13 minutes of reading
Explaining crimes, physical abnormalities, psychological disorders, social and economic factors, broken windows, income and education
How do some people decide to commit a crime? Do they think about the benefits and risks? Why do some people commit crimes regardless of the consequences? Why do others never commit a crime, no matter how desperate their circumstances? Criminology is the study of crime and criminals by specialists called criminologists. Criminologists study what causes crime and how it can be prevented.
Throughout history, people have tried to explain what causes abnormal social behavior, including crime. Efforts to control "bad" behavior date back to the Code of Hammurabi in ancient Babylon some 3,700 years ago. Later, in the 17th century, European settlers in North America considered crime and sin to be the same thing. They believed that evil spirits possessed those who didn't conform to social norms or follow the rules. To maintain social order in the settlements, people who exhibited antisocial behavior had to be dealt with quickly and often severely.
In the 21st century, criminologists have looked at a wide range of factors to explain why a person would commit crimes. These include biological, psychological, social and economic factors.Throughout history, people have tried to explain why a person would commit crimes. Some consider a life of crime better than a regular job, at least until they get caught.
Reasons for committing a crime include greed, anger, jealousy, revenge or pride. Some people decide to commit a crime and carefully plan everything in advance to increase profit and decrease risk. These people are making decisions about their behavior; some even consider a life of crime better than a regular job: they believe that crime brings greater rewards, admiration and excitement, at least until they get caught. Others feel an adrenaline rush when they successfully carry out a dangerous crime. Others commit crimes on impulse, out of anger or fear.
The desire for material gain (money or expensive possessions) leads to property crimes such as burglary, larceny, white-collar crime, and car theft. The desire for control, revenge or power leads to violent crimes like murder, assault and rape. These violent crimes often occur on impulse or out of the blue when emotions are running high. Property crimes are often planned in advance.
Discourage the choice of crime
The purpose of punishment is to dissuade a person from committing a crime. Punishment is supposed to make criminal behavior less attractive and more risky. Imprisonment and loss of income is a major hardship for many people. Another way to influence choice is to make crime more difficult or reduce opportunities. This can be as simple as improved lighting, locking bars on car steering wheels, the presence of guard dogs, or high-tech upgrades such as security systems and credit card photos.
A person who assesses crime risks considers factors such as how many police officers are in sight at the location where the crime will occur. Studies of New York City records between 1970 and 1999 have shown that as the city's police force grew, fewer crimes were committed. However, a change in a city's police force is often linked to its economic health. Typically, as unemployment rises, city revenues decline because fewer people pay taxes. This causes cutbacks in city services, including the police force. Therefore, an increase in criminal activity may not be due to fewer police officers, but rather to increased unemployment.
Home security consultant consultation with client. Security systems and vigilantes can make crime more difficult or reduce the chances of it occurring.
Another means of deterring people from choosing criminal activity is length of incarceration. After the 1960s, many believed that more prisons and longer sentences would deter crime. However, despite the dramatic increase in the number of arrests and the imposition of long mandatory sentences, the number of crimes continued to rise. The number of violent crimes doubled from 1970 to 1998. Property crimes increased from 7.4 million to 11 million, while the number of people incarcerated in state and federal prisons increased from 290,000 in 1977 to over 1.2 million in 1998. effect to discourage criminal behavior.
Cleckley's ideas about sociopathy were adopted in the 1980s to describe a "cycle of violence" or pattern found in family histories. A "cycle of violence" is where people who grow up with abuse or antisocial behavior at home will be much more likely to mistreat their own children, who will in turn follow the same pattern.
Children who are neglected or abused are more likely to commit crimes in the future than others. Likewise, childhood sexual abuse often leads these victims to become sexual predators as adults. Many death row inmates have a history of some form of serious abuse. Child neglect and abuse often progress over several generations. The cycle of abuse, crime and sociopathy keeps repeating itself.
Children who are neglected or abused commit many more crimes later in life than others.
The conception of the cycle of violence, based on the quality of relationships in the first years of life, has a positive counterpart. Loving, supportive parents who respond to their children's basic needs instill self-confidence and interest in social settings. These children are generally well adapted to interacting with others and are much less likely to commit crimes.
At the end of the 20th century, the general public did not accept that criminal behavior was a psychological disorder, but rather a deliberate action. The public clamor for more arrests and tougher sentences has outpaced the rehabilitation and treatment of criminals. However, 21st century investigators have continued to view psychological stress as a driving force behind some crimes.
