Criminology Exam Review
1. Definition of Crime
Definition: Acrime is an act or a failure to act, which violates the criminal law.
Tapan (1947): Crime is “an intentional act or omission in violation of criminal law,
committed w/o defense or justification, and sanctioned by the state.”
1. ‘Actus Reus’ (end result product of your action/your conduct – voluntarily action or
failure to act – criminal negligence) and ‘Mens Rea’(proof/evidstcndof an act/must
be proved it was accompanied by a particular state of mind. 1 /2 degree murder –
show intent to kill individual)
2. Defenses – self defense – assault someone/kill them as long as it is proved it was out
of self-defense. Insanity defense – impacts men’s rea, if you’re suffering from mental
1. Neglects harmful behaviour not sanctioned by criminal law – harmful activities not
deemed crime (violence against women, smoking cigarettes, corporate/white collar
crime – employee operating machinery AND false advertising – Nivea – My
2. Ignores the social, cultural, and historical relativity of law. – Neglects how criminal
law varies/changes/evolves over time. How it varies across society and culture. (Drug
legislation – 1900’s no prohibitions against drug use – first legislation in
3. Overlooks the process of law formation and the social, political, and economic
interests at stake in this process – marijuana example (tension b/w whites and
Mexicans, politics involved to respond to the issue)
Definition: Acrime is an act, which violates commonly held standards of public
Burgess (1950): “Alack of public outrage, stigma, and official punishment, attached to
social action indicates that such action is not a violation of society’s rules, independent of
whether it is legally punishable.”
1. Society is characterized by a social and moral consensus – similar values/beliefs to
what is appropriate/inappropriate.
2. Definitions of criminal behaviour reflect common social values, norms, and beliefs –
agreement b/w seriousness of diff. crimes.
1. Neglect of contextual variations – even the most severe acts (homicide) there are
special situations in which killing another person wouldn’t be considered a crime –
war, self defense, execution, assault – boxing, fighting in hockey, spanking 2. Whore morality? – Diff. groups of ppl have diff. values (sexual harassment – not
treated as a crime, yet women believe it should be/honour killing – cultural practices
acceptable w/one jurisdiction but against norms in another)
3. Absence of agreement as to what constitutes criminal behaviour – drug use?
Prostitution? Pornography? Squeegeeing? Sexting?
Definition: Acrime is a label that is applied by a public audience.
Becker (1967): “Deviance is not a quality of the act a person commits, but rather a
consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an “offender”. The
deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behaviour is
behaviour people so label.”
1. Behaviour is not inherently criminal.
2. Whether a specific activity or behaviour is defined as a “crime” depends on a
complex social process involving “claims-makers” and “moral entrepreneurs.” -
Claims making – activities people defined as needing immediate attention. New laws
or tough penalties for existing offences. Ex: victim right group that argues stalking
is a significant social problem and needs tougher laws around it as an offence.
1. Overly relativistic – no independent standards or criteria by which the criminality of
social activities can be judged.
2. Neglect of variables such as class, race, and gender and their influence on the ability
to impose and resist criminal labels – product of being in the more powerful position,
opposing one’s views/understanding, not much appreciation for the larger groups of
power (corporate offenders/executives – powerful class positions and successful)
Definition: Acrime is an act prohibited by those in positions of social power as a means
of protecting their own values and interests. –Definitions are used to maintain groups in
positions of power – like a tool or instrument
Quinney (1970): “Crime describes behaviours that conflict w/the interests of the
segments of society that have the power to shape public policy”
1. Society is characterized by conflict rather than consensus – tensions b/w groups/very
diff. model of society
2. Defining crime is a political exercise – what should and shouldn’t be criminalized
3. Definitions of criminal behaviour reflect the interests of the powerful – activities that
threaten those occupying positions of power are defined as illegal, ex: early 1900s.,
prohibition of alcohol in the U.S. – 2.Alcohol trade seen as a source of
employment/economic growth was a desperate need. 3 – legitimacy of law was
being questioned in particular … from criminal to non-criminal Limitations
1. Instrumental view of law and overreliance on class as an explanatory variable – true in
some cases law is used as interest of upper class, not always case. Instances where it was
used for working class/poor. Early 1900s – laws passed limiting workweek, laws for
basic worker rights – changed status of workers
2. Neglect of processes through which behaviour is criminalized – looks at big picture,
not specific details.
2. Measurement of Crime
1. Links b/w Definition and Measurement
2. Collection Methods
3. Profile of Crime in Canada
4. The Use andAbuse of Crime Statistics
5. Conclusion: The Politics of Crime Statistics
Links between Definition and Measurement
• How crime is defined will invariably influence how it is measured:
1. Activities that are not defined as crimes will not be measured.
2. The broader the definition, the greater the amount of crime.
3. The narrower the definition, the smaller the amount of crime.
Uniform Crime Report (UCR)
1. Most commonly and widely reported crime statistic.
2. Compiled by Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics based on monthly reports from
police forces across Canada.
