status, alcohol at the time of offence.1

status, such asproviding all families with a home and the access to public services, couldvisibly reduce inequality. The ‘drug andalcohol courts’ initiative was chosen because substance use plays a major rolein the commitment of crime. In the 2013 crime survey of England and Wales, morethan half of the offenders of violent crime were under the influence ofalcohol.1It is widely accepted that there is a causal link between alcohol use and crime.

2It must also be considered that there is a stronger correlation betweensubstance use and social inequality. The link between social and economicalinequality and substance use can be explained by ‘status anxiety’3which suggests that there is an income hierarchy in society, where those at thebottom of the hierarchy experience low self-esteem, leading to use and abuse ofalcohol and drugs. In turn, this can lead to the commitment of crime. It can beseen that there is connection between social inequality, drug and alcohol useand crime. Substance use and social inequality go hand in hand seeing as itplays a causal role in criminal behaviour;4henceforth the reason for selecting the above policy proposals as acombination.

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By looking at the relationship between social inequality,substance use and criminal behaviour, the chosen policy initiatives as acombination can be used as an effective method in controlling crime.  Criminology and sociology theories of crime and understandings of those theories can shape the criminal justice system and its policy-making methods. Social theories behind deviance and criminal behaviour can explain distinguished relationships between crime and social class, race, ethnicity, culture, economic wellbeing and neighbourhood influence. Marxist social theories stress the importance of the effects of inequality in a society. Marxist sociologists put forward that it is the differences between social groups that lead to conflict and crime. Additionally, the use of drugs and alcohol are also a major contributor to the commitment of crime. In 2015, approximately 80% of incarcerated offenders in the United States were under the influence of either drugs or alcohol at the time of offence.1  Social inequality and substance use are arguably the top causes of violent and property crime including theft, assault, domestic abuse and rape.

With regards to this, the policy proposals chosen to be part of the ‘Keeping us safe’ programme are ‘Social harmony and redistribution’ (£60m) and ‘drug and alcohol courts’ (£40m). The report will firstly consider why each proposal was selected and why these proposals were chosen as a combination. It will look at how both proposals fit hand in hand and the effectiveness of them working together as a combination.

For example, the report will not only look at the connection between social inequality, alcohol and crime but also the reason behind excessive alcohol use itself, and how this can eventually lead to criminal behaviour. The report will evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed initiatives, evidencing theories and studies in support of it as well as discuss any limitations the theories may have. The practical implications of the policy proposals will be looked at by considering realistic solutions in order to reduce the rate of crime. Why the policy proposals were selectedFirstly, the ‘social harmony and redistribution’ proposal was chosen because it aims to reduce inequality in the wider community. There are multiple theories which suggest that poverty and economic inequality lead to high crime rates. In 1983, Robert Merton’s strain theory recognised that different cultures establish certain goals that are collectively agreed upon.

2 However not everyone in a society can readily access the means to achieve their goals. This is known as an imbalance between goals and means to achieve those goals. For example, a goal of economic success requires the means of good quality education and the availability of well paid jobs.3 Those who cannot access these means may face frustration when confronted by others in society who have achieved the same goals, and this frustration is acted out in the form of crime.4 Therefore, it can be argued that if this inequality did not exist there may be a significantly lower crime rate.

Reducing the gap between the so-called ‘wealthy’ and ‘poor’ will reduce inequality which will in turn reduce crime rates.5 It is for this reason that the ‘social harmony and redistribution’ proposal was selected. Practically speaking, making the same services available for everyone regardless of economical    Why crime occurs and how the proposed initiatives maybe effective in reducing crimeSocial conflicttheory proposes that deviant behaviour, such as crime, stem from inequalitiesin a social group.5 Oneof the main reasons for conflict between social groups are differences insocial class. The conflict theory argues that dominant groups in societydominate inferior groups by inflicting social norms, belief systems and laws onthem in order to remain in a position of power.6In relation to the commitment of crime, conflict theory brings the idea thatdue to some social groups not having access to means, such as well paid jobs ormoney, they have to turn to crimes like theft and burglary to be able to havethe same materials as others. It is the idea that the rich have goods the poorwant but cannot earn, so they resort to stealing from the rich. It is proposedthat the economic hierarchy causes people, specifically those at the bottom ofthe hierarchy, to turn to crime.

7A study by Bjerk8 in2007 showed that frequency of crime is higher in communities where there is awider gap between standards of living. This evidence indicates that reducingthe gap between social groups may be an effective way to reduce crime. Alcohol and druguse is often paired with low socio-economic status, which together can lead tocrime. Differences in social class, particularly in economic well-being, playsa major role in both drug use and criminal behaviour. The term poverty isdefined by socio-economic status, for example, education, neighbourhood statusand occupational status. In researching the connection between poverty and druguse, Mackenbach9concluded from his study that there is a ‘greater use of the substances by thepoor…as a response to the greater stress in poor people’s lives.’ Additionally,the connection between poverty, substance use and crime is notable. For exampleaddiction to grade A drugs like heroin is seen as being three times more commonin people who earn £20,000 or less a year.

10In a study involving convicted offenders, it was found that illegal drug use,including cocaine and heroin, was significantly related to crime.11As mentioned earlier, there is a three way link between social inequality,crime and drug and alcohol use. The proposed initiative for drug and alcoholcourts can be effective in lowering crime rate by dealing with the reasonsbehind substance use and its connection to crime. There is evidence to supportthat effective treatment for drug or alcohol addiction can reduce crime. Jofre-Bonet and Sindelar (2001)12found that reduced cocaine use as a result of drug treatment lead to areduction in property crime. Special courts for offenders with drug and alcoholproblems that deal with the challenges they face can work as a rehabilitationprogramme.