Heredity and brain activity.
The search for the origins of antisocial personality disorders and their influence on crime led to studies of twins and adopted children in the 1980s. Identical twins have exactly the same genetic makeup. The researchers found that identical twins were twice as likely to have similar criminal behavior than fraternal twins who have similar but not identical genes, just like two brothers. Other research indicated that adopted children had greater similarities in crime rates with their biological parents than with their adoptive parents. These studies suggested a genetic basis for some criminal behavior.
Prisoner in California being prepped for a lobotomy in 1961. At the time, many psychiatrists believed that criminal behavior was lodged in certain parts of the brain, and lobotomies were often performed on prisoners.
With new advances in medical technology, the search for biological causes of criminal behavior has become more sophisticated. In 1986, psychologist Robert Hare identified a connection between certain brain activities and antisocial behavior. He found that criminals experienced fewer brain reactions to dangerous situations than most people. He believed that such brain function could lead to greater risks in life, and some criminals would not fear punishment as much as others.
Studies related to brain activity and crime continued into the early 21st century. Tests with advanced instruments have probed the inner workings of the brain. Using techniques called computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET), researchers looked for links between brain activity and the tendency to commit crimes. Each of these tests can reveal brain activity.
Brain activity research investigated the role of neurochemicals, substances released by the brain to trigger bodily activity, and hormones in influencing criminal behavior. Studies indicate that increasing levels of some neurochemicals, such as serotonin, decreases aggression. Serotonin is a substance produced by the central nervous system that has broad effects on an individual's emotional state. In contrast, higher levels of others, such as dopamine, increase aggression. Dopamine is produced by the brain and affects heart rate and blood pressure. The researchers expected to find that people who have committed violent crimes have reduced levels of serotonin and higher levels of dopamine. This condition would have led to periods of heightened activity, including aggression, if the person was prone to aggression.
In the early 21st century, researchers continued to investigate the relationship between neurochemicals and antisocial behavior, but the connections proved complicated. Studies have shown, for example, that even body size can influence the effects of neurochemicals and behavior.
Hormones are substances in the body that affect the functioning of the body's organs. The researchers also looked at the relationship between hormones, such as testosterone and cortisol, and criminal behavior. Testosterone is a sex hormone produced by the male sex organs that causes the development of male body characteristics. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands located near the kidneys that affects how quickly the digestive system processes food. Higher levels of cortisol bring more glucose to the brain for increased energy, such as during times of stress or danger. Animal studies have shown a strong link between high testosterone levels and aggressive behavior. Testosterone measurements in prison populations also showed relatively high levels in prison inmates compared to the general US adult male population.
Studies of sex offenders in Germany have shown that those who received testosterone-depleting treatment as part of their sentence became repeat offenders only 3% of the time. This rate was in stark contrast to the usual 46% repeat rate. These and similar studies indicate that testosterone may have a major influence on criminal behavior.
Cortisol is another hormone linked to criminal behavior. Research suggests that when cortisol levels are high, a person's attention is sharp and they are physically active. Conversely, researchers found that low cortisol levels were associated with short attention spans, lower levels of activity, and were often linked to antisocial behavior, including crime. Studies of violent adults have shown lower levels of cortisol; some believe this low level serves to desensitize the offender to the usual fear associated with committing a crime and possibly getting caught.
It's difficult to isolate brain activity from social and psychological factors, as well as the effects of substance abuse, parental relationships and upbringing. However, since some offenders are driven by factors far beyond their control, punishment will not be an effective deterrent. Help and treatment become the primary responses.
Consistent with Merton's earlier sociological theories, a survey of state prison inmates in the late 1990s showed very low levels of education. Many could not read or write above elementary school levels, if at all. The most common crimes committed by these inmates were burglary, theft, car theft, drug dealing, and shoplifting. Due to his low education, his work history consisted mainly of low-paying jobs with frequent spells of unemployment.
Employment at or below the minimum wage does not help deter criminal activity. Even with government social services such as public housing, food stamps and medical care, a minimum wage family's income is still not enough to meet basic needs. People must choose between long-term continued low income and the prospect of lucrative crime. Getting higher education is, of course, another option, but classes can be expensive and time-consuming. While education can offer the opportunity for better employment, it does not always overcome the effects of abuse, poverty or other limiting factors.
