Envy and Inequality Not Poverty, Are the Root of All Crime; Professor Blames the Breakdown of Family Values for Rising Figures
Byline: ANDREW WALKER
A SCOTTISH criminologist yesterday exploded the myth that poverty and deprivation are behind soaring post-war crime.
Instead, he laid the blame firmly on the breakdown of family values, envy and an emphasis on equal opportunities which have led young people to expect more than they are capable of earning.
Professor David Smith said rising crime levels throughout Europe, including Scotland, had their roots in a rich society and not in poverty.
He said people envious of everyday objects of wealth, such as expensive cars, accounted for much of the rising levels of vehicle theft.
Professor Smith, of Edinburgh University, also said teenagers mixing almost exclusively with people of their own age presented them with more chances to commit crime.
He said: `On the face of it, rising crime in Europe over the past 15 to 20 years has coincided with increasing inequality, the increasing visibility of the poor, beggars on the streets, of the homeless, of people with mental illness being turned out of hospitals, of council estates now exclusively populated by the poor, the unemployed and single parents.
`It is the norm for bishops, sociologists, Eurocrats and politicians to assume growing crime is the consequence of inequality, poverty, deprivation or social exclusion.'
But Professor Smith, addressing Scotland's first criminology conference in Edinburgh yesterday, said crime increased in Europe strongly and continuously over the entire post-war `golden era.'
More than 100 leading experts on crime from the UK, North America and Europe have gathered to discuss the major issues confronting crime and punishment in the 1990s.
Professor Smith told the conference he believed there were some major influencing factors for the rise in crime. …