Despite the growth of rural criminology, there remains many gaps in its body of scholarship. This chapter examines both theoretical and empirical gaps in the rural criminology literature and suggests how these shortcomings can be reduced, hence advancing rural scholarship. Using the concept of middle-range theory as developed by the sociologist Robert Merton from the mid-twentieth century, the chapter identifies 22 theoretical and empirical gaps in the rural criminological literature, and briefly discusses two paradigms – place-based theory and the square of crime – for their potential to guide future development of middle-range theories to guide research on various crime and criminal justice issues as they are contextualised in rural places.
It can be argued that theories of crime and place are the most prolific amongst all genres of criminological theory. As Wilcox and others demonstrate, the variety of place-based theories in criminology span nearly its whole history and include an incredible variety of perspectives. Often associated with the Chicago School of Sociology, the theory of social disorganization was one of the earliest attempts to examine the economic, normative and social milieu of neighbourhoods and variations in levels of crime, especially juvenile delinquency. Subsequent generations of criminological theories about place arrived when the focus shifted away from a neighbourhood-level examination to smaller sub-units, such as ‘hot spots’, the situational nature of crime, routine activities and crime, the concept of broken windows and crime, crime prevention through environmental design and crime mapping. The shift from larger units of analysis to smaller ones was also accompanied by a significant transition from a focus on places as generators of criminal behaviour to localities with relative differences in risk to victimization. Even though they are urban-based theories, considerations of crime and place were and continue to be instrumental in the development of rural criminology. The one exception to the urban-centric origins of crime and place theories is the one known as civic community theory. Social disorganization theory was first developed by Shaw and McKay, both academics from the Chicago School of Sociology in the first half of the twentieth century. Their focus was on explaining why certain neighbourhoods of Chicago differ so greatly in rates of delinquency, describing these areas as possessing such characteristics as high levels of poverty and population turnover.
Theory in criminology is a socially constructed framework to explain why people commit crimes, what kinds of crimes they commit and why some people are more likely to be victims than others. One important point made in popular contemporary criminological theory books, such as by Lilly et al and Burke, is that theory is socially constructed because the main authors and proponents of a particular theory acquired their perspective by attending university classes in criminology or an allied scientific discipline, reading numerous books and articles, discussing their ideas with colleagues at professional meetings such as the European Society of Criminology, writing down their version of a criminological explanation, sharing it with colleagues, publishing it as a book or article and then revising it based on the suggestions and criticisms of peers. Hence, criminological theory is a living thing, not a static thing. Criminology as a science began to develop in the nineteenth century, and matured into its present form during the twentieth century. Its development continues in the twenty-first century. The first fully articulated theories of crime were very much biased towards individualistic explanations of criminal behaviour. Early scholars associated with such names as Beccaria, Bentham and Lombroso, amongst others, sought to explain criminal behaviour and its deterrence by considering the traits that lead to illegal actions and how they could be deterred through punishment. They did consider macro-level factors in the context of juxtaposing concepts of human free will with constraints imposed by society. As the field of criminology advanced, these theories became increasingly less salient. Recently, however, biosocial theories of criminal behaviour have emerged.
Primary socialization theory attempts to explain involvement in substance use and misuse, especially amongst adolescents. It is one of three theories attempting to explain criminal behaviour that has substantial rural roots. The other two are civic community theory created by Matt Lee and colleagues, and male peer support for violence against women led by Walter DeKeseredy and associates. Primary socialization theory was developed during the 1990s by Eugene Oetting and colleagues who worked at the Tri-Ethnic Center for Prevention Research, Colorado State University in the United States. Their academic backgrounds were in psychology and social psychology, although their work was informed later by the sociological concept of community. The name ‘Tri-Ethnic’ derives from a focus on three important ethnic and cultural groups who live in areas outside of the cities and suburbs in the western region of the United States. These rural populations are Hispanic–Americans, Native Americans and White Americans; primary socialization’s rural roots, even though it can also be applied equally to substance use and misuse in an urban context. The predecessor theory to primary socialization theory developed by Oetting and associates at Colorado State University was called ‘peer cluster theory’. This theory has a basis in social learning theory whereby it attempted to model factors that either constrain or enable adolescent substance use by positing that interaction with close friends, not merely a generic form of peer culture, is the key explanatory variable. Attitudes and behaviours must be learned, and those closest to adolescents, especially peers they know well, form a reference group for what they decide to do.
