As stated by sociologist Gideon Sjoberg in 1965, the development of a city is dependent on the following three requirements: “good environment with fresh water and a favourable climate, advanced technology; which will produce a food surplus to support nonfarmers, and a strong social organization to ensure social stability and a stable economy” (Urbanization, n.d.). As cities develop according to the factors indicated above, the movement of persons from the lesser developed areas into the greater developed city centres is inevitable. The movement of these persons from rural areas to the more urban and city areas is referred to as urbanization and the following review of literature will discuss one of the major issues arising out of urbanization, as it inevitably has a grave impact on crime.
Ideally this movement of persons occur for the purpose of job acquisition or simply in order to experience, attain and eventually live a much better life. Urbanization illustrates the effects of the grouping and forging of linkages within the social, political and economic relationships of various cities. With this being said, the occurrences and effects of urbanization would definitely vary from one city to another, with each city yielding its own specific resulting behaviour in response to the effects of urbanization. As stated by Jalil & Iqbal (2010), urbanisation from an economic standpoint is good as it “facilitates achievement of economies of scale and thus promotes growth of industries and development in the economy”. Conversely however, social ills such as crime and violence are also encouraged and tend be greater in the larger, more populated and urbanized cities, thus lending to a negative social stand point experienced in these areas.
In the article Explaining Urban Crime (n.d.), the Conflict, Subcultural and Social Disorganization theories are used to assist in the understanding of why urban areas are more crime prone than its rural counterparts. These theories explore the issues of income inequality, the impact of violence and poverty subcultural norms and values, and also the relationship between the characteristics of cities and neighbourhoods and how it influences crime. According to Ladbrook (1988) in his study of crime and urbanization in Japan, “there are three sociological explanations for why rates of conventional crime are higher in urban areas than in rural areas.” Firstly, the degree to which urbanization and population density are related, secondly, the increase in the migration/ immigration and population growth within the urban areas and finally, the greater proportions of younger persons that are present in urbans areas therefore affecting the demographical ratio between rural versus urban areas.
Increases in urbanization and population density would have occurred during periods such as the Industrial Revolution. The greater development of industries, job opportunities, new technology and infrastructure encouraged persons to move from rural to urbans areas, resulting in spikes in populations, such as in London, from 550, 000 persons to 7 million persons by the end of the 1900s (Urbanization, n.d.). In other European countries such as such as France, urbanization has resulted in the development of various project-like communities such as the Banlieues, where unemployment, poverty, immigration, violence and crime rates are much higher than those in the more rural areas of the country. In her October 22, 2015 article, Chrisafis highlights the woes that are still currently being undergone by residents of the Banlieues, even long after riots and instances of civil unrest would have occurred to highlight the constant inequalities faced by the residents, trapping them into continuously living a life of fear and constant criminal occurrences.
Similarly, on the Western side of the globe, studies of urbanization and by extension segregation has also suggested that crime rates are directly impacted as a result of the increase in urbanization and segregation. In their study, Shihadeh & Maume (1997) state that “segregation is a structured form of inequality that generates high crime rates in ways similar to that of other forms of inequality.” Further to this, the study conducted by the authors sharpens the relationship between criminal activity in the black community with respect to the centralization of the urbanized inner-city communities with mainly minority African-Americans as residents. The study goes on to illustrate, that there is indeed a positive relationship between geographically centralized city areas and the rate of black homicides as the unique and specific structural set up of these areas lend towards the continued execution of crimes.
In the 2002 study compiled by Brennan-Galvin, she noted that urbanized areas were occupied by approximately 54 percent of the world’s population, with North America ranking as having the most persons inhabiting urbanized locations. Further to this, in 2008, studies completed by the United Nations Population Division, have illustrated that among the more developed world countries including North America, Australia and New Zealand, urbanization levels have surpassed 80 percent, with some developed countries such as Europe having lesser urbanized areas with a rating of 72 percent. Another important bit of results attained by this study, highlighted that among the world’s more developing countries, Latin America and the Caribbean has an even higher urbanization rate than that of Europe, with a rating of 78 percent. This high rate of urbanization for Lantin America and the Caribbean, is significant for many counties located here, especially for Trinidad and Tobago. One of the more highly urbanized areas of Trinidad and Tobago is located in East Port of Spain, where “the most common expression of the urban violence phenomenon has manifested in the hot-spots” (Seepersad & Williams, 2012). Over the past two decades, violence and criminality in hot-spots has grown exponentially, with the homicide rate well surpassing that of the global average (34.362 per one hundred thousand inhabitants versus 10.763), and a regular day walking along the streets of East Port of Spain can result in an individual unfortunately being held at knife/ gun point and robbed of their belongings (Seepersad & Williams, 2012).
What does this mean for the world? What does this mean for the rates of crime in these countries? Firstly, the 2008 United Nations Population Division study goes on to predict that the population in the world’s more urbanized areas will reach as high as 70 percent overall by 2050. As a result of these significantly higher rates expected in the future, the social and economic stability of these urbanized centres may be threatened by the constant and continuous influx of not only job seekers, but due to the harsh political and war-prone landscape experienced in various countries around the world presently, there will also be the continued and possible increased movement of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Jalil & Iqbal (2010) states that as a result of the overall lower population density in the more rural areas, the commission of crimes and the respective criminals associated with them would have a lesser chance of hiding themselves because persons are more familiar and have more close-knit relationships in these areas. Conversely, the opposite fact will hold for more urbanized areas, as there are fewer chances of recognition and arrest due to increased lack of familiarity. As such, the argument regarding the increase of crime coupled with the increased urbanization of locations would hold.
As is customary with the study of all socioeconomic phenomena, solution-based conclusions are generated to assist current and future researchers, policy makers, law enforcers and members of the society as a whole in understanding the cause and effects of the various factors investigated. In this case, as suggested by Ladbrook (1988), one method to control intense levels of urbanization, is for policy-makers to begin increased establishment of industrial centres in the more rural areas. This will allow for greater population movement control which in turn would allow for the control and possible reduction of crime in the urban city centres. Another method of crime control via the control of urbanization, as suggested by Gendrot (2001) is to have the collective efforts of the local authorities, police department, educators, human services, non-profit organizations and the local housing and sport authorities work together to prevent crime by the implementation of required social and economic assistive frameworks (as cited in Gumus, 2004). In addition to the implementation of the methods suggested, further studies should be conducted in significantly urbanized areas that have continuously reflected low crimes rates. Countries such as Hong Kong, Switzerland and New Zealand are revered as the safer and more crime free locations of the world, yet they are just as urbanized, modernized and technologically savvy as the rest.