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Crime Patterns: Measurement and Evaluation of Crime and Deviance in Rural and Regional Australia


Morgan, F, Crime Patterns: Measurement and Evaluation of Crime and Deviance in Rural and Regional Australia, Locating Crime in Context and Place: Perspectives on Regional, Rural and Remote Australia, The Federation Press, A Harkness, B Harris and D Baker (ed), Australia, pp. 49-59. ISBN 9781760020477 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]

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Criminological wisdom associates high crime rates and dangerous places overwhelmingly with urban rather than rural areas. Standard criminological assumptions are that crime is largely concentrated in urban areas, and the bigger the urban conglomeration the more crime there will be.

As an explanation of why this might be, Wirth's (1932) concept of 'urbanism' hypothesised a set of mechanisms that distinguished urban from rural ways of life. The main drivers of urbanism according to Wirth are large aggregations of people, high mobility, and density and heterogeneity of population. These produce a way of life where people interact with each other in specialised, superficial, impersonal and segmented roles that weaken kinship ties and undermine neighbourliness, and the common sentiments arising from a common folk tradition. The social forces identified by Wirth lead us to expect urbanism to be more prevalent in large cities compared with smaller ones; with smaller cities rather than towns; and with towns rather than rural areas. Wirth did not expound a criminological theory but he did conclude that:

Personal disorganization, mental breakdown, suicide, delinquency, crime, corruption and disorder might be expected... to be more prevalent in the urban than the rural community.

However, Hogg and Carrington (1998) warn us of the need for more evidence in this area and point to the inadequacy of concepts such as 'rural' to cope with the complexities of living arrangements outside Australia's major cities. Furthermore, Bottoms and Wiles (1997) claim that the topic is understudied in criminology.

The strongest support for urban-rural crime differentials comes from North America (Glaeser & Sacerdote 1999; Land, McCall & Cohen 1990). However, evidence for such differences seems to be less clear in Australian (Jobes et al 2001; Morgan & Clare 2012) and international (Pridemore 200 l; Pridemore & Trent 2010) contexts. The small but growing Australian literature on rural and regional crime patterns questions the proposition that crime, particularly violent crime, is largely an urban phenomenon.

Acknowledging the conventional wisdom that asserts rural crime rates are low, but alerted by the possibility of conflicting evidence and problems of conceptualising what exactly is 'rural', this chapter addresses the challenging task of comparing levels and patterns of crime and other forms of deviance in regional and rural areas in Australia.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Law in context
Research Field:Criminal law
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in law and legal studies
UTAS Author:Morgan, F (Associate Professor Frank Morgan)
ID Code:107723
Year Published:2016 (online first 2015)
Deposited By:Faculty of Law
Deposited On:2016-03-22
Last Modified:2017-10-17

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