Politics Magazine

How Slums Are Criminogenic

Posted on the 16 May 2014 by Calvinthedog

It is well known that in most countries, the most run-down and poverty stricken areas tend to have the most crime, property and violent.

No one quite knows why this is. Do criminal and screw-up types simply gradually fail in life and end up living in slums? Possibly.

But more than that, the environment of a slum is often criminogenic. In many slums, you grow up in a “culture of crime.” Your role models are gangsters, drug dealers and assorted hoods. If you go to school at all, a lot of your friends are delinquents. Peer pressure effects humans at all ages, not just adolescents. If people all around you are ripping stuff off all the time, you might just decide to do it too. Monkey see, monkey do.

Many slums are barely even policed anymore as the cops have given up on them, think they are hopeless or possibly avoid them as too dangerous to patrol in much. Hence a lot of crime in slums probably goes unpunished. Unpunished crime simply breeds more crime. “Yeehaw! I got away with it! Let’s do it again!” It can also lead to criminal escalation via a mechanism I will explain later.

Violence similarly tends to beget violence. If most everyone around you is violent, you might get violent too. Trust me, I have spent a lot of time around violent folks, and you inevitably get violent just being around them if only to defend yourself from their frequent assaults and provocations. A boy looks around and sees all the men beating their wives and he grows up to be a wife-beater. Frequent street fights are exciting and breed even more fights due to the danger – excitement and possibly revenge factor.

The revenge factor is one horrible way that violent crime is criminogenic in and of itself – violent crime simply begets more violent crime. People retaliate for property crimes, but they really retaliate hard for violent crimes. So one homicide is followed by new revenge homicides like night follows day on and on until you have a near battlefield of warring gangs.

Young men grow up in these neighborhoods, see other young men fighting and dying young and become fatalistic. Many young men in these neighborhoods openly tell you that they do not care if they live or die and/or that they fully expect to die young. The thing about expectations in life is they are often filled.

Squalor itself causes crime. The Broken Windows Theory of policing was very controversial when implemented in New York. They did studies where someone would smash a window in a vacant store. The researchers would then watch the area. Soon many more windows were bashed out, then nearly stores had their windows bashed out. Graffiti started appearing on the walls. As the area degraded, it attracted types who like degraded areas (criminals). More and more men showed up, drinking, doping and selling drugs. Property crimes started going up and then violent crimes appeared.

It is an exaggeration to say it is all from a broken window, but you get the picture.

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