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Chapter 1-3

Chapters 1-3 (Felson Notes)


Department
Sociology
Course Code
SOCC30H3
Professor
Julian Tanner
Chapter
1-3

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Crime and Everyday Life (Fourth Edition)
Chapter 1: Nine Fallacies About Crime
1. THE DRAMATIC FALLACY
The dramatic fallacy states that the most publicized offenses are far more dramatic
than those commonly found in real life
Media are carried away by a horror-distortion sequence – they find a story, then entertain
the public with it, then make money on it while creating a myth in the public mind, then
build on that myth for their next horror story
THE MURDER MIX
The public view of murder is especially distorted, they see murder as the most frequent
crime
Murders are less than 1% of the eight Part 1 crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated
assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson)
Most murders are the tragic result of a stupid little quarrel. Thus, murder is less a crime
than it is an outcome
Murder has two central features: a gun too near and a hospital too far
THE MASS OF MINOR OFFENSES
Property crime victimizations far exceed violent victimizations, with the simplest thefts
and burglaries most common
Minor drugs far exceed major drugs, and occasional usage far exceeds regular usage.
None of these drugs ever does nearly as much harm, in percentage terms, as simple
alcohol
Crime is usually not much of a story: someone drunks too much and gets in a fight.
There is no inner conflict, thrilling car chase, or life-and-death struggle. He saw, he took,
and he left. He won’t give it back.
2. THE COPS-AND-COURTS FALLACY
The cops-and-courts fallacy warns us against overrating the power of the criminal
justice agencies
POLICE WORK
Many calls for service never lead to a real crime report; many complaints bother a few
citizens but do not directly threaten the whole community; many problems are resolved
informally, as they should be
Police work consists of hour upon hour of boredom, interrupted by moments of sheer
terror. Most seldom-or never- take a gun out of its holster, never shot at or never shoot at
anybody else
Most crimes are never reported to the police in the first place
Theoretically, police can reduce crime by patrolling – inhibiting wrong-doing by their
sheer presence on the streets. Police can reduce crime, but only if they concentrate
police efforts very intelligently
Less than 1% of offenses end with the offender caught in the act by police on patrol
COURTS AND PUNISHMENT
For most crimes known to the police, nobody gets arrested. When there is an arrest,
most do not lead to trial or a guilty plea. Of the cases that get to trial, most do not result
in incarceration.

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The U.S. criminal justice system punishes bad rather than rewarding good, it relies on
rare and delayed, but extreme penalties, it never catches up with crime itself, which
gives sure and quick rewards to offenders
3. THE NOT-ME FALLACY
The false image of crime and criminals leads to something worse: a false image of
oneself
The not-me fallacy is the illusion that we could never do a crime. It denies every illegal
act we ever commit or contemplated
Empirical research has virtually destroyed the claim that victims and offenders are from
separate populations
4. THE INNOCENT-YOUTH FALLACY
The innocent-youth fallacy reflects the belief that being young means being innocent
The television version of crime often portrays middle-aged offenders. When the young
are there, they are usually presented as innocents corrupted by those who are older
Criminal behaviour accelerates quickly in teenage years, peaks in the late teens or early
20s, and declines as youth fades
The main corrupters of youths are other youths
Standard lockup sequence: (1) a youth lives a risky lifestyle among dangerous people;
(2) is incarcerated for a certain time, and; (3) returns to the same risky lifestyle and
dangerous people
5. THE INGENUITY FALLACY
The false image of “the criminal” derived from the media also creates an ingenuity
fallacy
Most crimes need no advanced skills. Technology has made modern safes too difficult to
crack, and most people avoid having that much cash anyway. Crows suitable for old-
fashioned pocket picking decline in a suburban society
Dermott Walsh (1994) – “obsolescence of crime forms”; modern life has produced many
easy crimes (lightweight objects make it easier to steal, internet makes it easy to steal
money)
It is difficult to admit how foolish you were in leaving yourself open to the offender. That’s
why you might be tempted to tell yourself, police, and anyone who asks, “A professional
criminal broke into my house”
Most crimes involve so little planning, plotting or creativity
6. THE ORGANIZED-CRIME FALLACY
Organization, drama, and crime families – these are images of organized crime and
groups of criminals
The organized-crime fallacy is the tendency to attribute much greater organization to
crime conspiracies than they usually have
CRIME CONSPIRACY

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Three basic principles of crime conspiracy are: (1) act quickly to escape detection and
minimize danger from other offenders; (2) have direct contact with as few co-offenders
as possible to avoid betrayal; (3) work as little as possible to get a lot of money
Given these principles, large groups and organizations make no sense at all for most
types of crime (i.e., someone grows marijuanna, sells it to another person who sells it to
another, etc)
JUVENILE STREET GANGS
Juvenile gangs have a remarkable image as cohesive, ruthless, organized groups of
alienated youths who dominate local crime, do the nation’s drug trafficking, provide a
surrogate family, and kill anybody who quits, which has led the public to misunderstand
the more common dangers
Research found juvenile gangs are much more disorganized with a loose structure:
people fading in and out, and frequent disintegration
Gangs with no social workers fell apart more often
Most of their crimes are petty and local
Membership is volatile, even within its core. It is loosely linked to a neighbourhood and
has even looser links to nearby gangs, may do evil but seldom does cohesive evil
7. THE AGENDA FALLACY
The agenda fallacy refers to the fact that many people have an agenda and hope you
will assist them.
MORAL AGENDAS
Many people believe that declining morality is the cause of crime (i.e. moral panics)
The basic moral sequence is supposed to be as follows: (1) teach and preach morality to
people; (2) they then do what’s right in practice; (3) that prevents crime
If this sequence was correct, more teaching and preaching would prevent crime and
amoral agenda would then be justified, but still many commit crime
Norms do not guarantee moral behaviour, nor does immoral behaviour prove a lack of
moral training
Morals do play a role in society. Each of us knows the rules and that someone might turn
us in for breaking them
RELIGIOUS AGENDAS
Many religious groups feel that conversion to their faiths or values will prevent crime and
that failure to follow will lead to more crime
While religion can teach self-control, it needs constant supervision
SOCIAL AND POLITICAL AGENDAS
A wide array of political and social agendas have been linked to crime prevention.
Many crime reduction claims are far-fetched even if the proposals are sometimes good
i.e., if you are a feminist, proclaim that rape is produced by antifeminism. If you dislike
pornography, link it to sexual or other crimes
WELFARE-STATE AGENDA
It’s usually a mistake to assume that crime is part of a larger set of social evils, such as
unemployment, poverty, social injustice or human suffering
Some people hate the welfare state and blame it for crime. Others like the welfare state,
promising that more social programs will reduce crime.
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