3. Includes both crimes reported to the police, and the outcomes of police patrols and
4. Crime rate = 100, 000/Population x Number of Incidents
5. Crime Severity Index (2009) – capture more serious forms of crime
1. Reporting Practices – raises question have any of you become victimized but not
reported it to police. Main reason for not reporting: not important enough, believed
police couldn’t do anything or didn’t want them involved b/c of a personal matte.
Most unreported crimes are sexual assaults (80%). Most reported crime: break and
enter/motor vehicle theft/theft of household property = reported for insurance
2. Law Enforcement Practices -- # of ways of what police do that influence crime rates.
First, exercise of everyday discretion – 911-call center. Operators have huge
discretion in seeing if call is worthy to call police. Some may not feel it is important
or real or qualify as a crime.
3. Sensitivity to Changes in Legal Definitions – ex: 1983: Canadian rape laws include
sexual assault. As a result, sexual content out voluntarily consent. Rapes for sexual assault then increased. Another ex, 1990: broader definition of arson to include
mischief fires which resulted n 0% increase b/w 1991 and 1992. Ex: 1990s: greater
willingness to classify infant shaking deaths as a criminal act.
4. Patterns of “Offender” Behaviour – specially true for victimless crimes – how
criminals act/organize activity. Ex: study from 1991, which documented very
interesting change in heroin using community over a 10-year period. Changes:
erosion of supportive relationships among those in this community. Which made less
of a tendency to help other drug users.Also, observed reduction in resistance to
enforce. Thirdly, changes in scoring., the packing practices/how drugs are carried.
1. Social construction of crime statistics – product of social construction.
a. “[Statistical facts’are not merely the result of science and proper
methodology. They are also a human, bureaucratic, organization, and political
achievement” (Haggerty, 2001: 37).
b. “If anybody got into a statistical analysis of the UCR data, which is supposed
to be our flagship, I think they would have as heart attack. My own personal
opinion is that the data are crap” (Statistics CanadaAnalyst cited in Haggerty,
2. Considerable “dark figure” of crime – “dark figure” referring to total # of offences
not reported to police/do not appear as crime rate.
3. Use of alternative methods to better capture the “dark figure” of crime in Canada.
1. Phone-administered questionnaires seeking information on victimization experiences
of individuals over specific time period.
2. Questions relate to the incidence and characteristics of victimization experiences, as
well as reasons for reporting or not reporting the incident, fear of crime, and attitudes
toward the police.
3. Alternate data source independent of police and citizen reporting practices.
4. Surveys typically yield levels of crime higher than those reported in official statistics.
1. Over-reporting – incidents reported as crimes but they are not – wallet lost, but
reported it as stolen.
3. Excludes ”victimless” crimes – no questions about drug use, sex trade, etc.
1. Phone surveys or written questionnaires asking individuals about their past
involvement in various forms of criminal behaviour.
2. Valuable source of information for victimless crime such as drug use.
3. Independent of police and citizen reporting practices. Limitations
1. Inaccurate or Incomplete Reporting
2. Reporting Bias – males are in general more likely to under report their involvement in
crime relative to females
3. No Independent Measure of Validity – we don’t know if these ppl are telling the truth
whether they’re engaging in crime or not. No way to check or confirm.
The Use and Abuse of Crime Statistics
1. Roles of Statistics in Claims-Making
• Critical role of statistics in claim making process
• Process through which activities/ppl defined as social problems that require
immediate intervention often for more laws/tougher penalties for existing laws
• In order to bring issue, statistics are critical
2. Forms ofAbuse
Use of Aggregate Measures – reference to general categories of crim. Behaviours, that
actually combines # of diff. crimes
Violent youth crimes involve aggregated assault, sexual assault, common – level 1 –
Manipulation of Time Frame – perfect example: data on Canadian Crime Rates for
2011 was released – Minister for Public Safety tweeted “Crime rate down 6%, shows
conservative party tough on crime is working”. Best way for politicians to use and abuse
Neglect of Changes in Definition of Crime and/or Data Collection Methods – Globe
and Mail. Neglected important detail that 16 and 17 year olds were added to category of
young offenders act in 1985.
Employment of False or Deceptive Formats – perfect example: crime clock. It is
misleading because it’s not talking about changes over time. Suggests these crimes are
randomly distributed so that any one of us has potential to become a victim.
3. Case Study 1: The Missing Child Problem
• Joel Best: 1998 – the problem of stranger abductions
• One measure comes from center for Missing and Exploited Children (early 90s) –
definition: every reported crimes include attempt to kidnap or kidnapping by a non
relative – based on this, 50,000 kids being abducted every year in U.S.
