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Sociological Theories of Crime

3. Crime and Place

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In this lecture, we think about theoretical approaches to the relationship between crime and place – why some areas experience more crime than others, focusing in particular on: (i) the ideas of the Chicago School, most notably Ernest Burgess’ concentric zone model, which argues that certain neighbourhoods – the “zones of transition” – are particularly prone to crime; (ii) Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay’s notion of social disorganisation – that some neighbourhoods have characteristics which promote criminal behaviour; (iii) Robert Sampson’s concept of collective efficacy; (iv) James Q. Wilson and George Kelling’s broken windows theory.


In this course, Dr Francesca Menichelli (University of Surrey) explores sociological theories of crime. In the first lecture, we consider early approaches to explaining crime, particularly those from a Functionalist perspective, including Émile Durkheim’s concept of anomie and Robert Merton’s strain theory. In the second lecture, we look at subcultural theories, such as Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin’s notion of illegitimate opportunity structures. In the third lecture, we look at the relationship between crime and place through the ideas of the Chicago School and broken windows theory. Next, we examine labelling theory and moral panics – approaches which look less at explaining why people commit crime and more at how crime is defined by society. In the fifth lecture, we outline three theoretical perspectives influenced by Marxism – radical criminology, critical criminology and left realism. In the sixth and final lecture, we explore ideas grounded in rational choice theory, such as Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson’s routine activity theory.


Dr Francesca Menichelli is Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Surrey. Her research focuses on crime prevention, policing and social control, and her teaching covers a broad range of criminological issues. She is author of Order and Conflict in Public Space (2016).

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Menichelli, F. (2022, April 29). Sociological Theories of Crime - Crime and Place [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Menichelli, F. "Sociological Theories of Crime – Crime and Place." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 29 Apr 2022,

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