. Being able to track the crime will make it easier to stop the crimes from occurring and thus lower the crime rates in specific areas. There is a significant difference in crime patterns in rural areas and crime patterns in urban areas.
The dual latent trajectory model (LTM) is used to estimate the impact of violent crime on the rate of homeowner “residential turnover” while simultaneously modeling the impact of homeowner residential turnover on the “trajectory of violent crime. ” (Boggess, Lyndsa, Hipp, 2010). [pic] The great numbers of areas in the United States mainly the cities, often have a high rate of criminal activity. Places where people are crowded together in unpleasant living conditions. With these types of living conditions people often become products of their environments.
If someone is raised around violence, stealing and other types of crime unless a stroke of luck comes there way and they are afforded an opportunity to escape the lifestyle, it is more than likely exactly how they will live their lives. These areas can be broken down into categories such as class, income, and race. In today’s society, where it is getting harder and harder for individuals to find jobs, or at least jobs that provide them with the economic means to support themselves or their families resorting to crime for easy money usually is seen as the best option. There is no stability in areas like these.
High school dropout rates are high, drug activity is high, and gang activity is rising. It is getting harder to maintain order in these communities. It is not uncommon for individuals living in poverty to have low education rates, so finding a job that pays high enough wages to support a healthy living lifestyle can be difficult. So who are the individuals committing these crimes? They are the men and women of these communities. They are the teens who have become products of their environments, and parents who are either doing what is necessary for their family or who have simply lost their way.
They are mostly minorities between the ages of 14-22. They are the drop outs. They are the drug addicts, who are in and out of the system. The use of alcohol can also often times contribute to crime as well- Almost every country in the world laws forbidding the sale of alcoholic beverages to anyone under 18 or 21 years of age, and drugs like Crack, Marijuana, or prescription pills are illegal as well. Still, criminals find a way to get these substances into the hands of young people, old people, and people who are simply crazy.
Drugs and Alcohol are substances that have been linked to many different crimes over the years, with people claiming that they did not understand the consequences of their actions. Studies show that places where poverty is high can also be linked to high drug trafficking and distribution. The drug trade has been seen as the easy way to make money. Unfortunately the introduction of drugs into a community is an open doorway for crime into that community. Drug related crimes are often times deadly, and slowly break the community apart. Drugs affect a community and contribute to poverty in several different ways.
Drugs are addictive, this means that the individuals on these drugs will do whatever they have to take in order to receive them, robbing, and killing are two obvious ways that this hinders the community and contributes to crime. Often times drug users and addicts are individuals living in poverty. Drugs can be closely related to crime due to the fact that one, drugs are illegal and two the money that is made from the distribution is not being out back into the economy, which can have many negative effects. Gang Violence is another contributor to crime in areas where poverty is high.
The creation of gangs and the mindset for which the individuals who join these gangs must have is another factor that disturbs the balance of a community. Gangs bring killing, drugs, and other dangers to communities which only help to increase the poverty rates. Gangs create disturbances, and corrupt the youth of communities. Along with gang violence is the “don’t snitch” unspoken rule that is a stigma of the “ghetto”. People fear being hurt, or even killed and this is why when they see violence erupting in their communities they cease to speak up against it.
If each person waits for the next to speak up and demand that their neighborhoods rise up from the grave of poverty and crime nothing will ever be done about it. So what is being done or can be done about these rates? The police need to continue to work hard to attempt to eliminate crime in areas like these. With so many police officers being laid off due to lack of funds it may be difficult to control such a big problem. In communities where poverty and crime are both high it is rare that there is a strong bond between the locals and the police officers in that area.
Often times there is no trust between the two and therefore it can make it difficult for the officers to do their job correctly. According to Boggess, Lyndsay and Hipp (2010) “certain structural conditions of communities increase the vulnerability of those communities to higher crime rates. ” This is not a difficult fact to understand as it has been mentioned that the worse off the community the less likely that community is to function normally. As the community’s concern for the collective environment and its capacity to monitor and control behavior decreases, crime increases.
In areas where crime is high most people tend to strictly look out for their own best interest and not those of their neighbors. This makes it hard for police officers to gain control over situations like crime when the people occupying the area, either simply refuse to help the police for their own bias reasons or are too afraid of talking to the police. Either way this opens up door for violence and crime to parade through the streets. If the public is not willing to help each other, or help the police in order to regain order in their communities, how can they expect things to change?
