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CHAPTER 2 CRIME AND JUSTICE IN AMERICA

Learning Objectives 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Categorize crimes by their type Recognize the different methods of measuring crime Understand why some are at higher risk of victimization than others Recognize the negative consequences of victimization Understand the theories put forward to explain criminal behavior Analyze crime causation theories and women offenders

Chapter Outline I. Defining crime  Why does the law label some types of behavior as criminal?  Mala in se  Mala prohibita  Definitions of crimes may not remain fixed over time  Court rulings often modify definitions

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II. Types of crimes  Crimes may be classified in various ways  Felony and misdemeanor crime classifications A. Visible crime  “Street” or “ordinary” crimes that cannot be hidden  The majority of law enforcement resources are used to deal with them B. Violent crime  Public is most fearful of these crimes  Many violent crimes are committed by acquaintances C. Property crime  Offenders may amateurs or well-organized professional criminals D. Public order crimes  Police usual treat as minor offenses  Some argue that they lead to public fear and distrust  Examples: drunkenness, vandalism, panhandling E. Occupational crime  Committed in the context of a business or legal profession  Cost to American society may exceed $994 billion  Costs far exceed street crimes

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F. Organized crime  Framework within which crime occurs  Highly organized  Much organized is transnational and “borderless”  Example: money laundering G. Crime without victims  Willing and private exchange of goods and services 16  Examples: Prostitution and drug use are considered by some as victimless H. Political crime  Criminal acts committed either by the government or against the government  Carried out for ideological purposes  Examples: Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City or the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center I. Cyber Crimes  Use of computers and the internet to commit crimes  Internet Crime Complaint Center received 207,000 complaints about cyber crime losses  Examples: electronic trafficking of child pornography; computer hacking J. Hate Crimes  Started out as crimes based on race, religion, and ethnicity  In penal codes of 45 states  Shepard and Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 expanded Hate Crimes to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability  Freedom of speech at odds with Hate Crime laws

III. How much crime is there?  Crime rate has actually declined since 1980  Violent crime dropped 37%  Most Americans still think crime is increasing  Much more crime occurs than is reported to police  This is referred to as the “dark figure of crime” A. Uniform Crime Report (UCR) 22  Voluntary submission of data from 16,000 law enforcement agencies  Crime based on UCR is underreported  Only eight criminal offenses reported to police are included in the UCR and if more than one type of offense is involved, only the most severe offense is counted  Overall, the report is a useful but incomplete picture of crime B. National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) 24  Addresses shortcomings of the UCR  Police report all incidents of crime  Intended to give a fuller and more realistic picture of crime C. National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) 24 8


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Interviews samples of Americans to determine number and type of crimes Intended to provide picture of both unreported and reported crimes

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IV. Trends in crime  In recent years the crime rate has steadily decreased  Both the UCR and the NIBRS indicate decline in crime  Age and the decline in crack cocaine use have been factors that have caused the decline A. Age  Men aged 16-24 are most prone to commit crime  “Baby-boomers” passed through this age range in 1970s and increase in crime coincided B. Crack cocaine  Combination of high crack cocaine us and high number of persons prone to crime age coupled to create a high rate of violent and property crimes in 1980s  Governments responded with harsh sentences that sparked explosive growth in prison populations

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V. Have tough crime-control policies cause a decline in crime? A. Experts agree on the decline of crime but not on the reasons for the decline  Some possible reasons for the decline would include:  Increased number of police on the streets  Longer prison sentences with some have mandatory minimum lengths B. Some negative effects include  Public perception of crime still indicates a high percentage of fear C. Arguments for tough crime control: 1. The United States has a serious crime problem and must ensure strict penalties 2. Crime is not caused by poverty but poverty causes crime 3. Expansion of prison population has taken hardened criminals out of society 4. Police must have resources and legal backing to pursue criminals D. Arguments against tough crime control 1. Get tough policies have not reduced crime 2. Resources should be rediverted from criminal justice to the real causes of crime, such as racial injustice, unemployment, and poor housing 3. Tough incarceration devastates poor communities 4. Community policing, alternatives to incarceration, community assistance programs are more effective than get-tough policies 28

VI. Crime victimization A. Victimology focuses attention on four questions: 1. Who is victimized? 2. What is the impact of crime? 3. What happens to victims in the criminal justice system? 4. What role do victims play in causing the crime they suffer?

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B. Who is victimized?  Not everyone has an equal chance of becoming a victim  Demographics: age, gender, income are factors  Lifestyles also have a direct effect on victimization  Race is a key factor in exposure to crime  Acquaintances and relatives are more likely to victimize than are strangers VII. Impact of crime A. Costs of crime  Economic, social, and psychological costs  Operation of criminal justice system B. Fear of crime  Though crime rates are down the public fear of crime has increased C. Experiences of victims in the criminal justice system  Some experts argue that the criminal justice victimizes the victim again  Example: Lost wages to appear in court or hostile questioning from defense attorneys

