2010-09-07 CRIM 101 – Week 1
WHAT IS CRIMINOLOGY?
“A social science studying crime and related phenomenon, such as law making, criminal
behaviour, victimization, and punishment”.
Discipline of criminology is a recent development
Most ideas and concepts we now have about crime and criminals emerged
over last two or three centuries.
Modern criminology is multidisciplinary (inter-disciplinary).
influenced by sociology, psychology, and biology
THE FASCINATION WITH CRIME
Crime is popular topic for newspapers, TV shows, books and movies.
There is little relationship between crime news and actual amount of crime.
Media focus primarily on violent crimes on violent crimes, even though such
crimes form only small part of all criminal activity.
Appears as though police solve more crimes and arrest more criminals than they
do in reality.
THE APPEAL OF CRIME STORIES AND CRIME NEWS
Crime-related stories are often dramatic and lurid
Deal with moral questions of good vs. evil.
Criminals appear in stories as insane or dangerous psychopaths.
Stories happen in short time span- between newscasts or newspaper editions
Easy for the public to understand.
FELSON’S 10 FALLACIES ABOUT CRIME
1. THE DRAMATIC FALLACY
To keep ratings high, media seek strange/violent incidents to report/create dramas
Murder makes up less than 1% of all 1 crime, yet from watching TV or reading the
papers, it seems like a commonplace event.
Seems that most murders are well-planned, grisly affairs, or they happen solely by
In fact, most murders start as arguments escalate into violence. 2010-09-07 CRIM 101 – Week 1
Most crimes are relatively minor property crimes.
2. THE COPS-AND-COURTS FALLACY
Police work made to look more dangerous and challenging than it actually is.
Increased policing found to be of limited value.
Most crimes are not reported, most of crimes that are reported are not solved by
Very few elaborate court trials (charges dropped, plea bargaining, guilty plea).
3. THE “NOT-ME” FALLACY
Most people think they could never (or would never) commit a crime.
However, many people have shoplifted, smoked marijuana, driven when they’re
impaired, or gone joy-riding in a car.
Most people violate at least some laws sometimes, even though they may not get
caught or end up with a criminal record.
4. THE INNOCENT YOUTH FALLACY
Tendency to view younger people as being “pure” or “innocent”.
In reality, teen years are the most active years for criminal activity.
Majority of crimes committed by younger offenders.
Younger offenders often more dangerous than older offenders.
5. THE INGENUITY/SMART FALLACY
Tendency to think criminals are more clever than they really are.
In reality, lightweight, high value items have made crime even more simple.
Most crimes take little planning, little skill, and almost no time to commit.
6. THE ORGANIZED CRIME FALLACY
Tendency to view crime as more organized and conspiratorial than it really is. 2010-09-07 CRIM 101 – Week 1
Most criminals act quickly, avoid contact with co-offenders, and don’t do a lot of
work or planning.
Dealing with "organized" criminals makes what law enforcement officials are doing
seem more important and sophisticated than it really is.
7. THE JUVENILE GANG FALLACY
Juvenile gangs nowhere near as sinister as the media and law enforcement officials
make them out to be.
Loosely structured, lots of so-called “members” just hanging out on the p