16. Environmental Criminology
In this chapter, you were introduced to the field of environmental criminology, and you learned that environmental criminology has gone through a number of phases. You learned that the first phase emerged as a European phenomenon in the early nineteenth century; the second North American phase was introduced in the early twentieth century; and the third, a North American and British phenomenon, emerged in the late twentieth century. More specifically, you were introduced to the North American and British contributions from the late 20th century. You learned that defining environmental criminology has been conceptually difficult, and you also learned that in 1979, C. Ray Jeffery coined the term environmental criminology. More specifically, you became familiar with how environmental criminology is interested in the spatial distribution of crime, victimisation, and offenders in society and that it is significantly dissimilar to green criminology.
You were then introduced to four environmental criminological theories concerned with the environment in which crime occurs, all of which have strengths and limitations in their explanation of crime. You first learned that routine activity theory is concerned with changes or variations in the social environment that lead to changes in crime rates, that geometric theory is concerned with the built environment and how it shapes the geographic pattern of crime; and that rational choice theory is concerned with the cognitive environment that governs the choice-structuring processes of potential offenders. You learned that individually, each of these theories adds to our understanding of crime, but collectively, they can provide a meaningful representation of the environment in which crime occurs within. Then, you learned about pattern theory which emphasizes the dynamic nature of the decision to offend at a particular time and place, which incorporates all three previously discussed theoretical frameworks. The theory section of this chapter concluded with a discussion of situational crime prevention and how it is a highly practical and effective means of reducing specific crime problems. Lastly, you learned many of the strengths and limitations of environmental criminology theories.
To conclude this chapter, it is important to reiterate that environmental criminology is an important field of criminology. However, we must be cognisant of the fact that these environmental criminological frameworks discussed have been mainly built upon a Western view of human nature. This is significant because this means that the underpinnings of these theoretical frameworks came from a particular time and place in history. This means they were shaped and incorporated into criminology and sociology textbooks and journal articles world-wide with an often Western view. The implications herein are that many theorists claim to have developed a universal framework. In order for this to be accurate, we have to be honest about our history. Understanding and respecting differences amongst Indigenous peoples’ lived experience and worldviews and Western worldviews is essential as there are opposite laws and enforcement that alter the lived experience of crime. We cannot overlook colonisation, systemic oppression, or the poverty induced by the Indian Act as Indigenous worldviews have been drastically impacted by these factors.
Criminological theoretical frameworks can never fully capture an entire nation of experience. Indigenous peoples’ experience in the nation-state of Canada occurs against a backdrop of systemic oppression, racism, and colonialism that continues to exist to this day. Environmental criminology must factor this into the Indigenous worldview or otherwise the perspective well be vastly flawed. The inclusion of Indigenous peoples’ voices and lived experiences would likely provide a more holistic, inclusive perspective of crime. However, in order to address crime, criminology, and environmental criminology, we must first address the colonisation, systemic oppression, and legislated poverty imposed through the Indian Act. Recognising this as a student and perhaps future scholar – is imperative as incorporating Indigenous perspectives in academia (e.g., in environmental criminology) would help ensure that the history, voices, and lived experiences of Indigenous peoples be presented respectfully and accurately in criminology and sociology courses, research, and publications.