A person's peer group strongly influences the decision to commit a crime. For example, boys and girls who do not meet expected standards of academic performance or who do not participate in sports or social programs can sometimes becomeCrack pipe displayed by the police. Drugs and alcohol impair judgment and lower inhibitions, giving the elderly the courage to commit a crime.
Like society in general, criminal gangs are often focused on material gain. Gangs, however, resort to extortion, fraud, and theft as a means of achieving this. The fear of youth, particularly children, of joining gangs influenced many government projects in the last half of the 20th century, including the "War on Crime" programs of President Lyndon Johnson (1908-1973; served 1963-1969).
drugs and alcohol
Some social factors exert an especially strong influence on a person's ability to make decisions. Drug and alcohol abuse is one such factor. The impulse to commit a crime to maintain the drug addiction definitely influences the decision-making process. Both drugs and alcohol impair judgment and lower inhibitions (socially defined rules of behavior), giving the elderly the courage to commit a crime. Impediments, such as long prison terms, mean little when a person is high or drunk.
Substance abuse, often alcohol-related, triggers "stranger violence," a crime in which the victim is unrelated to the perpetrator. Such an occurrence might involve a confrontation in a bar or other public place where the abuser and victim are at the same time. Criminologists estimate that the perpetrator's use of alcohol or drugs is behind 30 to 50 percent of violent crimes, such as murder, sexual assault, and robbery. Additionally, drugs or alcohol can make the victim a more vulnerable target for an offender by being less aware of activities around them and perhaps visiting an isolated or dimly lit area that is not normally frequented, perhaps to purchase drugs.
The idea that drug and alcohol abuse can be a major factor in a person's life is the reason why there are numerous treatment programs for young people dependent on these substances. Treatment focuses on positive support to influence a person's future decision-making and reduce the tendency toward antisocial and delinquent behavior.
Another factor that many criminologists consider critical to making the life of crime easier is the availability of firearms in American society. Many firearms used in crimes are either stolen or illegally purchased (purchased on the so-called "black market"). Firearms provide a simple means of committing crimes while also allowing criminals to get away or get away from their victims. Of the 400,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 1998, more than 330,000 involved firearms. In the early 21st century, firearm use was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.
Likewise, the greater availability of free information on the Internet also facilitates the commission of certain types ofIn the early 21st century, firearm use was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States.
For more information
Arrigo, Bruce A., ed.Social Justice, Criminal Justice.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1999.
Bowlby, John.A secure base: parent-infant attachment and human health Under development.Nova York: Basic Books, 1988.
Cleckley, Hervey.The mask of sanity.Nova York: New American Library, 1982.
Cohen Albert K.Delinquent Boys: Gang Culture.Nova York: Free Press, 1955.
Curran, Daniel J. and Claire M. Renzetti.Crime theories.Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2001.
FleisherMark S.Beggars and Thieves: Lives of Urban Street Criminals.Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1995.
Karr-Morse, Robin e Meredith S. Wiley.Kindergarten ghosts: tracing the roots of violence.Nueva York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1997.
Lombroso, Cesar.Crime: its causes and solutions.Montclair, Nova Jersey: Patterson Smith, 1968.
Renzetti, Claire M. and Lynne Goodstein, eds.Women, Crime and Criminal Justice.Los Angeles: Roxbury, 2001.
Criminal Justice. http://www.wadsworth.com/criminaljustice_d/(Accessed August 19, 2004).
- Children's rights: child protection, child care, child labor, kidnapping and abduction, forms of child abuse
- Causality: role of causality in criminal law, conventional analysis of causality in law, problems with conventional analysis
- Causes of the crime - Explaining the crime
- Causes of Crime - Physical Anomalies
- Causes of Crime - Psychological Disorders
- Causes of crime: social and economic factors
- Causes of crime: broken windows
- Causes of crime: income and education
- Causes of crime: a matter of choice
- Causes of crime: the complexities of crime
- Other free encyclopedias
Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law
The causes of crime are complex. Poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse can be connected to why people break the law.What are the 10 causes of crime according to criminological theories? ›
In the late twentieth century criminologists studied various factors that may influence a person's decision to commit a crime. These included the risk of arrest and punishment (deterrence), parental relations, peer pressure, education, brain function, body chemistry, substance abuse, and the availability of weapons.What are the four major types of explanations of crime? ›
While there are many different sociological theories about crime, there are four primary perspectives about deviance: Structural Functionalism, Social Strain Typology, Conflict Theory, and Labeling Theory.What are the 7 types of crime? ›
- Antisocial behaviour. Antisocial behaviour is when you feel intimidated or distressed by a person's behaviour towards you.
