This is the 10 mark question in the crime and deviance section of the AQA’s 2015 Specimen A-level sociology paper 3: Crime and Deviance with Theory and Methods.
I used this question as part of our department’s own paper 3 mock exam this year (February 2018).
In this post I consider a ‘lower middle mark band’ student response (4/10 marks) to this question and the examiner commentary (both are provided by the AQA here) before considering what a ‘top band’ answer might look like.
The Question (with the item!)
The Mark Scheme:
Examiner Commentary: (4/10 marks)
A top band answer?
The first problem with situational crime prevention techniques such as installing burglar alarms is that they mail fail to increase the risk of getting caught in the subjective opinion of the burglars.
Many criminals are indeed rational and thus may reason that burglar alarms are ineffective – most members of the general public ignore them after all, and some may even be ‘fake’. There is also the fact that the police may take a long time to respond to an alarm, thus if criminals can act quickly enough, they may ‘calculate’ that they can get away with a smash and grab type robbery before the police respond, thus reducing the likelihood of getting caught.
A more effective form of situational crime prevention, other than a burglar alarm, might be a security guard, which would increase the risk of getting caught significantly as they can simply phone the police if there is any suspicious behaviour nearby.
However, security guards are expensive compared to alarms, and so while those places which hire security guards may be protected, crime will just be displaced to those areas with lesser protection (like ineffective alarms or no alarms’.
Finally, if we apply Felson’s ‘Routine Activity Theory’, we know that criminals ‘size up’ their targets when going about their day to day business, so they know the areas which are the least effectively protected and the least risky…. thus target hardening strategies like those mentioned in item are only going to be effective if all properties. use them equally, which is unlikely.
A second problem with Situational Crime Prevention talked about in item A is that not all crime is a rational decision, some crimes are done on the ‘spur of the moment’, for the ‘thrill of the act’, or out of sheer desperation.
Situational Crime Prevention failed, for example, to prevent the London Riots happening – here many of the rioters engaged in looting and vandalism in order to ‘have fun and join in with the party atmosphere’ despite the fact that all of the properties looted were locked and under surveillance, and there being thousands of police on the streets.
The Riots were also fueled by a sense of injustice at police brutality and economic inequality, which suggests that inequality in society ultimately fuels crime, which can spill-over at flash points, no matter how much one ‘hardens targets’: and target hardening does nothing to address the underlying causes of crime such as injustice and inequality.
Another example of a crime which is not rational is football hooliganism – which increasingly just seems to be about ‘fun’ – ‘teams’ of hooligans arrange fights after the match for thrills, and it is difficult to see how situational crime prevention can reduce this, as it’s just about ‘fun’ rather than ‘reward’ in the eyes of those involved.