• 1/5 abductions are unsuccessful (20%) – misleading to count as stranger abduction
• 97% of children in reported cases missing for less then 24 hours or short time (hours)
• 60% cases reported by police as sex offences – sex crimes rather than abductions
• Proposed narrower definition: include only children who are killed or missing
overnight - # dropped from 50,000 down to 550
• Argued that non relative is not necessarily a stranger – if only strangers included, #
drops from 550 to 115 – represents total # of missing children in U.S. (.00006%)
4. Case Study 2: Measuring Serial Murder
• FBI produced # that there were 4, 000 serial murder victims every year in U.S. • Philip Jenkins looked at # in suspicious, argued that actually # was close to 300/4000
• Claims makers was FBI, benefited from larger numbers
Conclusion – The Politics of Crime Statistics
1. Production and Collection of Statistics
Hackler (2000), “Crime statistics do not measure criminal behaviour; they measure
the response of various agencies to their perception of crime.”
2. Use of Statistics
Best (1998), “Acitivitists use statistics… (92).
Ask yourself: where do the numbers come from AND does the source have anything
to gain from the way crime is being presented to the public?
3. Explaining Crime and Criminal Behaviour
1. Theories of Crime and Criminal Behaviour:An Introduction
• Individual versus Sociological Theories
2. Individual Theories
A) Biological and Psychological Theories
B) Rational Choice Theories
• Historical Context
• Limitations and Policy Implications
• Cultural and Political Significance
For exam: connect theory w/ policy – identify policy behind theory, or theory behind
Theories of Crime and Criminal Behaviour
A) Model of Behaviour
1. Individual Individual
Determinism Bio.And Psy.
Free will Rational Choice Theories
2. Social Sociological (to MOS)
B) Model of Society |
1. Consensus Social Process Theories Structural Theories
2. Conflict Conflict Theories
Biological and Psychological Theories
1. MiddleAges (1400s-1600s)
• Crime often viewed as sin by individual
• Violent crime: viewed as satanic possession
• Severe punishment: burning w/a stake • Famous U.S. case – Salem Witch Trial in 1692 – resulted in deaths of 19 ppl.
Women targeted unmarried, live alone.
2. Enlightenment & Post-Enlightenment (1700s-1900s)
• Shift away from spiritual/religious foundation towards natural
• Try to understand through measurement, science
• Criminology emerged as a science
• Much of this work rested on a belief that crime could be read off body – skull,
body type, faces – tell who criminal is based on physical make up of body itself
o Phrenologists (1800-1850): skull abnormalities – study structure of skull
and believe certain structures associated w/criminal activities, personality
traits & mental capacity
o (Best example) Lombroso and the theory ofAtavism (1876): referred to as
“Father of Criminology”. Did autopsy on notorious killer and compared
criminals to soldiers and proposed theory, “criminals can identified based
on atavistic characteristics” – criminals are evolutionary throwbacks.
Identified 18 abnormalities – enormous jaws, strong canine teeth, large
lips. Concluded that if you possessed 5, you were a criminal and could
explain, “irresistible craving for evil for its own sake…”
o Sheldon and the Criminal Physique (1949): argued that criminals
possessed a distinct physique. Theory: endomorph, mesomorph,
ectomorph and normal body types. (Mesomorph most likely to become
1. Human beings have unique biological characteristics and psychological traits that
predispose them towards crime – using measurements, observations.
2. Using established methods of scientific observation, we can distinguish b/w criminals
and non-criminals based on their physical, biological, and psychological attributes –
i.e., those who have a propensity or predisposition to commit criminal behaviour.
1. Neurophysiological – brain damage can cause criminalization
2. Genetic – XYY chromosomes
3. Biochemical – imbalances, hormones, high levels of adrenaline/testosterone,
neurotransmitter linked to anxiety, depression
Case Study: “The Psychopath”
1. Historical Context – term “psychopath” coined to late 1800s. Used since this time
as a catch all term applied to violent and unstable criminals. Changed in early
1980s, Robert Hare,
2. Robert Hare and the Psychopathy Checklist – determine who was a psychopath,
who wasn’t. Consists of about 20 diff. traits: pathological lying, impulsivity,
irresponsibility, shallow affect, conning/manipulative, etc. 3. Biological Origins: TheAmygdala and Broca’sArea – ppl who are psychopaths
have deficiencies withAmygdala. Use brain-scanning tech. and flash violent
images in front of screens and measure scan/activity in brain. Individuals
classified as psychopaths have less activity/emotional response to images flashed.
