Thoughts on Crime
Crime is a social phenomenon generated by the conditions of public life. Crime is not just a social but also a psychological phenomenon. Since it does not exist without people, their behavior, and activity, it reflects not just a socially dangerous behavior of people but also the guilty behavior in the conditions when the violation of the criminal and the legal ban is not compelled (Bharadwaj). The given research paper will discuss the essence of crime on the example of a theft, why people break the law, the events and social processes that shape a theft as a crime as well as look at theft from the perspective of the age, gender, social class, education, ethnicity, and poverty.
The Essence of Crime
Crime is a social product that penetrates into the various spheres of society and public relations. At the same time, it possesses its specific characteristics and regularities of the development as a rather independent complex phenomenon. First, its characteristics do not change with the changes happening in society. Secondly, crimes automatically do not repeat the changes happening in society even through a certain period (Schmalleger and Volk 3). The new characteristics of crimes are always the result of their interaction with society and refractions of influences through their specific characteristics.
Crime is not only ontological but also a gnoseological social phenomenon. It is generated by the conditions of public life. In the sociology of deviant behavior, crimes are understood as a rather widespread statistically steady social phenomenon, a kind of the deviant behavior that has reached the degree of the public danger determined by the criminal law (Bharadwaj). The consideration of crime as the kind of deviant behavior allows studying the general reasons, genesis, regularities of all its forms, interrelations between the crime and other manifestations of deviant behavior, and makes it possible to find the general measures of social control.
Theft is a secret appropriation of somebody else’s propery. The victim of the theft does not know the intentions of a theif. This type of crime is committed with the mercenary purposes (Schmalleger and Volk 82). Irrespective of the size of the stolen property, during the criminal actions, the damage is caused to the owner. Therefore, theft is punished by the law (Peterson et al. 107). The objective sign of theft includes the approach of socially dangerous consequences in the form of property damage to the owner. Thefts are qualified by the degree of the direct losses. Theft victims have the right to demand the compensation for the stolen property as the result of theft (Schmalleger and Volk 82).
Why People Break the Law?
Psychological and social factors make people break the law. Loneliness and the rejection of a person by society are the first widely used psychological factors. It starts in the family where a child feels lonely. Later, it develops into bad relations with his peers in a kindergarten, school, or university. A person becomes closed and aggressive in the process of growing. Such people do not understand society with its laws and they join various criminal groups. Uncertainty, fear, and the desire of self-affirmation make the second factor. These qualities are formed in the childhood if parents are too strict to a child or if he or she faces the aggression of peers (Schmalleger and Volk 6). Over time, such a person develops an inferiority complex, and he protests in various ways that often lead to the violation of laws.
The definite psychological motives are also among the psychological factors promoting the crimes. Sometimes, there are situations when people commit a crime because of jealousy, revenge, or hatred. In this case, a criminal considers the crime as the act of punishment without thinking that the law has been broken. Finally, mental disorders also belong to the psychological factors. The mental disorder of the criminal is difficult to be proved. However, some mental disorders push people to the violation of laws. Such individuals do not understand what they do, but they can be put to prison or sent to the compulsory treatment for the crimes they have committed.
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There are also the social factors influencing the violations of laws. If the above-stated factors influenced an individual’s mentality from the childhood and he committed a crime, one could also find social reasons that would push such a person to break the law. The first factor is impunity and the influence of the different processes occurring in society. For example, a criminal cannot be caught and punished fully by the law. After committing one crime, a person commits even more crimes with confidence that nobody can ever punish him. In the countries where the compliance with the law acts as the highest value, a person will never break the law. Secondly, there is the aspiration to acquire material benefits in any way. Some people want to become rich in the lawful ways and they work hard. However, others with a low income level or in general without it want to grow rich in a legal way, but they are not successful. They are jealous of their rich acquaintances and thus, they commit a crime.
The motives pushing a person to commit a crime include self-defense, when the behavior of a victim is considered to be menacing, the need for the self-esteem, the increase of the own status and self-respect, as well as the game caused by the lack of emotions, risk, etc.
