Regulating Crime: The Birth of the Idea, Its Nurture, and the Implications for Contemporary Criminology

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2 Scopus citations


This volume’s contention that regulations have a powerful role in crime control contradicts the prevailing positivism of criminology—that is, the contention that criminality is largely explained by criminals’ past experiences. This article draws upon recent critiques of positivism and explains the implications for contemporary criminology. It begins by describing the ideas of a London magistrate, Patrick Colquhoun, about the determinants of crime and the best means of its control. Colquhoun’s writings were the first developed discussion of regulating crime, but they were soon eclipsed by positivist thinking. I list numerous weakness of positivism and argue that, instead of seeing offenders’ behavior as determined by their past, greater account should be taken of the situational inducements and opportunities to commit crime that they encounter in their everyday lives. Instead of positivism, the dominant model of criminology and crime control should be a neoclassicist, bounded rational choice model, which would introduce situational design and management changes to restrict offenders choices and modify behavior. That change in orientation would open limitless opportunities for criminologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-35
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


  • Patrick Colquhoun
  • crime control
  • crime opportunities
  • neoclassicism
  • positivism
  • regulating crime


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