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Lecture 1

Sociology 2253A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Indictable Offence, Summary Offence, Murder

Course Code
SOC 2253A/B
Laura Huey

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Dimensions of Crime
1. Felson’s fallacies about crime
Marcus Felson’s Crime in Everyday Life identifies 7 common fallacies about crime (I’m only
going over the 4 most relevant):
1. The Dramatic Fallacy
Media images of crime lead us to believe that crime and its impact is far more dramatic than it
really is. The murderer and the criminal justice professional both become dramatized: ie. the
‘Sherlock Holmes factor’ in detective stories. In actuality, most crime is rather mundane, boring,
and/or pathetic (including, or particularly murders).
2. The Ingenuity Fallacy
This fallacy presumes that the criminal is far cleverer than they really are. Felson argues that
much crime that comes to the attention of the criminal justice system is not committed through
daring or ingenuity but as a result of opportunity. In fact, crime is ordinary and is committed by
ordinary people.
3. The Age Fallacy
Media portrayals of victims tend to leave consumers with the impression that victims and
offenders are much older than they are, by focusing, for example, on violent crimes committed
against the elderly. The fact is, you are much more likely to be a victim of crime, particularly of
violent crime, if you are young and male.
4. The Constabulary Fallacy
This fallacy assumes that the police know more about crime and can do more about crime than
they actually do. Most crimes go unreported and thus unsolved. Policing, indeed the whole of the
criminal justice system, is ultimately reactive rather than proactive. Programs like tip-lines and
community policing/reporting programs are based on this fact.
2. Sources of knowledge about crime
a. official statistics (charge rates; court volume stats; sentences, etc)
police provide info into the Uniform Crime Reporting system (UCR) and sent to
Stats Can (Juristat) detailed info on each criminal incident, including
multiple offences; info on location; victim and accused chars;
victim/accused relationship; use of weapons
under-reporting due to failure to report crime by victims; variations in reporting
amongst police services
b. victimization surveys – Statscan and/or independent researchers would randomly
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