The environment does not have any hand in producing crime, but it can significantly reinforce or deter criminal acts.
Small towns with close social interaction tend to have lower crime rates than big cities where people barely know their neighbor. It is not so much the “bond” that people form that deters criminality, but the sense of being closely watched by the community. According to a tour director in Moorea, a small island in French Polynesia, there is very little crime in the island because “everyone knows everyone else’s business.” It implies that criminal acts are limited because monitoring comes from the community itself.
The community seems to have greater influence on the criminal than his or her immediate family. A teenager can become involved in petty crimes at first, and then become a career criminal in just a few years even if all the other members of the family do not have any criminal records. If the environment does not have enough security, surveillance, and punishment, crime can flourish rapidly as criminals will find that they can get away with crimes. Add the environment’s size and people’s lack of interaction with their neighbors, and criminals will get the sense that nobody’s watching. Even if some people are watching them, criminals know that they wouldn’t care about the crimes unless it happens to them directly.
There are instances when problematic teenagers from big cities behave responsibly when they are sent to live with their relatives in small towns. On the other hand, some men who committed small criminal offenses in small towns become full-blown career criminals when they move to big cities. It appears that bigger cities do not only have uncaring neighbors, but police security is also a tad lenient. If the local government suddenly increases the presence of police in the area, the crime rate drops. It was not because the criminals stopped committing crimes due to the increased security — they simply moved their criminal operations where there is less security.
Some countries employ strict laws with capital punishment for various criminal acts. There are three major things that happen in these countries. First, citizens are discouraged from committing crimes because of the heavy security. They know that there are people watching and it is possible that they will get caught. Second, those who are able to commit petty offenses are punished accordingly. Strict and immediate punishments will not only deter those who are planning to commit crimes, but it will also keep those who have been punished from doing it again. Lastly, criminals from other countries will not operate in the country because the possibility of getting caught is high, and locals will be too scared of their government to join them.
Freedom is good, but too much of it can lead to chaos. Governments around the world continue to search for the right balance between order and democracy. The environment does not have a hand at the creation of crimes, nor the development of criminals, but it can greatly affect how criminality is deterred or encouraged.
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