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  • Writer's pictureSam Wilks

The Role of Social Norms in Reducing Crime


Social norms play a vital role in reducing crime. I'm going to attempt to explain the role that social norms play in reducing crime.


What are social norms?


Social norms are the unwritten rules of conduct that guide our behaviour and interactions with others. They are shaped by the values and beliefs of a those around us and help to maintain social order. Social norms can influence our behaviour in many ways, including our attitudes toward crime and violence. If criminal behaviour is acceptable either culturally or through a trend, that will be the direction of the social norms, regardless of the destruction or harm they cause.


Social norms play a crucial role in reducing crime and violence by creating a shared sense of morality and mutual obligation within a community. When members of a community share a common set of values and beliefs, they are more likely to cooperate and support one another in maintaining social order. Social norms can also serve as a deterrent to crime by making it clear what behaviour is expected and what will not be tolerated.


The Broken window theory.


An example of the role of social norms in reducing crime is the "broken windows" theory. This theory suggests that visible signs of disorder and neglect, such as broken windows and graffiti, signal a lack of social norms and lead to an increase in crime and criminal deviance. The theory suggests that by maintaining the physical appearance of a community, we send a message that social norms are being enforced and that crime will not be tolerated. This theory is a key instrument of arguments provided by James Q Wilson a renowned social scientist and criminologist.


Social norms can be reinforced through formal and informal social controls. Formal social controls include laws, rules, and regulations that are enforced by institutions such as security personnel, the police, and the justice system. Informal social controls, on the other hand, are the social pressures and expectations that guide our behaviour, such as peer pressure and socialisation. Informal social controls are particularly important in reducing crime and deviance because they rely on the internalisation of social norms.


An example of the role of informal social controls in reducing crime is the use of neighbourhood watches. "Neighbourhood Watch" are groups of residents who band together to monitor and report suspicious activity in their communities. By creating a shared sense of responsibility for maintaining social order, neighbourhood watches can help to reinforce social norms and reduce crime. However, in times of high crime, these groups can splinter into a vigilante groups and break the very laws they seek to uphold.

Another example of the role of social norms in reducing crime is the use of community policing strategies. Community policing strategies involve building relationships between police officers and community members, with the goal of developing a shared sense of responsibility for maintaining social order. By working together, police officers and community members can reinforce social norms and reduce crime by creating a sense of mutual obligation and trust. These were particularly successful in the early 1980s in Australia.


Social norms can be influenced by the media and popular culture. Media representations of crime and deviance shape our attitudes towards these behaviours and influence our perception of what is normal or acceptable. For example, violent video games and movies have been proven to desensitise us to violence and make it seem like an acceptable way to solve problems. The media's current agenda at pushing identity politics and promoting child mutilation is having some extremely harmful effects on the community. In contrast, positive representations of law enforcement and social responsibility in popular culture can reinforce social norms and promote positive behaviour.


Social norms help to create a shared sense of morality and mutual obligation within a community, which can serve as a deterrent to crime. Social norms can be reinforced through formal and informal social controls, such as laws, rules, and regulations, as well as peer pressure and socialisation. The media and popular culture also have a significant influence on social norms and can shape our attitudes towards crime and deviance. In promoting positive representations of law enforcement and social responsibility, we reinforce social norms and reduce crime in our communities. From the author. The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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