Social and Environmental Theories of Crime Causation.


The Chicago School (1920) was a group of sociologists who attempted to undercover relationships between neighbourhood crime rates and characteristics in Chicago ( They were interested in studying the patterns and changes of crime rates as they started to increase (Talbot, D.2017). Key thinkers such as Robert Park, referred to Chicago as an ‘organism’ that is fighting for space in its natural habitat, similar to a plant ( Studies found that there is a direct link between the neighbourhoods that experienced social disorganisation, also experienced high delinquency rates (Anon.2017). Social disorganisation is when controls over delinquents is not present and the behaviour is approved of by the neighbours (Anon.2017). Criminal behaviour is passed on to others through interactions (

Park, Burgess and McKenzie designed a model to explain the structure of Chicago and the different socio-economic zones (Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess.1925). The center of the model -Central Business District-  consists of all the  commercial aspects including offices, transport routes, shops and businesses ( This is continued into the Transitional Zone where there was industrialization which migrants were attracted towards despite the high levels of deprivation, overcrowding and run down areas (Talbot, D.2017).

Due to this, criminal acts were high in these zones as individuals were lacking qualifications to earn enough money and support their family (Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess.1925). This migration caused there to be a lack of houses and space in the city of Chicago which caused economic competition ( However, the migrants had no choice but to move to the poorest zones, allowing previous residents a chance to move into better zones such as the Inner City, Inner Suburbs and Outer Suburbs (


Robert E. Park and Ernest W. Burgess.(1925). The City. Chicago: The University of  Chicago Press (2017). An Overview of the Chicago School Theories of Criminology | [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Jan. 2017].

Anon, (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jan. 2017]. (2017). Robert E. Park, Sociology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jan. 2017]. (2017). Ernest W. Burgess “The Growth of the City: An Introduction to a Research Project” – Samantha Mitchell-Dix. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jan. 2017].

Talbot, D. (2017). Society, Social change, and Crime: The Chicago School, Anomie and Strain. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 Jan. 2017].


2 thoughts on “Social and Environmental Theories of Crime Causation.

    • A disadvantage of this concentric zone model is that as it is based on Chicago, it is harder for it to be applied to other cities. For example, Old London was a busy city that the centric zone model could have been be applied to as the centre of London was full of industrialisation and poor living conditions. Modern days London now is the opposite and you have to be wealthy to live in the centre of London. The further out you go the better the living conditions and pollution levels are. However, this does not apply to Dundee which is also a city, as there is more of a mixture of the zones rather than a section for each. Therefore, this concentric zone model does not apply to modern British cities.


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