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The Social Dimensions of Crime PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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The Social Dimensions of Crime. Class and Crime Age and Crime Gender and Crime. Class and Crime. Until the 1960s , the main way of measuring delinquency – arrest data Based on those, low-class juveniles are more likely to be arrested or come in contact with the police

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The Social Dimensions of Crime

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The Social Dimensions of Crime

Class and Crime

Age and Crime

Gender and Crime

Class and Crime

  • Until the 1960s , the main way of measuring delinquency – arrest data

  • Based on those, low-class juveniles are more likely to be arrested or come in contact with the police

  • Self-reports challenged a fundamental belief about the relationship between social class and crime

Results of self-reports

  • There are few or no class differences in most types of minor delinquency (public disorder crimes, status offenses, petty theft, drunkenness, etc)

  • The lower class, on average, is more likely to engage in serious delinquency (sexual assault, aggravated assault, robbery, vandalism, burglary, etc.)

  • The reason for that lower-class juveniles have a higher average rate of serious delinquency is that there are more high-rate offenders in the lower class

Class and Delinquency

  • The lower class has a higher average rate of serious crime not because the typical lower-class juveniles n more involved in serious crime, but because most of the serious crimes are committed by a SMALL group of low-class juveniles.

Race and Crime

  • Arrest data indicate that Blacks are more likely to engage in most forms of delinquency than whites

  • Self-reports show that Blacks and Whites report similar levels of minor delinquency

  • Blacks are more likely to evolve in serious delinquency

  • The average rate of serious crime among Blacks is higher because there are more high-rate offenders among Blacks

Age and Crime

  • Age is inversely related to criminality

  • Younger people (regardless class, race, sex) commit crime more often than their older peers

Teens experience the highest rates of victimization

What do we know from criminological research about Age and Crime? (Farrington, 2003)

  • Prevalence of offending peaks in the late teenage years (between 15 and 19)

  • The peak age of onset of offending is between 8 and 14

  • The peak of desistance from offending is between 20 and 29

Age and Crime: explanations

  • Opportunities for criminal behavior

  • Lifestyle factors

  • Socialization

  • Social Control Agencies

  • Police Strategies

  • Judicial behavior

  • Social visibility

Opportunities for criminal behavior

  • More young people (aged 14 – 25) live in urban areas which provides more opportunities for crime: more shops, offices, businesses, cars, houses etc.

  • Young people have less responsibilities

  • Young are rarely in positions of authority

  • Middle and upper class youth have fewer opportunities for crime because they are more-likely to be in full-time education up to age of 21 / 22 than working class youth

  • Working class youth more-likely to be in low-paid, low skill work (or unemployed). Criminal behaviour may be used as a source of excitement as well as money.

Lifestyle factors

  • The young are the most-frequent users of pubs and clubs

  • Young people are more-likely to be involved in public drinking, clubbing, etc.

  • Thus, young people are more-likely than the elderly to find themselves in an environment conducive to crime


  • Conformity to peer group behaviour and pressure may promote deviance. This is particularly likely among young people, where peer pressure may encourage them to adopt forms of deviant behaviour (such as truancy or underage drinking).

  • For some young people, crime / deviance may be a source of social status within a peer or family group

  • The ability to commit skilful crimes or be the “hardest” person in a group, for example, may confer status that is denied young people in society.

  • Working class socialisation may suggest some forms of crime are “not really crimes” (receiving stolen goods, for example).

Social Control Agencies

  • Risk-taking and “thumbing their nose” at authority may be characteristics of the young which are more-likely to lead them into crime.

  • If opportunities for deviance are denied, then crime cannot occur. For example, young women are given less freedom by their families than young men which means they will have fewer opportunities to commit crimes.

Police Strategies

  • Just like everyone else, the police have an ideological conception of both crime and criminals

  • That is, they have ideas about who is most likely to commit certain types of crime

  • Young males need to be policed because of their heavy involvement (and arrest / conviction) in crime.

  • Young people have less status in our society which may lead the police to police their behaviour more closely / heavily.

Judicial behavior

  • Young people (especially working class) are less-likely to be able to afford expensive legal representation

  • Young people have fewer social responsibilities which means any conviction/ imprisonment will have less impact on others (such as young children)

  • “Deal with a problem before it’s too late” approach

  • Young, working class, men stereotyped as “real criminals”

Social visibility

  • Much youth crime is unsophisticated and unplanned. It is, therefore, more-likely to be witnessed than more-sophisticated crimes

  • “ If police stereotype young people as “potential criminals” they will police them more closely because they are more socially visible (an older person committing a tax fraud, on the other hand, may be socially invisible.

