The core thesis of spacial theories, also called theories of social disorganization, assumes that crime can be found in certain social and structural structures of a certain environment. – Certain environments thus promote crime.
This approach has its roots in the USA. The city of Chicago, in particular, has become known for its multiple spatial studies. The flow of immigrants and Afro-Americans from the south of the country to Chicago and the increasing organized crime during Prohibition (1920-1933) led to studies on the development and transformation of neighbourhoods. The theories and sociological studies of the time are now regarded as elements of the Chicago School (central question: Why do certain neighbourhoods have higher crime rates than others).
Social disorganization leads to a decrease in informal social control, leading to an increase in crime.
Park and Burgess are known for their considerations on “urban ecology” which had a strong influence on Shaw and McKay’s Theory of Social Disorganization. In addition to Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay, Frederick Thrasher should also be mentioned in the context of urban anthropology. He examined the areas of residence and action of 1313 gangs in Chicago. One of his main findings was that there are certain areas on the outskirts of the city in which gang activity developed primarily. He coined the term “gang-lands”. Furthermore, Willson & Kelling should be mentioned here, who used Shaw and MacKay’s work on social disorganization and developed the well-known Broken Windows approach from it.