Events and Social Processes that Shape Crime
If the social and political organization of society and social institutes represent a rather constant, stable element of a public life, the processes continuously occurring in society represent the dynamics of the social development, actively influencing a state character of the organizational structure of society and the character of crime.
The demographic processes, such as a birth rate, mortality, the change of age cohorts, marriages, divorces, incomplete families, and various migration processes, economic processes, such as the growth or fall of production, unemployment, the level of consumption, and the changes of the systems of social values, tastes, preferences are referred to as the social events that shape crimes.
Thefts are caused by such processes as fast urbanization, industrialization, the disintegration of the rural communities – all those processes, characteristic of societies of the transition period, that lead to the sharp changes in the system of the interactions between people (Peterson et al. 107). The value of the research of the problems of crimes, in particular thefts, in the cities is connected with the increase of the urbanization tendencies of the rising number of the territorial communities and the emergence of the specific city problems in the sphere of social interactions of individuals.
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The Age of Thieves
The majority of the criminological researches state that younger people commit more thefts than the older ones. The earlier a person starts to commit crimes, the more there is the probability that he will become a criminal in the future. Therefore, the recurrent theft directly depends on the crime of minors. The analysis of the biographies of the criminals convincingly demonstrates that the vast majority of them began criminal activity at a teenage age (Van Mastrigt and Farrington 553). Many of them committed socially dangerous act having not reached the age of a criminal discretion.
The organized criminal groups consist mainly of people who, even before they turn 18, are repeatedly arrested by the law enforcement agencies as well as brought to the administrative and criminal responsibility. The organized crime is based on the crime of minors. Having become thieves at the teenage age, many people cannot stop, and their criminal behavior, communication with the other criminals, the isolation from the positive social groups, first of all, from a family and work, become a habitual way of life. In such a way, the criminals start their professional criminal career (Van Mastrigt and Farrington 554).
The Gender of Thefts
Analyzing the history of humanity, one should say that females commit fewer thefts than males. The lower level of the female crime is explained by a woman’s higher morality. If a woman were in the economic conditions equal to a man, the female theft rates would be identical to those of males. However, the history of a woman significantly differs from the history of a man. Through all her life, a woman is isolated from the social activity because of her family and household.
It is necessary to search for the explanation for the lower level of female criminality in the position of modern women in society. The rates of female thefts differ in some states and by various years, approaching the male theft levels or moving away from them as the social conditions, in which women live, approach the position of a man or differ from it. The more versatile and vigorous one’s life is, the more often women communicate with other people, the more chances they have to violate the law and to steal (Van Mastrigt and Farrington 556). The women remaining closed in the family circle, not having access to the public and government positions, deprived of the political rights actually cannot commit thefts, break the laws regulating the implementation of an electoral right, and so on.
However, the female theft rates steadily grow. The rates of the home thefts committed by women are rather high. This fact is explained by the specified marital status of a woman. However, the rates of thefts committed by the females occupied in trade steadily grow. The number of trade deception is higher among females. Thus, the statistical data still represents the male thefts prevailing if compared to the female ones. However, the gradual gain of the political rights by women leads to the expansion of the area of their work and the increase of the female theft rates.
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Social Class and Theft
Thefts appear in the generation of the exploiter socioeconomic structures. Although some thefts committed by the representatives of the lowest class of workers compose a peculiar form of a protest against the exploitation and oppression, theft in general is an objectively negative social phenomenon. The changes of crime and its forms depend on the economic living conditions of society and on the methods and means the ruling class resorts to while operating society and protecting its interests. Theft as the social phenomenon appeared at a certain stage of the development of the public relations, reflecting those antagonistic contradictions, which would inevitability lead to their emergence.
The majority of the thefts committed by the representatives of the upper social groups, except for the thefts that are officially outlawed, have been considered in the special administrative courts. Mainly, these thefts were various kinds of fraud. Committed against the public, they resulted in light penalty, rarely imprisonment (Peterson et al. 107). The sentences for such thefts were often carefully formulated in order not to dishonor those who had committed them. However, the thefts committed by the representatives of the lowest classes connected with the violence and direct theft involved the sentences prescribing the cruel physical punishment.
