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CRIM 101
Barry Cartwright

Marcus Felson: 10 fallacies of crime 1) Dramatic fallacy: media seeks how strange/violent events to keep ratings high, murder makes up less than 1% of crime, gives off impression that murders are well planned or happen by random chance 2) Cops and courts fallacy: police work made to look more dangerous and challenging than it really is, increased policing has limited value, most of the crimes are not reported -> of the ones that are, most of them are not solved 3) Not me fallacy: most people think they would not or never commit a crime when in fact they have already committed crimes such as shoplifting, smoking marijuana -> most people violate law at least sometimes in their lives 4) Innocent youth fallacy: the tendency to view young people as “pure” or “innocent” when teen years are the most active years for criminal activity -> majority of crimes are committed by youths and youths are also more dangerous than older offenders 5) Ingenuity fallacy: the tendency to think that criminals are more clever than they really are, most crimes take little planning and skill and time to commit 6) Organized crime fallacy: the tendency to view crimes as more organized and conspirational than it really is, most criminals avoid other offenders and don’t do much work or planning -> dealing with “organized” criminals makes law enforcement officials seem more important and their tasks more sophisticated than they really are 7) Juvenile gang fallacy: juvenile gangs nowhere near as sinister as media and law enforcement officials make them out to be, they are loosely structured, lots of so-called members just hanging out on the periphery, the crime that these gangs engage in is petty and disorganized 8) Welfare state fallacy: wrong to blame crime on unemployment and poverty, there is no evidence to show that government hand-outs or government programs do anything to decrease crime -> when economy or government hand-outs improve crime rates increase as well 9) Agenda fallacy: many individuals and groups blame crime on declining morality, say that a healthy dose of moral and religious values is what criminals and society really need, but most criminals already know right from wrong and simply choose to ignore it especially when they’re not being observed 10) Whatever you think fallacy: wrong to think that some people are “subjective” and are only regarded as crime because of labeling, media attention or influence of interest groups Crime Myths and Realities Myth: most criminals are dangerous and clever Reality: most criminals resemble their victims Myth: police are clever and effective Reality: most crimes are not detected or reported and go unsolved Myth: elderly are more likely to be victimized Reality: young, low social economic status (SES) males are more likely to be victimized Myth: victimization rates go up Reality: victimization rates are going down Conceptualizations of Crime: a) Crime as a legal construct b) Crime as a violation of social norms c) Debate the consensus vs conflict models Legal Contrast Model: - Sacco and Kennedy say the dominant way of thinking about crime is in legal terms - Crime is conceptualized relative to the concepts of law -> crime is breaking the law - Because committing a criminal act amounts to breaking law it is subject to prosecution and punishment Four Main Components: 1) Actus reus: real event, which somebody has committed or failed to commit a crime (the action) 2) Mens rea: criminal event, you must have the intent to commit the act 3) No legal defence or justification 4) Must be contrary to a provision of the law Crime as Normative Violation: - Mala in Se: something that is bad or evil in itself, laws that criminalize acts most societies and cultures agree are inherently wrong (eg. Murder , incest) - Mala Prohibita: something that is deemed wrong or criminal only because its prohibited, acts where there might be considerable disagreement from society to society regarding their legality Criminal Event Theory: - Criminal event theory is not new - Interwoven with routine activities theory, lifestyle exposure theory, and environmental criminology - States that crimes should be viewed as “social” events - Involve people interacting with each other - Called an event because it has a beginning and an end The Typical Offender: - Most offenders are young males (more than 75% in some offence categories), aged 15-24, lower social economic status and are unemployed/ temporarily unemployed - 15-24 age group represented 14% of population in 2003 while accounting for 45% of violent crime and 32% of property crime Joel Best: - Critical constructionist and expert on social problems - Written extensively on child issues Missing Children: - 19-79-1981 stranger abductions started to receive national publicity - Missing children term appears in 1981 - US Senate issue first hearing on missing children in 1981 - In 1982 the federal government passes missing child act - Foundation of US Attorney General Advisory Board on