What is Environmental Criminology?

When most people hear the term environmental criminology, they think of pollution prevention. Maybe they think of signs that say “no littering,” or of regulations meant to control industrial waste. What they are thinking of is called “green criminology.”

What is Environmental Criminology?

“Environmental criminology” is an overarching theory that criminal behavior is influenced (though not necessarily caused) by the environment in which it happens.

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Environmental criminology theory deals with the probabilities associated with specific types of crime in relation to the opportunity for a given crime to occur.

To understand this field theory better, let’s consider an example.

Imagine an ATM. In order for a crime involving this ATM to occur, several factors need to be in place. The first factor is the opportunity to steal money or the physical hardware that makes up the ATM. For this opportunity to exist, one of the following circumstances must be realized;

  • A customer takes money from the ATM and is then robbed
  • The ATM itself is damaged or poorly secured
  • Money is dropped after being withdrawn from the ATM

According to environmental criminology and crime analysis, this factors like these create the opportunity for a crime to be committed, but they do not make a crime particularly likely. For the likelihood of a crime to occur, other factors must be added, such as;

  • Proximity of the ATM to crowds
  • Poor security
  • Low light

Other factors can be added which will increase or decrease the probability of an ATM-related crime. These include proximity to:

  • Liquor stores
  • Police departments
  • Security Kiosks
  • Low-income neighborhoods

Now we have a basis for environmental criminology and crime analysis. We can take each of these disparate factors and create a hypothetical situation. If our research provides us with a statistical framework with which to judge each of the above-mentioned factors, then we can create a functioning analysis of the potential situation.

Environmental criminology and crime analysis take the focus of crime prevention away from “criminals” and move it to what some criminologists refer to as “conventional people.” It could be said that this shift in focus is a move away from criminal profiling to crowds, risk factors, and probabilities.

A study entitled “Evaluating Theories of Environmental Criminology: Strengths and Weaknesses” by Francis T. Cullen and Teresa C. Kulig describes the strengths of environmental criminology theories in the following way;

Environmental criminology’s strengths include a shift in the focus away from criminals to conventional people, thereby improving our understanding of criminal events and prevention; challenging the conventional view that some ‘evil’ condition generated the crime; rejecting the root-causes approach, instead displaying the benefits of a situational perspective.”

The authors go on to discuss the weaknesses of environmental criminology theories which lay in their failure to consider a study of motivated offenders, treating the crimes of motivated offenders as statistically meaningful events. They also comment that environmental criminology and crime analysis neglects the importance of inequalities in the production of statistically probable criminal events.

Environmental Criminology Jobs

As you can see, environmental criminology has the potential to drastically improve crime prevention. But at the same time, there are significant areas where the discipline can grow. Environmental criminology jobs offer vast opportunities for rewarding experiences in both crime prevention as well as opportunities to improve the discipline itself.

Environmental criminology jobs currently listed on prominent job boards include:

Data Production & Dissemination and Operations – Social Statistics and Economics

$54,746 – $76,548 a year

COVID outreach tenant support worker

$19 – $24 an hour

Indigenous Victim Family Liaison

$51,900 – $64,900 a year

Family Services Worker

$13.50 – $14.50 an hour

Nearly any job within law enforcement social work, security, and related fields will offer a strong potential for expertise in environmental criminology. Security firms that wish to offer their clients statistically verifiable methods of reducing criminal probabilities will be interested in hiring those with a background in this career. The same is true of any company that is invested in reducing the impact of crime on sales, property value, and security. Government agencies are also strongly incentivized to provide documented and statistically relevant efforts to reduce crime, criminality, improve security, secure property, and protect individuals from crime.

Many undergraduate students will go on to law school or pursue careers in corrections, law enforcement, or social work. These are just a small sample of the industries where a degree can open the doors of opportunity.

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