The definition of an enclave is multi-dimensional and can consider a mix of geographic, cultural, economic, ethnic, legal, religious and sociological features. Nonetheless, the two fundamental characteristics of enclaves are that they occupy a territory or space and, within these, the inhabitants (or, as least the vast share of them) are distinctive in some way. Perhaps the best way to illustrate an enclave is through an example of two historically related religious groups: one in the two countries of Canada and the United States and the other in Mexico. One is not a rural enclave, and the other is. In the United States, there are now over 600 Amish communities. Clearly the Amish are distinctive with their horse-and-buggy lifestyle, plain dress and use of the Pennsylvania Dutch language (a variant of German). However, they are not an enclave. Non-Amish Canadian and United States citizens are neighbours to the Amish, sharing the same space and, in all but a few places, vastly outnumber the Amish. The area where the Amish live may have a distinctive flavour, such as ‘eggs for sale, no Sunday sales’ signs and horse droppings on the road, but it is not an enclave. To the south in the Mexican state of Chihuahua is a related group known as Old Colony Mennonites. They, too, are distinctive from the majority population in that area, which also outnumbers them. However, what qualifies them as an enclave is that they live in segregated communities known as colonies, even though they may travel to a nearby town for supplies, medical care and other services.
The dominant images of tourism are romanticized visions of majestic mountains, azure oceans, white sand beaches, historic monuments, grand examples of architecture, exotic cultural settings and, of course, a happy, smiling tourist couple or parents with children in-hand, enthralled by the wonders before them. Nowhere in a brochure is there an image of a tourist frantically searching for his attaché case which housed his laptop, stolen whilst he waited in line to register at a hotel, or the panicked visage of a woman whose wallet is missing from a purse slung over her shoulders whilst she stood with a group of her friends about to board an excursion boat – both were the victims of well-trained and experienced thieves, individuals whose presence is as ubiquitous as the attractions themselves. As Jones, Barclay and Mawby point out (2012), where there is tourism there will be crime. There should be nothing unusual about that observation, because all human endeavours display examples of deviance and crime. Further, as noted by many scholars interested in the criminological dimensions of tourism (see Sharpley and Stone, 2009), a great deal of tourism itself makes money off of heinous crimes, such as tours of the streets of London where Jack the Ripper stalked his victims in the late 1880s, or the house where Lizzie Borden allegedly killed her parents with an axe in the town of Fall River, Massachusetts (there is even a children’s rhyme about that case). One distinction to be made is the difference between leisure and tourism (see Botterill and Jones, 2010).
Civic community theory is one of several ecological approaches to understanding the associations of crime with various characteristics of places. It was developed by Matt Lee, an American rural sociologist, and his colleagues, who published extensively on the results of various statistical tests using the theory’s framework in both criminological and other social science journals, mostly during the first decade of the twenty-first century. It is similar to social disorganization theory, yet very distinctive from it. First, its approach begins from a non-criminological literature about the core elements of a civil society that define civility based on the strength of community groups and a culture whereby local citizens are involved in activities at the places where they live. Indicators for a strong local ecology includes such social characteristics as home ownership, locally-owned businesses and voter turnout, amongst others. A second distinctive characteristic of civic community theory is that its origins are not based on an urban criminology, but on a body of previous scholarship in rural sociology. Rural sociologists have long examined how social change impacts the socio-cultural make-up of smaller places. Subsequently, some of these rural scholars turned their attention to examining how change influences the emergence of various social problems, such as crime. It is from this heritage of research and theory that civic community theory emerged. It is similar to social disorganization and most other criminological theories of place because it views crime as a product of social change, assuming that change disrupts established forms of social control within a community.
It was not that long ago that cybercrime and concerns about cybersecurity would be considered as an exotic type of crime, one that only happens in the high-tech world of computers and software, far removed from the everyday lives of people and businesses around the world. Those days are now long gone. Cybercrime may be defined as an action that is considered illegal by governmental laws and regulations related to electronic forms of communication and communication networks. It involves the use of the internet, computers and related technologies in the commission of crime. Cybersecurity is the actions taken to protect computer systems and networks from attacks that steal information and disrupt the flow of information. One primary reason why cybercrime has shifted from an exotic crime to an everyday crime is quite simple. The information environment is now hyper-connected, dynamic and evolving – and ownership of computers increases every year. For example, the World Bank estimates that nearly half of all households worldwide have a computer in their homes, even though the presence of computers in private residences can vary widely. In countries with advanced market economies, the rates exceed 80 per cent, whilst in less developed and poor countries rates are as low as 30 per cent. The adoption and ownership of computers has multiplied the amount of e-commerce, which is now a large part of the economies of many societies around the world. Over 2.4 billion people, it is estimated, now make online purchases, and that number rises steadily from year to year. Further, nearly two-thirds of shopping begins online, even though the actual purchase may be in-person or by telephone.