- Arson. ...
- Burglary. ...
- Childhood abuse. ...
- Crime abroad. ...
- Cybercrime and online fraud. ...
- Domestic abuse. ...
attachment and delinquent peer influence on crime
Family factors may be the main reason individuals get involved in crime but drug dependence may be the main distinguishing factor between those who offend frequently and those who offend only occasionally.
The five basic steps in the crime analysis process include the collection, categorization, analysis, dissemination, and evaluation of information. The reports and forms for use in each step of information-gathering and analysis are explained and illustrated.What are the seven 7 theories of crime? ›
- Biological theories.
- Economic theories.
- Psychological theories.
- Political theories.
- Sociological theories.
- Strain theory.
- Social learning theory.
- Control theory.
- The criminal act, known as actus reus.
- A guilty mind, often called "intent", or mens rea.
- A coincidence between the actus reus or the crime, and mens rea, or the intent.
- Causation; the act committed must have caused the event that led to the crime.
- Harm. ...
- Legality. ...
There are four basic aspects of psychological theories of crime, which say that crime is a result of failures in psychological development, learned behaviors of aggression and violence, inherent personality traits, and the relationship of criminality to mental illness.How does poverty cause crime? ›
Poverty can also produce violent crimes because force is an easy way to get a large quantity of goods. Many impoverished criminals feel the hope of treasures is worth the possibility of being caught. Thus, poverty causes desire, and in turn, increases the crime rate (“Poverty and Crime” 1).
Crime is a concept that exists along with the creation of mankind. It is an act or omission of an act which causes harm to the society as a whole and causes disturbance and panic in the society. Such an act is punishable by the criminal laws.Which theory is best at explaining crime? ›
Criminological theories focus on explaining the causes of crime. They explain why some people commit a crime, identify risk factors for committing a crime, and can focus on how and why certain laws are created and enforced.What are the three types of crimes explain each? ›
Crimes receive different classifications according to their severity. The mildest crimes are known as infractions, more serious crimes are known as misdemeanors, and the most serious crimes are known as felonies.What are the three explanation theories of crime? ›
The psychodynamic theory centers on a person's early childhood experience and how it influences the likelihood for committing crime. Behavioral theory focuses on how perception of the world influences behavior. And cognitive theory focuses on how people manifest their perceptions can lead to a life of crime.What are the 6 elements of a crime? ›
The elements of a crime are criminal act, criminal intent, concurrence, causation, harm, and attendant circumstances. Only crimes that specify a bad result have the elements of causation and harm.What is the most common crime? ›
Theft or larceny is the most common type of property crime. It's estimated that someone is a victim of theft every 5.5 seconds. The next most common crime is burglary, which involves breaking and entering.What are examples of crime? ›
- Cybercrime. Anyone using the internet can be a victim of cyber crime. ...
- Youth crime. ...
- Human smuggling and human trafficking. ...
- Illegal posession of firearms. ...
- Cannabis cultivation. ...
- Fraud. ...
- Real estate. ...
- Benefit fraud.
Improving surveillance around homes, businesses or public places to deter criminals. Ensuring your property and wider community looks cared for. Changing our habits by setting rules and positioning signage in appropriate locations. Increasing the likelihood that an offender will be caught to prevent crime occurring.What are the main elements of crime? ›
In general, a crime consists of four elements: a mental state, conduct, concurrence, and causation. Crimes are defined by statutes, which are laws passed by legislatures. Statutes set forth the specific elements of each crime. Not all crimes are the same, as the statutes dictate which elements constitute a given crime.What are the main 3 factors of crime? ›
The Crime Triangle identifies three factors that create a criminal offense. Desire of a criminal to commit a crime; Target of the criminal's desire; and the Opportunity for the crime to be committed. You can break up the Crime Triangle by not giving the criminal the Opportunity.
