Most early theories assumed that examining the social environment or the external circumstances does not provide sufficient insight into the causes of crime. They placed full responsibility on the individual offenders for the crime issues. However, at the beginning of the 20th century, the crime outbreak in the United States was interpreted as a social product. Such a significant theoretical move was caused by the rapid changes in society that led to the changed people’s experiences.
The Chicago school of criminology was a determining factor in American criminology’s progress as it claimed that the city is a critical aspect of American society, which incorporates powerful criminogenic forces. According to Atkinson & Millington, the city was and still is a “primary site” for developing and improving new policing techniques, as well as the integration of institutional arrangements towards citizens. Therefore, the core element of understanding the reasoning for a crime was the analysis of its social roots.
Chicago faced a remarkable population growth during that period due to the wave of newcomers, which caused economic instability in the city. The emergence of the bulging populations and teeming slum areas made criminologists view crime as a social issue. The theorists emphasized the critical role of mapping the crime by geographic area.
Based on their methodological developments, the criminal acts were highly concentrated within the city area. The theorists also conducted interviews with the local offenders, which helped to conclude that each criminal spot was a “delinquent with his or her own story.” The solutions to crime were studied in terms of social reform, which raised the importance of sociological answers to crime. The patterned city’s development shaped the nature of criminal behavior and, thus, could be understood within basic social processes, including violation, conflict, or assimilation.