13. Green Criminology

13.2 What is the Difference Between Green Criminology and Environmental Criminology?

Dr. Gregory Simmons; Dr. Mark Vardy; and Dr. Rochelle Stevenson

Green criminology’s focus is on both legal and illegal harm to the environment (ecosystems), humans, and animals. There is a sub-field of criminology, commonly referred to as environmental criminology that focuses on the relationship between crime and space and place, or the geography of crime and criminal behaviour (see 16.4 Theoretical Approaches Within Environmental Criminology).

While the chapter on Environmental Criminology briefly addresses the distinction, a simple example is helpful here to understand the difference. An environmental criminologist would focus on why crimes are happening in a specific location, for example, why auto thefts may be higher in a particular neighbourhood or street. The environmental criminologist would look at the physical space and ask the following types of questions: Is there sufficient lighting on the street? Are there trees or bushes that hide the activities of auto thieves from people who live in the area? Are there ways to adjust the physical environment, such as installing lighting or removing bushes to decrease auto thefts? Can police patrols be increased to tackle the ‘hot spot’ of auto thefts? The environmental criminologist’s focus would be on preventing or reducing criminal activity through altering the physical surroundings.

The green criminologist would have a different focus in this situation. They would be concerned with the amount of light pollution that would result from installing brighter lights, as this may harm the movement and life cycles of nocturnal animals. They would also be concerned with the harm caused by the removal of shrubs and trees (which the environmental criminologist may argue is necessary to increase the visibility of vehicles and thereby decrease the probability of auto theft) as the trees and shrubs are important nesting sites for birds and contribute to clean air by capturing carbon and producing oxygen. The green criminologist may agree that increased police patrols are a good policy for decreasing auto crime in the neighbourhood but would suggest bike patrols over typical police vehicles as they do not contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, and reduce harm to the environment. The green criminologist might also identify forms of social harm in the neighbourhood that the environmental criminologist would likely fail to consider—the factory that routinely discharges toxic waste into the local waterways or the hazardous waste site located next to residential housing, for example. While environment is a central concept in both green criminology and environmental criminology, the concept sometimes means very different things!



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Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Gregory Simmons; Dr. Mark Vardy; and Dr. Rochelle Stevenson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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