69) identifies fifteen characteristics of organized crime: 1) practice of illicit activities; 2) clandestine activities; 3) organizational hierarchy; 4) pursuit of profit; 5) division of labor; 6) use of violence; 7) symbiosis with the State; 8) illicit merchandise; 9) corporate planning; 10) use of intimidation; 11) ...What are the different stages of crime? ›
In case of every crime, Firstly there is an intention to commit it, Secondly, preparation to commit it, Thirdly, attempt to commit it and Lastly the accomplishment.What are two important elements of a crime? ›
It is generally agreed that the essential ingredients of any crime are (1) a voluntary act or omission (actus reus), accompanied by (2) a certain state of mind (mens rea). An act may be any kind of voluntary human behaviour.Why is it important to know the causes of crime? ›
However, it is still important to study this particular subject so that society can attempt to properly deal with the most important law enforcement task, that of crime prevention. Only by learning why certain people commit certain crimes can a society or a community act to stop them.Is crime due to poverty? ›
It isn't that poverty causes crime, but rather that more affluent people avoid violent conflict, in effect, ceding the field to the poor. Both Left and Right agree, correctly, that the movement of minorities into the middle class will reduce crime. They disagree, however, about the best way to get there.Is poverty the main cause of crime essay? ›
Poverty's effects on crime can be due to a variety of reasons. Society of the poor has a higher crime rate as they face starvation, impoverished family background and failed government policies. Firstly, the effects of poverty are inextricably linked with the hunger scene, which is a form of craving food.How does poverty affect education? ›
These factors often place more stress on a student, which can negatively impact the student's ability to succeed in a school. Students living in poverty often have fewer resources at home to complete homework, study, or engage in activities that helps equip them for success during the school day.Is crime made or born? ›
Research data are increasingly supporting the view that the causes of crime lie in a combination of predisposing biological traits channeled by social circumstances into criminal behavior. These traits alone do not inevitably lead to crime, however. Similarly, the circumstances do not make criminals of everyone.What are five effects of crime? ›
Or you might have feelings that come and go, like:
A crime is an offence that merits community condemnation and punishment, usually by way of fine or imprisonment. This is different from a civil wrong (a tort), which is an action against an individual that requires compensation or restitution.
The Oxford Dictionary of Sociology defines crime in a more complex way: 'an offence which goes beyond the personal and into the public sphere, breaking prohibitory rules or laws, to which legitimate punishments or sanctions are attached, and which requires the intervention of a public authority. 'What are the 4 examples of crime against a person? ›
The category of crimes against people includes such crimes as murder, rape, assault, child abuse, and sexual harassment.What are the 7 violent crimes? ›
In the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses that involve force or threat of force.What are the 12 crimes against humanity? ›
- Enslavement. Deportation or forcible transfer of population.
- Sexual violence.
- Persecution against an identifiable group.
- Enforced disappearance of persons.
Many types of crime exist. Criminologists commonly group crimes into several major categories: (1) violent crime; (2) property crime; (3) white-collar crime; (4) organized crime; and (5) consensual or victimless crime. Within each category, many more specific crimes exist.What are the six elements of crime? ›
The elements of a crime are criminal act, criminal intent, concurrence, causation, harm, and attendant circumstances. Only crimes that specify a bad result have the elements of causation and harm.What are the 3 main categories of crime? ›
The categories are usually "felony," "misdemeanor," and "infraction." Decisions on crime classification are made by state legislators; the determination focuses on the seriousness of the crime.How can we fight crime? ›
- Target Hardening. Making your property harder for an offender to access. ...
- Target Removal. Ensuring that a potential target is out of view. ...
- Reducing the Means. ...
- Reducing the Payoff. ...
- Access Control. ...
- Surveillance. ...
- Environmental Change. ...
- Rule Setting.
In general, a crime consists of four elements: a mental state, conduct, concurrence, and causation. Crimes are defined by statutes, which are laws passed by legislatures. Statutes set forth the specific elements of each crime. Not all crimes are the same, as the statutes dictate which elements constitute a given crime.What are 3 examples of crimes against the person? ›
Crimes Against Persons, e.g., murder, rape, and assault, are those whose victims are always individuals.
Crime is behavior, either by act or omission, defined by statutory or common law as deserving of punishment. Although most crimes require the element of intent, certain minor crimes may be committed on the basis of strict liability even if the defendant had no specific mindset with regard to the criminal action.What is the most important element of a crime? ›
Criminal intent (Mens Rea)
In order for a criminal act to qualify as a crime, the mental state of the perpetrator must be taken into consideration. The theory of mens rea dictates that a defendant can only be held culpable when there is criminal intent.