They explain crime in terms of three concepts.
Relative deprivation (Like Mertons strain theory) may lead to crime. This is when certain groups may feel that they are deprived of the consumer goods, incomes, life chances and opportunities that most people in their society share, through no fault of their own (Albert Cohen - Subculturalism) . Working class youths may compare themselves with middle class youth and Afro-Caribbean youths may compare themselves with white youths (Gilroy - Ethnicity). They may feel that they do not have the chance to share in the standard of living of the majority because of restricted opportunities and racism. Young blacks born in Britain will have been socialised by the media into aspiring for middle class lifestyles and consumption patterns, only to be denied them.
Marginalisation (Like Merton's strain theory) is when certain groups may feel pushed out of society with little chance to protest or power to change or improve their lives. They lack organisations to represent their interests in political life. Groups that are unemployed will have little access to Trade Unions, a traditional organisation that working class people used to negotiate better conditions and wages. Negative treatment by the police and authorities may increase their resentment of society. Lea and Young argue that marginal groups in society are particularly prone to the use of violence and riots as forms of political action.
Subcultures may be formed as a response to relative deprivation and marginalisation. This provides a collective solution (Opposite to Merton) to problems felt by a group and helps them cope. Working class and black youth may turn to drug pushing and street crimes as a group. Other solutions for some Afro-Caribbeans might be Rastafarianism or Pentecostalism.
The combination of these three factors can help explain crimes such as theft, burglary, mugging and also violent crimes, as relative deprivation can cause frustration. Relative deprivation can also help explain white collar crime as it can occur in all social classes.
They have conducted several local victim studies in poorer areas and presented their findings to the police so that police are aware of the fear of crime in these areas.
One of their main solutions is to improve policing in these areas. Kinsey, Lea and Young argue that the key to police success lies in improving their relationships with the community. They argue stop and search policies are largely ineffective as they rarely find anything and they antagonise the local people on whom the police rely - just find crime that would otherwise go unnoticed. They argue the police should spend more of their time trying to investigate crime.
They argue local residents are more aware than anyone of the problems and crimes in their areas. They therefore suggest that the police should work with young people to tackle the real issues of crime and that local committees should be set up with prominent members and the police to set police priorities in these areas.
There should be more investment in these areas to try to provide jobs with prospects, income inequalities should be reduced, and to improve the living standards of poorer families
Money should be spent on improving leisure facilities for the young, and providing community facilities which create a sense of belonging, such as skate parks.
They do not offer evidence to support their theory of crime. They did not research young people and their motives for crime.
There are criticisms of their emphasis on subcultures. It is doubtful whether there is just one set of mainstream values.