Midterm 2 notes 25/11/2013 12:58:00 PM
Chapter 27: The Devil Made Me Do it: Use of Neutralizations by Shoplifters
by: Paul Cromwell and Quint Thurman
• Sykes and Matza theory was an elaboration of Edwin Sutherlands
proposition that individuals can learn criminal techniques and the
“motives, drives, rationalizations, and attitudes favourable to violations of
o Sykes and Matza argued that these justifications or rationalizations
protect the individual from self blame and blame of others.
o He or she deflects or “neutralizes” guilt in advance, clearing the
way to blame-free crime.
• Most research is incapable of determining whether the stated
neutralization is a before-the-face neutralization or an after-the-fact
Techniques of Rationalization
Sykes and Matza identified five techniques of neutralization commonly
offered to justify deviant behaviour—denial of responsibility, denial of
injury, denial of the victim, condemning the condemners, and appeal to
Five additional neutralization techniques have since been identified which
include: defence of necessity, metaphor of the ledger, denial of the
necessity of the law, the claim that everybody else is doing it, and the
claim of entitlement.
Statement of the Problem
Shoplifting a serious crime, 1 in every 10-15 people have shoplifted at
one time or another, losses include 12-30 billion dollars.
Shoplifting represents one of the most prevalent forms of larceny (theft of
personal property) accounting approx. for 15% of all larcenies according
to FBI. Shoplifters are basically similar to an average person.
Shoplifting does have a particular profile for a potential shoplifter; it is
considered a “folkcrime.”
Neutralization theory argues that ordinary individuals who engage in
deviant or criminal behaviour may use techniques that permit them to recognize extenuating circumstances that enable them to explain away
Method: first offenders ranging from 18 to 66, mean age was 26. There were
an average of 18-20 participants, they had to talk about how the felt and
why they stole. Most white people stole products, and blacks as well. Though
it was for first-time offenders, most have been apprehended before.
Findings: They identities nine categories of neutralization; the five Sykes and
Matza categories, the Defence of Necessity and Everybody Does it, identified
by Coleman and two additional, which we labeled Justification by
Comparison and Postponement.
Thus many cases, the motivation were linked to excuse in such a way as
to make the excuse a part of the motivation.
Denial of Responsibility
Denial of responsibility frees the subject from experiencing culpability for
deviance by allowing him or her to perceive themselves as victims of their
environment. Offender views himself being acted upon rather than acting.
They blame it on internal forces, poor parenting, and bad companions to
Many cited alcohol or drugs use for citing loss of self-control.
Denial of Injury (“ I didn’t really hurt anybody”)
Denial of injury allows the offender to perceive of his or her behaviour as
having no direct harmful consequences to the victim, the victim maybe
able to afford the loss.
Denial of the Victim (“they had it coming”
Denial of the victim facilitates when it can be justified as retaliation upon
a deserving victim.
In the present study, informants frequently reposted that the large stores
from which they stole were deserving victims because of high prices and
the perception that they made excessive profits at the expense of
Condemning the Condemners (“the system is corrupt”
Blame it on law-markers and law-enforcers; it shifts the focus from the
offender to those who disapprove of his or her acts. o Believe that cops, judges, and large companies all steal money
different ways, offender’s just use a different way.
This neutralization views the “system” as crooked and thus unable to
justify making and enforcing rules it does not itself live by.
Appeal to Higher Loyalties (“I didn’t do it for myself”)
Appeal to higher loyalties functions to legitimize deviant behaviour when
a non-conventional social bond creates more immediate and pressing
demands than one consistent with conventional society.
Common use of this technique was pressure from peers to shoplift and
the perceived needs of one’s family for items that the informant could not
afford to buy.
The Defence of Necessity “I didn’t do it for myself”
The defence of necessity serves to reduce guilt through the argument
that the offender had no choice under the circumstances but to engage in
a criminal act.
Offenders state that the crime was necessary to help one’s family.
Everybody Does It
The individual attempts to reduce his or her guilt feelings or to justify his
or her behaviour by arguing that the behaviour in question is common.
A better label for neutralization might be “diffusion of guilt.”
Justification by Comparison (“If I wasn’t shoplifting I would be doing
something more serious.”
This newly identified neutralization involves offenders justifying their
actions by comparing their crimes to more serious offenses.
Gist of the argument is “I may be bad, but I could be worse.”
Postponement (“I just don’t think about it”)
The offender suppresses his or her guilt feelings—momentarily putting
them out of mind to be dealt with at a later time, deal with it when they
are not under so much stress.
Discussion and Conclusion:
Neutralization theory depends upon analysis of post-even accounts by the
We argue that Hirschi was correct in stating that a post-crime
rationalization may serve as a pre-crime neutralization the next time a
crime is contemplated. Neutralization focuses on how crime is possible rather than why people
might choose to engage in it in the first place, it serves as form of
Chapter 35: Gender and Victimization Risk among Young Women in Gangs
by: Jody Miller
Miller finds that while women gain status, social life, and some protection
from the hazards of street life in joining gangs, they exchange this for a
new set of dangers.
By entering the gang world, they are exposing themselves to violence
both from rival gang members as well as their own homeboys.
Underdeveloped area in the gang literature is the relationship between
gang participation and victimization risk; delinquent lifestyles are
associated with increased risk of victimization.
Gangs are social groups that are organized around delinquency and
participation in gangs has been shown to escalate youth’s involvement in
crime, including violent crime.
• Interviews ranged from 12-17, 16/20 were black, 4/20 were white.
• 21/46 girls answered they were gang members, additional 3 associated
• Broad range of question and scales were used to measure factors that
may be related to gang membership.
Gender, Gangs, and Violence: Gangs as Protection and Risk
• One thing they get out of gang involvement is a sense of protection,
source of protection around the neighbourhood.
• Given the violence endemic in many inner-city communities, these beliefs
are understandable, that oh they got my back.
• Some young women articulated a specifically gendered sense of
protection that they felt as a result of being a member of a group that
was predominantly male. Being protected by a male feels more special so
other people won’t mess with you. • Members recognized that they may be targets of rival gang members and
were expected to “be down” for their hangs at those times even when it
meant being physically hurt