According to Deller & Deller (2011) “communities with higher poverty rates are likely to have lower levels of “civic community,” “collective efficacy” and “informal control”. Having civic community, collective efficacy and informal control means the community comes together as a whole in order to maintain a specific amount of balance that would help to bring back some form of stability into the neighbors. This may mean working with the local police departments instead of against them, neighborhood watches, and mentoring programs for the youth.
Instead of the people in these communities sitting back and complaining about the circumstances for which they live they are taking active responsibilities to take back their neighborhoods from crime, and those individuals who cause chaos. Studies suggest that although many people living in these communities are against the crimes that take place they have gotten so use to the conditions that it seems normal. They have been brainwashed into believing that the daily activities of gang violence, drugs, killings, and stealing is a normal part of society and therefore treat it as such.
This contributes as well to the demise of their communities because nothing is being done. When people start to become tolerant of criminal behaviors and there circumstances it is hard for the area to be affected by a positive change. Along with the community needing to get more involved the police should take an active stance as well. Community policing is an important part of controlling crime, and with that aspect missing from communities where poverty is high it makes it easier for the criminals to get away with these crimes.
The police should not wait until they have to be called before they decide to become active in communities, they need to gain the trust of the community and it will not happen if they only show up to give tickets or investigate murders. So who are these individuals living on or below the poverty line? They are the minorities; African Americans, Italian Americans, Jewish Americans, Irish Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino Americans.
“Although it is true that minority status in this country will not necessarily make you poor, if there were a formula for a “poor quotient,” minority status would be the heaviest contributor. A United States Department of Justice report which surveyed homicide statistics between 1974 and 2004 stated that of the crimes surveyed, 52. 2% of the offenders were Black, 45. 8% were White, and 2% were Other Races. The report further stated that “most murders are interracial” with 86% of White murders committed by Whites, and 94% of Black murders committed by Blacks. Blacks are disproportionately represented as both homicide victims and offenders. The victimization rates for blacks were 6 times higher than those for whites. Historically, these facts have been true for almost every minority in the U. S.
This proves that there can be a proven science behind poverty rates and ethnicity as well. Lack of education is a powerful factor that keeps families below the poverty line. In today’s society if you are not educated life is that much more difficult. According to the information collected in 2012 the percentage of Americans living below the poverty line last year, 15. 1 percent, was the highest level since 1993. The poverty line in 2010 for a family of four was $22,314).
Another 2. 6 million people slipped into poverty in the United States last year, the Census Bureau reported, and the number of Americans living below the official poverty line, 46. 2 million people, was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures on it. (Tavernise, Sabrina. New York Times 2012) Zhao, Zhilan & Castillo-Ch? avez, Carlos suggest that crime and poverty did not just come out of thin air, they insists that there is a science behind this epidemic.
They suggest that there is a way to lower crime and therefore lowering the cost that has to be paid due to the crime being done. “Becker’s economic theory of crime (1968) assumes that people resort to crime only if the costs of committing the crime are lower than the benefits gained. Those living in poverty, therefore, have a much greater chance of committing property crime (Kelly, 2000, Chiu and Madden, 1998) than the general population” (Zhao, Zhilan & Castillo-Ch? avez, Carlos, 2011) Another issue that contributes to crime and poverty is the government.
Although there are people in communities that are struggling and need assistance with the cost of their daily living, that there are others who simply take advantage of the system and therefore contribute to the down fall of the communities for which they are living in. By allowing some individuals to simply get on aid without offering any other kind of assistance with that aid, like finding individuals jobs, and or, better living environments (in reference to people living in shelters) they give them money paid for by the working class.
Nearly 10 million Americans now receive unemployment benefits. That number is almost four times larger than it was back in 2007. ” This allows for people to be dependent on their welfare, and again become a product of their environment. Most individuals on welfare live in bad areas, bad areas are usually filled with crime and violence, so therefore welfare and crime and poverty are tightly linked. Government corruption is another huge factor that negatively affects crime and poverty.
Money is being distributed in all the wrong places and more often than not the places that need the most assistance are not receiving the necessary attention. Police officers also contribute to this rise. Those we are supposed to be able to trust, yet when we hear stories of poverty and policing the message is usually negative. The government needs to get more involved with the decaying structure of these communities. There needs to be programs for people to get into that can help get or keep them on the right track towards staying out of the path of crime.
We need more government funded recreation programs for the youths of these communities; more mentoring programs for young minorities that could help to show them that there a life outside of dealing drugs, stealing, or dropping out of school, because these are the people who in 10 years will be the ones on the streets, causing the very crime we are trying to prevent. Ultimately, violent crime will not decline until enough Americans realize that punitive measures have not worked. But until the actual threats decline significantly, imagined and displaced threats are not likely to be reduced either.