This essay will attempt to trace the development of the ecological studies of crime found by the Chicago School and how the findings have shaped our understanding of crime in the 21st century. Firstly by introducing the Chicago School theory, also known as the, Theory of Social Disorganisation and the Ecological School Theory.
The University of Chicago formed a department of Sociology in 1892 it's focus related to issues in Criminology and Sociology, with interests in and towards Social Psychology along with Urban Sociology. The main focus of the Chicago school was that human behaviour was both formed and shaped by the environment. T he social and the physical environment, that an individual resides in and that it was environment over genes that was the primary determinant to behaviour among humans. It was a man by name of Robert E. Park coined the term Human Ecology, a form of social Darwinism, a requirement of which is a need to observe and examine people in their own environment.
Ecological Studies take the natural science concepts used in biology and anthropology, their community studies. These topics cover dominance, invasion, succession among plant and animal ecology, the dominant uses of land within the observed area, the shifting movements and forces that shape them with regard to society, the altered environment and any impact it has towards the chances of crime.
In the decades preceding the Chicago School between 1830-1860, the studies of crime in America were influenced by the other western culture's views, namely British and Italian. Meanwhile a mass of data was accumulated, a body of knowledge that was never discredited by any work of superior scientific merit at the time thus was relegated to the sidelines “in favour of the biological and psychiatric theories of the 19th century, to be disregarded and forgotten.” (Levin and Lindesmith, 1937: 801)
The Chicago School began to form it's own view on crime, basing it on the idea that it was society that produces criminals. In doing so, created influential ideas and theories, such as the works of Merton, Burgess and Park, Sutherland, Shaw and McKay which the school used to develop and form new research methods for studying Society. Using Empirical Sociology to study individuals in their preferred or natural environment while performing life history research to examine the events and cumulative factors that have shaped an individuals life. Through use of their collected social data and using their methodology were able to gain an understanding of large groups of people using the collected information on individual characteristics. The School went on to argue that the city is a microcosm of the environment humans exist in , their natural environment. Going on to proclaim that in order to understand the reasons for an individual's acts and behaviour one must first understand the influence of the group that individual associates with and the influence that group has over their...