16. Environmental Criminology

Dr. Tony Verbora, Department of Sociology and Criminology, University of Windsor

Positionality Statement

Before we continue, it is important to discuss how my positionality and privilege impact my understanding and articulation of the world. Positionality is important because it affects the way we see and interpret the world around us, and consequently, how the world sees and interprets us (Jacobson & Mustafa, 2019). To begin, my mother was born in Ardore, Reggio Calabria, Italy and my father was born in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Both my paternal and maternal grandparents left Southern Italy to move to Canada in the mid-to-late 1950s to provide a better life for their children. Italian emigration was fueled by dire poverty. Life in Southern Italy offered little more than hardship, exploitation, and violence. The soil was poor and malnutrition and disease were widespread.

I was born in the late 1980s and was raised in Windsor, Ontario, Canada with two older siblings (sisters). In regards to the land I inhabit, I recognize that Indigenous peoples are the modern-day descendants of the first human inhabitants of North America. I was raised in a middle-class family that placed the upmost importance on education and being financially independent. As a White privileged man, I recognize that there are inherent advantages possessed by a White person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice. I do believe that having and recognizing my White privilege is important. My White privilege exists because of historic, enduring racism and biases. And although I have family, friends, and colleagues from all walks of life, I will never experience or understand their lived experiences. I do, however, acknowledge this and I do my best in academia to shed light on these important issues when I am given the opportunity to do so.

Introduction: The Study of Crime, Criminality, and Victimisation: an Examination of Theory, Analytic Approaches, and Application

This chapter will discuss violent and non-violent property crimes using environmental criminological frameworks to help explain causation, while acknowledging the impacts of colonialism and systemic oppression on Indigenous peoples, including those who come into conflict with colonial law. This is important for a variety of reasons. First, the police, the courts, and other institutions may discriminate against Indigenous peoples (Allen, 2020). Further, systemic oppression, racism, and colonisation include institutional racism and discrimination sanctioned by the police, courts, and corrections against Indigenous peoples. As a result, Indigenous peoples are more likely to be apprehended, prosecuted, and convicted.  Second, contact with Western culture and colonialisation has disrupted social life in many Indigenous communities. This disruption has led to a weakening of social control over community members. Why is this important? Well, some may argue that certain races are inherently more law-abiding than others, but they are able to hold such an opinion by ignoring the powerful social forces that cause so many Indigenous peoples to be incarcerated in Canada (Fitzgerald et al., 2019; Monchalin, 2016). Third, a disproportionately large number of Indigenous peoples are incarcerated (Fitzgerald et al., 2019; Monchalin, 2016) and poor (Islam & Sheikh, 2010). Although the great majority of poor people are law abiding, poverty and its handicaps are associated with elevated crime rates (Pantazis & Gordon, 2018). Lastly, according to scholars in the field, Indigenous peoples commit crimes that are more often visible than those committed by non-Indigenous peoples. For example, street crimes (e.g., burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) are more visible than suite crimes (e.g., corporate crimes: crimes of the powerful) and they more often lead to prosecution and conviction (Friedrichs, 2019). This is a part of systemic oppression and colonialisation through the imposition of the Indian Act in which Indigenous peoples are policed, patrolled, and monitored. Since street crimes are more visible, charges and convictions are higher than for white-collar or suite crimes (Allen, 2020).

This chapter endeavours to provide you with a strong understanding of environmental criminology and its core concepts (e.g., crime patterns and spatial factors).  To begin, you will be given a brief explanation of the difference between environmental criminology and green criminology. Then, this chapter will provide a discussion on the theories within the environmental criminology framework: routine activity theory, geometric theory of crime, rational choice theory, and pattern theory of crime. Furthermore, the chapter briefly discusses the implications of environmental criminology, both theoretical and practical, for preventing crime. The chapter concludes with a discussion of why environmental criminology is important to the field of criminology in understanding the spatial and temporal dimensions of crime.

Throughout the chapter, you are asked to keep in mind that the environmental criminological frameworks discussed have been mainly built upon a Western view of human nature and to recognize that Indigenous populations have suffered the effects of colonisation and systemic oppression that have led to their overrepresentation in the Canadian criminal justice system. The Indigenous experience of forcible removal from traditional lands and territories has shaped the narrative of interconnectivity between poverty and crime You are also reminded to understand and respect that differences amongst Indigenous worldviews and Western worldviews are essential because there are opposite approaches to knowledge, connectedness, and the lived experience involving crime.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Introduction to Criminology Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Shereen Hassan and Dan Lett, MA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book