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VIII. Causes of crime  Two major schools of criminological thought are classical and positivist schools A. Classical school  Until eighteenth century crime was explained in supernatural terms  Cesare Beccaria published Essays on Crime and Punishment, the first attempt to explain crime in secular terms  Classical criminology evolved from the movement spawned by Beccaria’s work  The main principles of classical criminology are: 1. Criminal behavior is rational 2. People may choose to commit a crime after weighing the costs and benefits of their actions 3. Fear of punishment is what keeps most people in check 4. The punishment should fit the crime rather than the person who committed it 5. The criminal justice system must be predictable  Neoclassical criminology is rooted in a resurgence of conservative ideology beginning in the 1980s B. Positivist school  Based on the scientific theory  Key features of this approach include: 1. Human behavior is controlled by physical, mental, and social factors, not by free will 2. Criminals are different from non-criminals 3. Science can be used to discover the causes of crime and to treat deviants C. Biological explanations  Emphasize physiological and neurological factors that may predispose a person to crime

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D. Psychological explanations  Emphasize mental processes and behavior  Uses descriptions such as sociopath, psychopath, and anti-social personality E. Sociological explanations  Causes of criminal behavior are the social conditions that bear on the individual

IX. Social structure theories  Suggest that criminal behavior is related to social class  Crime is created by the structure of society A. Robert Merton and anomie  A breakdown or the social disappearance of the rules of social behavior B. Social process theories  Theories that see criminality as normal behavior  There are three types of social process theories: 1. Learning theory  Differential association 2. Control theories 3. Labeling theories C. Critical criminology Several theories fall under the umbrella of critical criminology 1. Social conflict theories 2. Feminist theory 3. Women’s experiences are ignored or undervalued D. Life-course theories 38  Focus on criminal behavior over the life of the offender  Turning points E. Integrated theories X. Women and crime  Theories need to explain the “gender gap”-why females are less likely to commit crime  Theories also need to explain why females commit different types of crime than males do

Lecture Notes Chapter 2 has a great deal of information that can become very detailed and confusing to students in an introductory criminal justice course. This information is, however, very fundamental and structural and sets the basis for all other topics. In the early part of the chapter the issue of federalism is discussed. It is very important for the student to understand how the Constitution has divided powers amongst a federal government and various state governments. The state governments, in turn, create city and county governmental powers. While criminal justice events occur at the federal level, it is at the local and state levels that the large percentage of activity occurs. Ensure that the student understands the distinctions.

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Another major issue in Chapter 2 centers on the different ways that jurisdictions group criminal activities. Students need to understand the difference in felony and misdemeanor crimes. One state may, by law, label a certain activity as a felon while another state considers the same activity as a misdemeanor. The way crimes are grouped also dictates the level of punishment. The chapter also introduces the topic of criminology and briefly introduces the established and accepted theories of crime causation. The instructor must be aware of how the material is presented and attempt to use some sort of outline that groups the different criminological theories. A useful activity to undertake while discussing the various theories it is to use current events to apply different theories and explanations of crime causation to the same event. For example, consider a recent homicide in which the perpetrator was identified and convicted. Try to consider the reasons that the offender committed the crime using the different theories. Such an exercise opens the opportunity for debate and discussion as well as helping to organize the information in the students’ minds.

Class Discussions/Activities 1.

Describe/contrast the jurisdictions and powers of a federal versus a state agency. For example, consider an armed robbery of a bank. How would/should a federal agency such as ATF work with the local municipal police department? (LO1)

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Locate a current event or a well-publicized major crime in which the offender has been identified and convicted. Have the class, individually or in groups, apply the various theories of the causes of crime to this particular crime event. Have the students debate the merits of each theory. (LO5)

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Use internet-based resources to compare the level of rights of victims among two or more of the state governments. Which have constitutional victim rights’ amendments? How effective are some of the states in ensuring victim rights? (LO1 and LO4)

Assignments 1.

Using the internet or other appropriate resources, compare the structure and classification of crimes between at least two state governments. The comparisons should include the differences in felony and misdemeanor crimes as well as the differences or similarities in sentencing structure between the two states. (LO1)

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Use a fictitious scenario of two brothers, born two years apart, raised in the same home by the same two parents. One brother is involved in increasingly serious crimes beginning with status offenses and property crime, but is eventually incarcerated for several armed robberies. The other brother is never arrested for a crime. While the scenario is fictitious, it has occurred in reality. Use one or more 12


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of the theories discussed in Chapter 2 to explain how the differences in the two brothers occurred. (LO5) 3.

Describe the differences in the classical and positivist schools of criminology. What are the primary and fundamental differences between the two? Are there any similarities between the two or are they mutually exclusive? (LO5)

Web Resources http://www.ucrdatatool.gov The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is in charge of managing the data gathered from local law enforcement across the country with respect to the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). This website allows users to obtain UCR data easily. http://www.drtomoconnor.com/criminology.htm#UNITS This is the “criminology mega-site” section of Austin Peay State University professor, Dr. Tom O’Connor’s criminal justice and homeland security website. Among other things, it contains a wealth of information on leading theories of crime along with their policy implications. http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator Among other things at this website, the U.S. Department of Education provides information on amounts of certain reported criminal activity at each college and university across the country. Typically, three years of crime data are available for each school. In order to locate this information, first specify a school, then click on “campus security”.

“What If “ Scenarios What if you were a crime analyst and used the UCR as a way to measure crime. According to the FBI’s warning (see http://www.ucrdatatool.gov/ranking.cfm ), what types of factors would you need to consider when comparing crime data from one place to another place? What if you decided to try to explain why existing crime theories are not very fruitful when applied to understanding females in relation to crime. What else may help explain the gaps in our knowledge of females and crime? What if you compared crime data gathered from the UCR and NCVS. What types of issues would you have when you compared your results?

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