This can be used as a cure to substance use and therefore lower drugand alcohol related crime, which may be a more effective method than thecurrent criminal justice system which uses harsh punishments to act as a deterrentto criminal behaviour. However, supporting evidence to this proposed initiative may have somelimitations. Social theory suggests that drug use and social inequality,particularly economic disparities, have strong correlations with propertycrime. It puts forward that those on low-income commit crime to increaseincome, for example burglary and shoplifting.

However, social theory is limitedin the fact that it does not explain the cause of other crimes evident incommunities with social inequalities, such as domestic abuse or rape. Out ofall reported child abuse cases, 33% were alcohol related.13 Also,Bushman (1997)14found that alcohol consumption was mostly related to aggressive crimes likeassault.

Nevertheless, there were 5.8 million cases of property crime reportedto the police in 2016.15This is a significantly high number of property crime and the use of drug andalcohol specialist courts could help to reduce this number considerably. A reductionof this number would have a significant impact on improving society. Moving on, ecology theories of crime suggest that as more people livecloser together in towns and cities, there is more contact with others and morechances of being influenced by the criminal behaviour around them. It is arguedthat due to there being a higher population in urban areas, a person is lesslikely to be caught for criminal activity because there is lower chance ofrecognition.

16Krivo and Peterson (1996)17studied the influence of neighbourhood in urban areas. They found that a poorneighbourhood had a higher chance of crime. Urbanised neighbourhoods have largegaps in terms of social inequality. This is down to the separation betweenclass, race and socio-economic status in urban cities.There are wealthy people living in big houses next to low-incomefamilies with only bare necessities. Also, stop and search policies under the CriminalJustice and Public Order Act 199418are exercised more frequently in poor urban neighbourhoods than in wealthierneighbourhoods. Sutherland (1947)19proposed that in urbanised neighbourhoods, there will be more crime due toconflicting beliefs between the different social groups.

It can therefore beargued that narrower gaps between different social groups may play a positiverole in reducing crime. A solution to the problem of inequality and crime can be derived fromthese evidences. Groups within communities can be made more equal throughredistribution of income. As the policy proposal suggests, more tax can belevied on those who are more well-off to be used to help those on low-income.This will reduce the economic gap, provide a better standard of living for morepeople in society and in turn reduce crime rate.

There is evidence to supportthis idea. A research study has found that when there is alleviation ofpoverty, either through increase of income or a fairer distribution of incomein a society, the crime rate in that society falls.20One of the biggest issues in an urban community is the socio-economic gapbetween groups which acts as a causal link to crime.

The proposed initiativecan be effective as it aims to reduce the gap by trying to distribute incomemore equally. Also, as more funding would be available for schemes that promoteunderstandings of different cultures, it would create a better sense ofcommunity within that society. Dense population in cities and towns can meanthat fewer people know each other, compared to more rural areas where everyoneknows each other. When there are more community services available for everyonein a community, it allows more interaction and better understandings ofdifferent backgrounds, cultures and religions. World bank researchers21found that ‘localities with less inequality do in fact have lower crime rates.’Also, Wilson and Kelling’s (1982) broken windows22theory proposes that it is important to maintain order in a neighbourhood tocontrol crime. To put these into practise, the ‘social harmony andredistribution’ policy proposal will be a practical way of reducing crime.

Itwill not only help to reduce crime but also create social cohesion, betterunderstandings of different cultures and promote equality for everyone. Although ecology theories suggest that urbanisation and densepopulations can cause criminal behaviour for a number of reasons, the theory isnot without limitations. It is argued that there is a high crime rate in urbanneighbourhoods, however it may rather be that due to there being a greaterpopulation in cities compared to rural areas, it seems as though the crime rateis higher. Also, crimes like domestic abuse or marital rape are less reported,23which may make it seem as though street crimes in urban areas are morefrequently occurring. This means that ecology theories are not very effectivein explaining causes of crime, and therefore solutions derived from it may alsobe ineffective. Nevertheless, new criminology known as right realism does notshow importance to the causes of crime, but instead focuses on crimeprevention. It shares the idea that crime is real no matter how it was caused24, andthat it has a negative impact on social cohesion.

Realism has a more pragmaticapproach to crime. Instead of utilising historical theories of crime causation,it focuses on the current situation and how the government can execute crimecontrolling policies.25Therefore, because there is evidence to show there is indeed a higher crimerate in urban populations where inequality is abundant, the initiatives act asa defensive approach to crime commitment. ConclusionThere is a three-way relationship between crime, socio-economic inequalityand substance use.

There has been a lot of research around the effects ofsocial inequality on criminal behaviour. As evidence suggests, narrowing thegap between social groups will create better communities with reduced crime.Better understandings of different cultures and ways of life can reduce the gapbetween different groups and create a closer community. Poverty, as one of themain contributors to social inequality, can be seen as the base for both drugand alcohol use and crime. Taking action on poverty and drug and alcohol usetogether can prevent the occurrence of crime within a society. Instead ofharshly punishing offenders, it may be more helpful to society as a whole ifthe court dealt with challenges faced by drug and alcohol users.

Since it hasbeen discovered that substance use is a contributor to crime, recovery ofoffenders with addictions could be more important than merely punishing them,as it deals with the root cause of the crime problem. The proposed policyinitiatives will work together as preventative methods in reducing crime.


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