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Crime and Deviance.docx

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Robert Brym

Introduction - Human behaviour is not always predictable, rules are not always obeyed, and we don’t always live up to people’s expectations - Surveys confirm that deviance – particularly violent interpersonal crime – is one of the major discontents of our society - On the other hand, crime and deviance fascinates us (crime stories in our entertainment culture) Concepts of Crime and Deviance Crime and Deviance as Norm-Violating Behaviour - One way of conceptualizing crime or deviance is to emphasize it’s rule-breaking qualities - All known human societies have norms (i.e., generally accepted ways of doings things) about appropriate behaviour - Deviance involves breaking a norm - Crime involves breaking a law - Some norms have wide scope, applying to more or less everybody in the community— prescriptions against murder and armed robbery, for instance. - Other norms may only apply to particular subgroups of society (certains norms for teenagers that might not apply to adults - Norms are enforced in many ways, both formally and informally - At the formal level, norms are enforced with laws regulated by a criminal justice system that includes police, courts, prisons, etc. - At the informal level, norms may be enforced with shaming, communal pressure, etc. - John Hagan distinguishes between diverse kinds of rule breaking behaviour by suggesting norm violations be differentiated according to different measures of seriousness, which include the following:  How harmful the act in question is deemed to be  How much agreement there is that the behaviour in question is wrong  Severity of the sanction (or punishment) imposed on that behaviour - Hagan employs his conception of ―seriousness‖ to identify four different kinds of deviance as follows:  Consensus crime: Acts deemed very harmful and wrong, and for which the harshest criminal sanctions are reserved  Examples: Homicide, attempted homicide, violent assault with a weapon, violent sexual assault, armed robbery, kidnapping, & theft  Mala in se – evil in themselves  Conflict crime: Where members of the community disagree over whether behaviours in question are harmful, wrong, or deserving of severe criminal sanction  Examples: Euthanasia, gambling, prostitution, drug use, and public drunkenness (often referred to as ―morality offences‖)…*  Mala prohibita – wrong by definition  Social deviation: Norm-violating behaviour that is not illegal but nevertheless may be subject to social stigma through condemnation, ostracization, and medicalization  Examples: People who are mentally ill, who are homosexual, or who are alcohol- or drug-dependent  Social diversion: Minority heterosexual & homosexual activities as well as forms of symbolic or expressive deviance involving adolescents  Examples: Particular clothing, hairstyles, musical choices, etc. - The important point about conflict crime is that its presence in the criminal code is loaded with controversy. - Research indicates that finding a job, somewhere to live, a circle of friends, or a marital partner is significantly more difficult for people who are recognized as a ―former mental patient‖ than it is for others - Generally speaking, the more serious the form of deviance, the less likely it is to occur - Conversely, other deviant acts can occur so routinely some question whether they characterize deviance - Hagan’s typology is subject to change though given the relativity of deviance: Acts, behaviours, and conditions that constitute various categories can vary over time  Examples:  Impaired driving – not originally regarded as a serious offence - was inconsistently enforced and rarely punished with a prison sentence  Marijuana use, once regarded as a serious offence, is now considered by some to warrant decriminalization* Crime and Deviance as Labels and Social Constructs Labeling Theory - Study of crime and deviance is not ONLY about rule-breaking behaviour, but also how members of society react to some behaviours - This understanding is the starting point for a second approach to the study of deviance and crime, one that sees deviance and crime as a matter of definitions or labels that have been applied to some behaviours but not others. - From a definitional perspective, crime and deviance are not distinctive types of human behaviour  few if any acts are viewed as wrong in ALL circumstances - Labelling theory recognizes relativity of crime and deviance, and argues the following:  Crime and deviance may be universal, but there are no universal forms of crime and deviance  What counts as deviant or criminal behaviour varies by time and place including…  Killing (acceptable in time of war or in line of duty)  Opiate-use in Canada (was once legal)  Incest (are significant variations across cultures in what constitutes incest) - Publicly recognizing somebody as criminal or deviant is important cause of criminal or deviant behaviour - Application of label of criminal or deviant often linked to lower social class (e.g., the lower the status of the user, the more likely the drug will be criminalized)* Social Constructionism - Differs from labelling theory only in its broad concern with all kinds of social problems rather than solely crime and deviance - Both theories argue crime & deviance become problematic because some people - usually the most powerful - define them as such - Both theories focus on activities & claims that result in new crimes being defined - Are more likely to ask the question, ―Why do we care more about youth crime than corporate crime?