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Introduction to Criminal Justice . Chapter Two. The Study of Crime. Criminology, the study of crime, gives us many philosophies as to why people break the law There is a difference between--- Correlation: Two variables that tend to vary together (Washing car)

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the study of crime
The Study of Crime
  • Criminology, the study of crime, gives us many philosophies as to why people break the law
  • There is a difference between---

Correlation: Two variables that tend to vary together (Washing car)

Causation: One variable is responsible for the change in another (gun wound)

theories of crime
Theories of Crime
  • Criminologists have developed theories:

---Designed as explanations of happenings or circumstances, based on observation, experimentation and reasoning

---Researchers test theories to determine their validity

---Primarily concerned with reasons behind criminal behavior, but can provide practical guidelines for the criminal justice system

choice theories wilson
Choice Theories (Wilson)
  • Before criminal act, person weighs benefits vs. costs
  • Likely to commit crime when perceived benefits are greater (Bank Robbery example)
  • Cornerstone of American criminal justice
  • Severe punishment may deter crime
  • Supports mandatory sentences, death penalty
trait theories
Trait Theories
  • Physical characteristics identified criminals (Lambroso)
  • Biological and psychological traits could incline persons toward criminal behavior
    • Biochemical conditions
    • “Phrenology”---Bumps on the head
    • The hormone testosterone
    • Psychopaths---Unable to experience human emotions, control impulses
    • Problematic theories
trait theories6
Trait Theories
  • Suggest anti-social behavior should be identified and treated before becomes criminal activity
  • There is a danger in this– should we do it?
  • Mood altering drugs have been used
  • Group and individual therapies
  • Favors rehabilitative practices (closer to the old medical model)
sociological theories
Sociological Theories
  • Crime is a result of social conditions in a person’s environment.
  • Social Disorganization Theory (Shaw and McKay) said high crime neighborhoods in Chicago were characterized by disorganization. (Fig. 2.1, p. 33)
  • Breakdowns of traditional institutions of social control in those areas
sociological theories8
Sociological Theories
  • Disadvantaged because of poverty or racial discrimination more likely to commit crime
  • Normal avenues of success cut off
  • Changing those negative conditions can prevent crime; e.g.---

---Decrease unemployment

---Reduce poverty

---Improve education in low income areas

  • Question: Then why does crime happen in “good” neighborhoods?
social process theories
Social Process Theories
  • Major influences on individuals are interactions which dominate everyday life
  • Learning Theory (Sutherland)---Crime is learned behavior; “Teacher” is usually a family member or friend
  • Labeling Theory---Someone labeled criminal is more likely to consider himself as such
  • Society “creates” criminals by labeling certain behaviors
  • Policies focus on removing juveniles from formal system to avoid label (Diversion)
social conflict theories
Social Conflict Theories
  • Power: Ability of one person or group to control economic or social positions of others
  • Key component in explaining crime
  • Capitalism leads to high levels of crime due to disparity of income it produces.
  • Laws reflect values of the power holders, who use the system to hold that power.
  • One theory---Women were traditionally confined to domestic roles, and did not have opportunities to commit crimes
life course theories
Life Course Theories
  • Deviant behavior (lying, stealing, bullying, conduct problems) in childhood are strongest predictors of future criminal behavior.
  • Crime linked to “low self control”---Trait formed in childhood (Hirsch)
  • Impulsive, thrill seeking, solves problems with violence
  • Poor parenting
  • Is there one single


to why crime?

Which one do you

think best?

experience of being a victim
Experience of Being a Victim
  • Victim previously described as “causative” element, often consciously or unconsciously provoking the criminal act
  • 1970’s---Concentrated on physical, emotional and economic damages suffered by victim
  • Some data---Same persons tend to be victims and offenders
  • Being a victim may lead to future criminal behavior
  • Heavy drinkers at great risk of assault when drinking, but no greater risk when sober
identifying victims
Identifying Victims
  • National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) identifies categories who are at most risk to be victimized.
  • Criminologists can explore how aspects of their lives affect the probability of being a victim.
victims rights
Victims’ Rights
  • Movement began with feminist groups’ rape crisis centers in 1970’s
  • Advocates decry “system revictimization”
  • Nearly 30,000 victim-friendly laws passed in last 20 years, which focused on:

---Enabling victim to receive restitution

---Allowing victim to participate in prosecution and sentencing of offender

---Protecting victims from harassment or abuse from criminal justice system.

small group
Small Group
  • What would it feel

like to be a victim?

2) Of the various types of crime? Violent, Sexual

Assault, Theft, etc.

3) How would it make you feel toward the various parts of the system? (Police, prosecutors, court, corrections)

the chronic offender
The Chronic Offender
  • Criminological research established idea of chronic offender.
  • Small proportion of offenders (6%) responsible for large amount of violent crime
  • Has allowed police, courts, corrections to devise specific strategies to apprehend, prosecute and monitor these offenders
serial killers
Serial Killers
  • Our knowledge of serial killers in inadequate.
  • Problem lies with serial killers’ motives
    • Most violent crime is instrumental---used to achieve a purpose
    • Serial killers are affective---for the “thrill of the kill”
    • Victim rarely has ties to serial killer
    • Often well-organized compared to other types
linkage blinders
“Linkage Blinders”
  • Exploited by serial killers
  • Most local police do not communicate with each other.
  • No means of knowing when similar murders occur in different areas
  • Killer can avoid detection by crossing state or county lines.
  • FBI established Violent Crime Application Program (VICAP) to collect, analyze and share data on violent crimes nationwide
motivation of serial killers
Motivation of Serial Killers
  • Some serial killers want to be in the public eye

---”Son of Sam,” “Zodiac Killer,” and “BTK Killer” all sent letters to media.

---Need to distinguish themselves as they cannot do in their every day lives

  • Each killer is unique---unable to provide many clues to actions of other murderers