For many years, criminologists have recognized that there is a direct association between crime and economic conditions, but as Vold, Bernard, and Snipes (2002) have noted, there is nothing resembling universal consensus regarding the degree to which economic conditions shape criminal or deviant behavior. Certainly, any casual observer of current events in the United States is aware that neighborhoods and communities characterized by high rates of poverty and unemployment also tend to be communities in which crime rates are somewhat high. Additionally, Vold, et al (2002) have pointed out that the data on crime rate fluctuations in the context of economic conditions is also contradictory. Some studies have actually indicated that crime decreases during economic depressions or recessions, but many theorists continue to argue that there is a significant causal association between economic conditions and crime.
While the research on crime and economic conditions may be contradictory, other theories are less difficult to validate. Emile Durkheim (2003) offered a structural functionalist theory of crime, noting that society is a moral phenomenon which contains norms, values, and laws that are taught to individuals in order to constrain their behavior. Durkheim (2003) asserted that crime was a result of a lack of social integration. In other words, as society's hold on individuals decreased, the potential for deviance tends to increase.
A similar set of views was advanced by Robert K. Merton (2003), who located the root cause of crime in the structure of society and said that many individuals confront and fall victim to social strains. Individuals who are unable to adapt to society's expectations by either conforming or innovating may become ritualistic, may retreat, and may actually rebel. These concepts help to explain why certain individuals and perhaps even certain broad groups seem more li