‖ than ―What causes youth crime & corporate crime?‖ - Both labelling theory & social constructionism stand in contrast to the objectivist norm violation approach. - With the objectivist approach to deviance and crime, it is assumed that we know what crime and deviance is, how much damage and harm it causes, and what needs to be done about it - Objectivist accounts of crime and deviance focus on the behaviour itself - Researchers working in this tradition are likely to pose the following kinds of questions:  Are rates of crime and deviance increasing?  What kinds of people become bank robbers, prostitutes, or murderers? - Can combine both objectivist & constructivist approaches by asking different but complimentary questions about the phenomenon  Full understanding of crime & deviance requires both the norm-violation and labelling/constructionist approaches Crime In The News - The media does not report all criminal incidents that it can report  Violent crime is reported more regularly than property or white-collar crime (.i.e., crime conducted by high-status individuals in the course of their occupation or profession) - News organizations do not just report facts but rather they shape how readers, viewers, & listeners feel and think about crime & deviance  Example: Canadians overestimate crime & recidivism (repeat offending) rates & underestimate severity of criminal sanctions for crimes - In his study of law and order reporting, British sociologist Steve Chibnall (1997) identified a number of informal criteria that are regularly used by journalists to select stories. - Visible and spectacular incidents with political and sexual connotations rank highest. - Similar rules determine how crime stories are presented—how many and which photographs will accompany a story, what headlines will be used, and so forth. - What we read in the newspapers and watch on the TV is a result of a predictable selection process. - The mass media typically exaggerate the nature and scope of crime, presenting rare cases as if they are typical or the start of a new and worrying trend. Counting Crime and Deviance: Numbers and Meaning Official Statistics - Most accounts of crime & deviance are made persuasive by use of data collected by the police, the courts, & other governmental agencies  The more serious the norm violation, the more comprehensive the data collection - Virtually every important theory of deviant behaviour (especially criminal behaviour) relies on information about offences & offenders collected by or on behalf of the government - Since 1962, a system of uniform crime reports (UCR) has provided the basic count of criminal infractions in Canada  UCR system is designed to produce consistent, comparable, nationwide crime statistics  Police departments across the country file information on ―crimes known to the police‖ (in official parlance). - For crime to become known to the police, one of two things must happen:  Either members of the public experience or observe a criminal incident and pass that information on to the police – or  The police themselves detect the incident - UCR underestimates the actual amount of crime occurring in any jurisdiction given inconsistent reporting to police by the public  The number (deemed large) of criminal incidents that remain unknown to the police often is referred to as the dark figure of crime - Official statistics are affected by more than just the deviant motivations and behaviours of perpetrators - 2007: In Canada, were 2.3 million crimes known to the police  However, overall crime rate was lower than at any time since 1977 - with violent crime at its lowest level in nearly two decades - ―Violent crime‖ – includes everything from homicide, attempted homicide, and sexual assault to minor pushing and shoving (―common assault‖) Regional Variations in Crime Rates - Generally speaking, provinces and cities in western part of Canada have higher crime rates than those in the east - Contributing factors (Tim Hartnagel):  The West’s ―frontier mentality‖ that favours individualism, independence, and risk-taking  More migrants (anonymity loosens social controls – more likely to commit crime when you’re a stranger and there is less social control)  Younger population (crime associated with youth)  Proportionately higher Aboriginal population (group with crime rates higher than non-Aboriginal population) Homicide Rates - Homicide rates are the most valid and reliable crime indicator, partly because it is hard to hide bodies.  