Missing Children (report published in 1986) - By the mid 1980s photos of missing children appeared on milk cartons, shopping bags, billboards and TV The Claimsmakers: - Child find - Child stealing research center - Dee Scofield Awareness program - National Center for Missing and Exploited Children - Kevin Collins Foundation for Missing Children Setting Facts Straight: - Wildly misstated fact that there were 1.8 million missing children in US (no one knows where the number came from) - Majority were runaways, 97% found or returned in 24 hours, 99% of reports cancelled in one year - 100,000 abducted by non-custodial parents - FBI investigate only 67 missing children by stranger abductions in 1984 The Police: - Proactive policing: when the police become more active and searching for crime (patrols) -> higher chance of acts being defined as criminal - Reactive policing: when the police only respond to crimes that are reported to them or that they witness -> fewer acts will be defined as crimes Reporting Crimes: - Unreported/unknown crimes estimated at 66% of all crimes committed - More likely to report crimes when perpetrator is a stranger - Less likely to report crimes when perpetrator is a friend/family - Victims of crime that are also involved in crime are reluctant to draw police to their own activities Dark Figure of Recording: - Once crime is reported to police, it goes through assessment, classification, and maybe recording - Police decision making influenced to variety of factors, such as relationship between offender and victim, police style, characteristics of suspect, and preferences of complaint - Wide variations in reporting practices across the country - Professionalism and degree of organization of particular police department may be a factor Kansas City Experiment: - Tested proactive, reactive, and control responses to police visibility - No statistically significant differences in crime rates over period of study - No significant increase or decrease in arrest rates between these groups - No significant increase or decrease in citizens perceptions of crime risks The UCR and GSS: - Official crime rates usually based on Uniform Crime Report (UCR) - Criminologists also look at General Social Survey (GSS) Problems with UCR: - Many incidents of crime go undetected or unreported and consequently do not go into the UCR - Some incidents may not show in UCR because police conclude they are unfounded Ethnicity and Crime: - Canada does not collect statistics on the relationship (if any) by race and crime - To the extent that we have reliable information, it is usually collected by correctional institutions, rather than police or courts The Great Debate: No Yes Difficult to classify in multi-racial society Why should academics, criminal justice personnel, and political leaders control public knowledge Police offers have no training or expertise in these We live in a free society where censorship is matters unacceptable Information may result in discrimination against If some ethnic minorities are more involved in ethnic groups that appear to be over-represented crime, then public should know in the statistics Gladue Decision: - Decision made it mandatory for judges to take into consideration unique circumstances of Aboriginal offenders - Encourages judges to take a “restorative approach” when sentencing Aboriginals - The court acknowledges that “the jail term for an Aboriginal offender may in some circumstances be less than the term imposed on a non- Aboriginal offender for the same offence” The General Social Survey: - Victimization survey that interviews people by telephone -> random digit dialing - Surveyed 19,500 people over 15 years of age in households across Canada - Respondents asked about their victimization experiences and their perceptions of crime and the criminal justice system The Dark Figure of Crime: - General social survey instrumental in reading “dark figure of crime”, which is approx. 69% of all crimes - In distinct contrast to Uniform Crime Report which only includes cases where people actually report crime to police, and/or police feel the complaint justifies writing up a report Problems With General Social Survey: - Interviews only those with a telephone - Marginalized people with no phone are excluded - GSS misses crimes committed against businesses (eg. Robberies, shoplifting, credit card fraud) - Doesn’t sample children less than 15 -> fails t uncover youth victimization - Problem of telescoping -> include incidents that took place over 12 months ago unintentionally Self-Report Surveys: - Like GSS, self-report surveys are usually conducted through phone - Asks members of public if they’ve ever committed a criminal act - Confirms large amount of unreported crime Problems with Self-Report Surveys: - Offenders who have most to hide are least likely to participate - Tend to uncover type of petty crime Reliability: - UCR > GSS > self-report - UCR data reflects more balanced picture (judged by police to be serious and well founde
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