In addition to lack of financial resources, poverty manifests itself in a lack of educational
opportunities, lack of meaningful employment options, poor housing, lack of hope and the
prejudice against persons living in poverty.
In the urban context, poverty is usually defined or explained in terms of a 'lack of access to productive employment, to basic services, to the resources of the urban economy, to effective and managed representation and to security and justice. The key issue is that poverty reflects the inability of an individual, household or community to satisfy certain basic minimum needs'(Ref.13). Once the nature of urban poverty has been defined, the assumption which follows is that due to frustration and insecurity and the presence of absolute and relative poverty, the urban poor are forced to resort to crime and violence. While there is some evidence which links urban poverty and unemployment to crime and violence, it would be too simplistic to make a direct correlation between poverty, violence and crime in cities. Moreover, the fact that slums and squatter areas have a higher incidence of crime and violence than more well-to-do areas in the city, also does not necessarily imply that it is the urban poor who actually partake in that violence or crime. The presence of organised gangs and mafias in all cities, often controlled by people who are neither poor nor reside in slums, suggests that the urban poor are often manipulated, due perhaps to their vulnerability, and become either victims or party to crime ｭ see Box 1. Poverty may not automatically lead to violence or crime, but may favour it certain circumstances (Ref.14). However, it is clear that not all criminals come from the ranks of the poor, and nor does every poor person resort to crime.
Clearly, the likely causes for violence and crime in cities range from the outcome of growing urban poverty, increasing unemployment, relative and growing inequality, and a host of other factors discussed in this and subsequent sections of the paper. Perhaps the reasons why crime decreased across Asia between 1975-90 was because economic growth was high, persistent and very buoyant, inflation and unemployment always low and manageable, a minimum level of basic social and physical infrastructure was provided and maintained by the government, and because there was growing optimism, hope and opportunity looking into the future. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line fell sharply in countries as diverse as Bangladesh, India, Korea, Indonesia and Pakistan, in the 1970s and 1980s (Ref.19). Throughout the period 1975-90, especially in East Asia, there was always a contingent of factors which promised far better opportunities. This no longer seems to be the case. If indeed it was all these factors which resulted in keeping crime and violence manageable, low and declining, the current economic and social collapse underway since 1997, is going to have a prolonged and profound impact on urban poverty, unemployment, economic growth and upon the levels and quality of human, social and physical infrastructure. The impact, as a culmination of all these factors, is likely to be a substantive increase in violence and crime in the region.
Our social structure mirrors to citizens and communities what we value and how we set
priorities. Social root causes of crime are: inequality, not sharing power, lack of support to
families and neighborhoods, real or perceived inaccessibility to services, lack of leadership in
communities, low value placed on children and individual well-being, the overexposure to
television as a means of recreation.
Alcohol and substance abuse are often associated with criminal behavior. Many offenders are
under the influence of drugs or alcohol when offenses are committed. Regular alcohol use during
adolescence can lead to higher conviction rates in adulthood. To a lesser extent, research speaks
of the influence of television and other multi-media on the behavior of children. There is also
some evidence that there are links between diet and violent behavior.
The CSCPC believes that families are uniquely placed in contributing to raising healthy
responsible members of society. But the task of putting children first goes well beyond the
family to include communities and society. Dysfunctional family conditions contribute to future
There is a direct link between the abuse of women and child abuse and future delinquent
behavior. This link is well researched and documented and shows that over 50% of violent
young offenders witnessed wife abuse in the home. Physically abused children are five times
more likely to be violent adults. Sexually abused children are eight times more likely to be
sexually violent as adults.
It has been estimated that up to 80% of incarcerated males have experienced some form of
physical or sexual abuse as a child.
Lack of parental supervision, parental rejection and lack of parent-child involvement are
consistent indicators of delinquent behavior. Parenting that features inconsistent, incoherent,
overly punitive or too permissive methods of discipline also increase the risk of delinquency.
Studies show that unwanted pregnancy and teen pregnancy create higher risk factors
towards criminality. Ineffective parenting encourages youth to associate with peers who are
involved in criminal activities. At the risk of oversimplifying a complex problem, research
suggests that there is a direct link between dysfunctional parenting and the tendency for the
youth to associate with delinquent peers.
As children, offenders are less successful in school, have lower attendance rates and are more
likely to leave school early than their peers. Early school leavers experience many difficulties,
the most obvious being unemployment or under-employment. Canadian studies show that 40%
of federal inmates have a learning disability which remained undetected throughout their
Studies from Bangkok's slums have shown that fifty percent of married women were regularly beaten up by their partners; in Sri Lanka, sixty percent of women interviewed had been subjected to domestic violence; in Papua New Guinea, over half of urban women have been beaten by their partners; in Colombo, 51 percent of battered women reported that their husbands used a weapon during their attacks; and even in Japan, a 1993 survey found that 59 percent of battered women were also raped by their partners. Wife beating is said to occur in all ethnic, socioeconomic and religious groups and is found to be more prevalent in rural areas and urban slums (Ref.24 & 25).
The primary consequence is the development of a generalised and not often objective feeling of insecurity, common in many urban populations. This perception crystallises all the fears of the population (insecurity with respect to employment, health, the future of children, domestic violence, and the risk of impoverishment etc.). It arises from an impression of abandonment, powerlessness and the incomprehension in the face of shocking crime and the multiplication of minor acts of delinquency or vandalism. Because of its emotional character this perception blows facts out of proportion, encourages rumour and can even causes social conflicts. The feeling of generalised fear can create a climate that may threaten the democratic foundation of a community or society.
At the city level, perception of insecurity has resulted in the abandonment of certain neighbourhoods, the development of an "architecture of fear ", the stigmatisation of districts or communities, the withdrawal or the refusal to invest in some cities, and spontaneous forms of justice leading to lynching. More positively, however, it has also led to the development of forms of self-defence and new social practices.
The second consequence of the increase of crime is the impact of insecurity on the poor. While all social classes are affected by insecurity, research shows that insecurity affects the poor more intensely because they do not have the means to defend themselves. Consequently, due to this vulnerability, urban violence erodes the social capital of the poor, and dismantles their organisations, thus preventing social mobility and particularly that of the youth.