Another theory, psychopaths produce emotion in an area where we produce
language/speak (broca). Conclusion: psychopaths are fundamentally diff. from
rest of us and this diff. can be picked up from tech. like brain scans.
b. Breath and Reliability of Diagnostic Categories – two issues. First: way
that checklist is designed (breath). Psychopath label applied to large # of
ppl. Far too broad and not precise enough as a measure. Big problem in
states. Other issue: reliability. Variation b/w psychiatrist’s b/w
assessments. Should get some answer for assessment no matter how many
or what psychiatrists do it.
c. Correlations as Causes – studies done that demonstrate connection b/w
individuals defined as psychopaths and individuals who clearly deemed to
lack many key measures. Less activity in brain associated w/emotion.
Conclusion: what’s going on in brain is causing violent behaviour, but
there is no proof, it’s just a correlation. Relationship could be reverse –
individuals who have a violent history have less activity in part of brain
d. Policy Implications – true in cases used as a predictive tool. Determining
whether criminal will engage in violence in future/what should happen to
them within prison system. Problem of false positives – cases where indi.
Comes out with high PCLR, but are not a psychopath. Other issue:
connection b/w background. Conclusion from all of this: psychopath is a
social construction. It’s a diagnostic category used to describe individuals
w/violent histories rather than a reflection of an organic, natural
abnormality for disorder. Because this is present in a scientific language it
is perceived to be legitimate.
Is there a connection b/w psychopaths and corporate success?
2 questions for movie: what exactly is being measured through instruments such as
psychopathy checklistAND what are the limitations/implications of this particular
assessment technique? Good possibility for exam question
• Is the PCLR measuring what it’s suppose to measure? Suppose to measure
underlying psychological condition, which predisposes individuals to acts of
violence. These attributes don’t get to the underlying conditions – closely
correlated to being violent.ARGUMENT: more of a scientific way of looking at
criminal’s w/violent histories. No evidence produced from these tests that are
convincing. The terms “scumbag” and “evil” aren’t scientific terms.At the end of
the day, what are we measuring? –TIES INTO VALIDITY
Variations 1. Psychoanalytic – Freud. Criminal behaviour is rooted in inability to control self-
conscious/conscious drives. Battle b/w id, ego and superego.
2. Trait-Based Personality Theories – idea is criminal activity is rooted by
personality.ASPD, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency.
3. Social Learning Theory – crime is a product of conditioning and modeling.
Watching and imitating others. Ex: grow up in violent home, you will be
conditioned to act violently.
Case Study: Violent Video Games and Criminal Behaviour
1. Violent Video Games – Modeling and Reinforcing Violence
2. Effects – The Evidence
a. Case Studies – high profile cases where connection revealed b/w
individuals committed extremely violent act and have played video games
immediately before or in past (Ex: Columbine shooting). Two teens
shooting shot gun off bridge – killed one, injured another – played Grant
Theft Auto. Kim Veer Gil (2006) – shot ppl in college in Montreal. Played
5 of top 10 worst violent video games.
b. Experimental Research – divide ppl into 2 groups. One group plays violent
video game/other group doesn’t. Then asked to do a task to measure
violent behaviour. Length of time they punished an opponent by blasting
them w/loud noise was measure of aggression.
c. Cross-Sectional Research – uses questionnaires asking indi.Asking about
video game habits and levels of aggression. See if there’s cthnectith. Ex:
Jim Zealand (2004): study using this method asking 600 8 and 9 graders
asking video games they played, identify 3 fave.And how much they
played, and level of violence within game. Then asked about school
grades, arguments w/teachers and if they’d been in fights. Conclusion:
teens who play violent video games get in arguments w/teachers, involved
in fights and get poor grades.
a. Correlations as Causes – many ppl play video games but don’t pursue
violence. Parenting plays a role – low level of parental
involvement/parents acting violently in the home
b. Short-Term versus Long-Term Effects – true that violent video games
cause aggression, but this aggression is short-term. Bobo doll
c. “Aggression” versus “Crime” – many of these studies will present the
conclusion that being exposed to violence causes aggressive thoughts
(attitudes, etc.) but provide no evidence of aggressive behaviour. Big leap
b/w aggression and crime.
Limitations of Biological and Psychological Theories
1. Acceptance of Correlations as Causes – doesn’t necessarily mean causal
2. Vague and Ambiguous Diagnostic Categories – each element w/psychopath is
broad. Reliability also problem 3. Lack of Conclusive Empirical Support – true for links b/w biological and
psychological variables of crime, that reveal the strongest links are studies that
include more sociological variables, regions, socioeconomic status, social
4. Inability to Account for the Social Distribution of Crime – evidence to suggest
connection b/w crime and geographical region. Higher rates of crime in U.S. than
Canada, but doesn’t mean more psychopaths in U.S. than here. Higher rates of
crime due to political or economic differences.
5. Troubling Policy Implica