Homicide is less susceptible to the reporting and detection problems described earlier.  Consensus about the gravity of the offence means that it is a crime with exceptionally high report rates.  The police are also more successful at detecting homicides than most other kinds of criminal offences. - In 2007, three-quarters of all homicide victims were men, as were 90 percent of the accused. Winnipeg is the murder capital of Canada, with a homicide rate of 3.5. - While Toronto had a larger number of homicides than any other Canadian city in 2007, its homicide rate ranked fifth among Canada’s nine largest metropolitan urban areas. - Homicide in Toronto has increasingly become a crime committed in public places, than in private - In 2007, were 594 homicides in Canada - 1.8 homicides per 100 000 Canadians  Rate has been decreasing since 1975 - Males are more likely than females to be both victims and perpetrators of homicide - Rates are higher in the West than in the East - Black people are five times more likely than white people to become homicide victims, and also are more likely to be perpetrators - Although Canada’s homicide rate is similar to that of many European nations, it is much lower than the U.S. rate. - While some claim violent media consumption in the U.S. is contributing factor, Canadians watch similar programming - Sociologists of homicide are interested in the relationship between murderers and their victims - Statistics demonstrate the following:  Most victims know their killer  Acquaintances kill about one-third of homicide victims, family members another third  In comparison to men, women are at greater risk from the violent attentions of former spouses and are 4 times more likely to be victims of intimate partner homicide  Child victims of homicide are rare, and children are killed primarily by women Other Data Sources: Self-Report Surveys and Direct Observation - Self-report studies used mainly to conduct research on deviance among young people, particularly those in high school  Researchers ask students about their deviant behaviour and, less often, their experiences of victimization.  Respondents complete a questionnaire that asks them to report on their own deviant activities or experiences of victimization. - Statistics Canada also conducts surveys of adult victimization periodically - Concerns of self-report studies:  Cannot ensure truthfulness of accounts  Self-disclosure much higher than in police records  Those charged by police and prosecuted differ from ―hidden‖ delinquents - Researchers use observational studies to collect information about crime and deviance by watching it happen, either as outside observers or as participant observers  Many gang researchers have engaged in observational studies - Concern of observational studies:  Observing people can sometimes change their behaviour - Police and court data, self-report surveys, and observational studies are different ways of collecting information about crime and deviance but they are not necessarily alternative methods. - Some investigations of crime and deviance combine different methods, gathering some information from surveys and official statistics, and additional information from observational or self-report research. Correlates of Crime - A correlate is a phenomenon that is associated with another phenomenon - Factors associated with criminal and deviant activity are correlates of crime - Important correlates of crime: 1) Age (i.e., people in teens & early 20s) 2) Gender (i.e., males)  Both age & gender are universal correlates of crime 3) Lower social and economic standing (is disputed though because is not reflected in self-reports)  But street crime (i.e., robbery, burglary, and the like) involves mainly people from low-status backgrounds  White-collar or business crime is more likely to involve people from more privileged backgrounds 4) Race  Aboriginals and blacks are overrepresented in Canada’s prison population  Overrepresentation of Aboriginal people explained by both (i) racial bias in treatment of Aboriginal offenders, and (ii) greater criminal activity by Aboriginal people  Overrepresentation of Black people explained by racial profiling (i.e., targeting by police officers of members of particular racial or ethnic groups) - Unlike the United States, Canada does not officially record details about the racial characteristics of offenders or their victims. - People who oppose the collection of race-related crime statistics argue that any evidence showing the overrepresentation of particular racial or ethnic groups in crime might result in increased public hostility toward those groups. - People who support collecting race-based crime statistics argue that if racial and ethnic minorities are treated differently by the criminal justice system—if they are more likely to
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