WEEK 1 – INTRO TO CRIM
FASCINATION WITH CRIME
• Media focus primarily on violent crimes, even though such crimes from only
small part of all criminal activity
FELSON’S TEN FALLACIES
1. Dramatic fallacy
2. Cops and courts fallacy
3. Not me fallacy
4. Innocent youth fallacy
5. Ingenuity fallacy
6. Organized crime fallacy
7. Juvenile gang fallacy
8. Welfare state fallacy
9. Agenda fallacy
10. Whatever you think fallacy
LEGAL CONSTRUCT MODEL
• Four components:
1. Actus reus – real event, in which somebody has committed or failed to
commit an act
2. Mens rea – criminal intent; you must have intent to commit act
3. No legal defense or justification
4. Must be contrary to provision of criminal law
CONSENSUS VS. CONFLICT
• Society as functional organism
• Norms/ expectations vased on shared values/ interests
• Those who are different (e.g., criminals) are deemed to be abnormal
• Society and social transformation rooted in social conflict
• Society not organic or natural, but forced upon us
CRIMES AS SOCIAL EVENTS
• Crimes should be viewed as “social” events.
• Involve people interacting with each other.
• Referred to as events (or episodes) because they “have a beginning and an end”.
• Most offenders are young males (more than 75% in some offence categories),
Lower socioeconomic status,
Minority group (e.g., African American and Aboriginal) Unemployed/ temporarily unemployed.
1217 age group represented only 8% of population, while accounting for
~33% of all crime.
• Offenders and victims’ characteristics usually are alike
• Individuals most likely to be victimized are young, single males, 1524 years of
age, who are poor, and/ or from ethnic minorities.
• People over 65 years of age are least likely to be victimized.
• Relatively little difference between genders in terms of overall risk of personal
BYSTANDERS AND WITNESSES
• Bystanders and witnesses may deter or prevent a crime by their presence.
• Offenders maybe reluctant to commit a crime in front of witnesses or possible
• Bystanders and witnesses may prevent a crime from escalating, by breaking up a
fight, or by calling the police.
• Bystanders may also facilitate crime:
Encouraging a fight,
Encouraging someone to vandalize a property,
Participating in a group that witnesses and encourages a sexual assault.
• Police often have direct influence on whether or not an act comes to be regarded
as a crime
• May let someone off with warning if they come from a “good family”, yet arrest
someone who does exactly the same thing because he/ she is a “street kid”.
• Proactive policing – actively searching for specific crimes (Less common, targets
certain areas, high crime rate area, patrols, etc.)
• Reactive policing – respond to calls; at request of the public (Responding to calls,
about to happen)
• Many crimes do not even come to the attention of the police. (dark figure of
crime; 2/3 of crime)
• Victims more likely to report serious crimes or crimes where perpetrator is a
• Police filter what is considered crime (dark figure of reporting)
• Crime rates generally higher in urban areas than in rural areas.
• Higher in economically disadvantaged urban areas with an unstable population.
• Lower in “better off” urban areas with a stable population.
• Crime generators, or crime attractors (e.g. entertainment districts).
• People usually commit crimes close to places central in their lives (e.g., places of
work, their schools, or their homes). INFLUENCE OF SOCIAL DOMAIN
• People who frequent drinking establishments during he evening (leisure) hours
are at greater risk of victimization.
• Absence from a social domain – such as the home or work place – can increase
the likelihood of crime (sometimes referred to as absence of capable guardian)
ELEMENTS OF CRIMINAL EVENT
• Precursors – what led up to criminal event
Relationship between victim and offender, time, and location
Actions of offenders, witnesses, criminal justice personnel
Reactions of police, impact on victim, punishment of offender
SEVERAL APPROACHES TO CRIME RESEARCH
• Direct observation in natural settings
• Experimental observations
• Police reports
• Victimization surveys
• Selfreport surveys
UCR AND GSS
• Official crime rates usually based on Uniform Crime Report (UCR*****)
• Criminologists also look at General Social survey (GSS)
• Dark figure of crime – much crime does not come to attention of police (~2/3 of
all crime) – GSS helps
• Not necessarily most efficient manner or research crime
• Criminal events occur with relative infrequency
• Criminals spend a lot of their time doing some things as noncriminals
• Criminals tend to try to avoid being seen
SOME PROBLEMS WITH UCR
• Many incidents of crime go undetected/ unreported and consequently do not make
it into UCR
• Some incidents that are reported may not show up in UCR because police
conclude they are unfounded
• Someone reports theft and murder; they’ll pick more serious crime to report
SELF REPORT SURVEYS
• Like GSS, selfreport surveys usually conducted over telephone
• Ask members of public whether they’ve ever committed criminal act
• Again confirm large amount of undetected/ unreported crime
PROBLEMS WITH SELFREPORT SURVEYS
• Offenders who have most to hide are least likely to participate • Tend to uncover petty crime
CESARE BECCARIA (1738 – 1794)
• Specific criminal codes
• Presumption of innocence
• Limitations on severity of punishment
• Duration of punishment as more effective deterrent
• Public (visible) punishment as more effective deterrent
JEREMY BENTHAM (17481832)
• People were rational, and exercised free will
• Would employ hedonistic calc