  • Large amounts of petty youth crimes take place in public places (clubs, the street, etc.) where deviance is more-likely to be witnessed

Gender and Crime

  • Women commit a smaller share of all crimes

  • Their crimes are fewer, less serious, more rarely professional and less likely to be repeated

  • Females are less likely to be arrested if they cry, express concern for their children, or claim to be “led” by men (DeFleur, 1990)

  • In consequence, women formed a small proportion of prison populations

The gender distribution of homicide victims and offenders differs by type of homicide

Women are particularly at risk for intimate killings, sex-related homicides, and murder by arson or poison.Women are more likely to commit murder as a result of an argument

Violent crime rates declined for both males and females since 1994.

Violent crimes included are homicide, rape, robbery, and both simple and aggravated assault.

Changes in Gender Gap

  • UCR show that women are making substantial gains on men in violent crime levels.

  • For example, from 1980 to 2003, the female percentage of all arrests increased:

    • from 1/5 to 1/3 for simple or misdemeanor assault

    • from 1/6 to 1/4 for aggravated or felony assault

    • from 1/10 to 1/5 for the Violent Crime Index (sum of homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault arrests)

Two different explanations for that

  • Changes in women’s lives, such as greater freedom and increased stress, have led to profound shifts in their propensities or opportunities to commit violent crimes

  • Instead of a rising tide of female violence, perhaps arrest policies have became less tolerant. This is particularly so because women always have been more violent than their weak and passive stereotype would suggest (Chesney-Lind, 2002).

Gender and Crime: explanations

  • Opportunities for criminal behavior

  • Lifestyle factors

  • Socialization

  • Social Control Agencies

  • Police Strategies

  • Judicial behavior

  • Social visibility

Opportunities for criminal behavior

  • Women tend to occupy less powerful positions within an organisation. Hence, they generally have less opportunity for committing "white-collar" crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, etc.

  • They are more-likely to be subject to close supervision, have less opportunity for acting on their own initiative

  • Women are more-likely than men to have primary responsibility for child-care, which restricts opportunities for various types of criminal behaviour

Lifestyle factors

  • Men more-likely to out at night, in clubs, pubs, etc. where alcohol / illegal drugs are used

  • May lead to “loss of control” and relatively minor forms of crime as well as violence.

  • Women are less likely to be in public areas at night

  • Women tend to have fewer friends and a single boyfriend


  • Male gender socialization prompts men to be more aggressive and more-likely to solve problems using violence.

  • Female gender socialization prompts women to be less aggressive and more-likely to seek non-violent solutions to problems.

  • Peer pressure: Different influences for males (eg gang / street-corner behaviour) and females

  • Male socialisation stresses active, individualistic, behaviour

  • Female socialisation stresses passive, sharing / caring, behaviour


  • Media emphasises male role as “breadwinner” / “family provider” may increase pressure on men.

  • Media emphasises female role as “carer” decreases pressure on women to act as family provider.

  • Women are likely to be viewed in terms of traditional sex-role stereotypes, as unreliable, emotional, illogical and so on

  • Males tend to see the crimes they commit as too dangerous for women, or too difficult, or their masculine pride may not be willing to accept women as organisers of crime, as 'bosses'".

Social Control Agencies

  • Females are more likely to be supervised by parents and other adults

  • Females are more likely to be attached to parents

  • Females are more likely to be attached to school ( and do better in school)

Police Strategies

  • Police / courts more-willing to adopt a "medical model" of female crime

  • Whereby women who commit crimes are believed to be acting "abnormally";

  • So they therefore require treatment rather than punishment

  • Whereby women receive lighter punishment for their behaviour than men

  • Underestimation of female involvement in crime because of stereotyped beliefs about women held by powerful (male)

Judicial behavior

  • Courts may deal more-leniently with females: sometimes called the “Chivalry factor”

  • However, when women commit crimes that go against male stereotypes of femininity (violence, for example) women tend to be more harshly punished than men


  • Female forms of crime may be "less visible" to the police

  • This is especially true in relation to crimes of violence, where women tend to be the victims rather than the perpetrators (especially in relation to domestic violence where it is estimated that 95% of violence within the family is directed by males at females

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