Contrary to the dominating representations, many people from the highest classes commit thefts. However, many governments take the special measures to deal with the majority of such cases with the maximum precautions and light punishment. It is easy to explain the reasons for such a differentiated approach to the formulation and application of the law. Such criminals belong to the class that plays a crucial role in the government and supports the political parties in power. They include their own government and political parties carrying out the role managing their affairs (Bharadwaj). Thus, theft, integrally inherent in an exploiter system and generated by it, is an inevitable component of the public relations existing in it. The social nature of the crime is defined by its origin and historical and class conditionality.
The Educational Level of Thieves
The characteristic of the educational level of the criminals has the criminological context as it is connected with the culture of an individual, his or her social status, contacts, life plans, and possibilities for their realization. The level of education of the criminals is much lower than that of the law-abiding people. The educational level correlates with the types of crimes. The lowest level of education is noted among the people committing the violent and lucrative thefts (Machin, Oliver, and Vujic 467). The persons, committing thefts by deception and defalcations, cumshaws and personal thefts, have the level of education higher than those who commit violent crimes. African-Americans with the higher education level are less inclined to commit thefts than their poorly educated fellows. At the same time, the theft rates among the highly educated African-Americans are lower than among the poorly educated whites (Machin, Oliver, and Vujic 471). Moreover, they possess the deformation of the moral and legal culture as well as psychological disorders. Thus, the level of education in criminals is rather low. Criminals with the higher education make an insignificant share. Higher education level is noted among the criminals who are caught committing the governmental thefts.
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Ethnicity and Theft
African-Americans as well as the Hispanic population of the world have the highest criminal rates, especially the rates of theft. According to the American Sociological Association (ASA), the crime rates among African-Americans indicate that they are the highest in those regions of the USA where the theft rates are equally high for the representatives of all races (Department of Research and Development 2). African-Americans make the greatest part of the urban population living in the most primitive social, economic, and cultural conditions (Department of Research and Development 3). They also form the largest part of the younger criminal age group. Peterson et al. state that
A high percentage of robbery offenders were male, from a minority racial group (either Black or Latino), and under thirty years old. A high percentage of victims were women, more likely to be White, and over the age of thirty. (6).
African-Americans prefer to rob the white victims. The disproportion in the racial theft rates is caused by the loss of votes by many blacks (Department of Research and Development 4). In almost all states, the thieves are deprived of the electoral right for life. Moreover, the criminal bents of African-Americans are especially known to concern the white women. The subconscious jealousy of the worst representatives of the lowest race of the highest ones is revealed in the conscious hatred and desire to destroy a source of its life. Thus, African-Americans have the highest rates of theft among the population of the USA and Canada.
Poverty and Theft
At present, the problem of poverty has a global character. The social and psychological alienation, which generates the disadaptation of the individual as a personal position and as his social status in general, characterizes poverty as a social phenomenon. With the lack of the corresponding educational influence, both of them can have substantial criminogenic effects. Disadaptation and the alienation of the majority of the poor offenders distinguish them from the law-abiding citizens. The way of life of the poor people is characterized by the uncertainty of the social status, unclear future, and the instability of health and mentality, which promotes their stay in a borderline that does not always directly threat society (Bharadwaj). The set of measures for the prevention of the thefts committed by the poor people should promote the social stability in society, the improvement of the standard and legal regulation in the sphere of the prevention of offenses, the decrease in the level of criminalization and increase the protection of life, health, constitutional rights, and freedoms of all people.
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To sum up, a crime is a historically changing social and legal phenomenon. The given research paper has considered the crimes and criminals on the example of theft as a kind of a crime. It has been found out that both the psychological and social factors are among the causes of all crimes. Such factors as loneliness, fear, and mental disorders as well as the desire to receive the financial benefits belong to the main factors provoking crimes. Moreover, the age and gender characteristics of a personality also influence the criminal rates. Thus, the young male population is more inclined to commit crimes in general and thefts, in particular, if compared to the females who spend more time taking care of the family and household. The educational level as well as ethnicity also plays its role when it comes to finding causes of crimes. It was found out that the lower the educational level of an individual was the greater possibility to commit crimes was. Moreover, such ethnic groups as African-Americans and Hispanics commit more crimes than the other ethnicities.