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Chapter 4

Sociology 2140 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Youth Criminal Justice Act, Aggravated Sexual Assault, Assault

Course Code
SOC 2140
Paul Whitehead

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4- Crime and Violence
8:17 PM
Criminal patterns and justice systems similar around word, dramatic differences exist in
international crime/violence rates - Gibraltar highest crime rates in world
Industrialized countries typically have higher rates of crime than non-industrialized
US highest rates of homicide, although rates can fluctuate year-year, trends in one direction are
roughly stable
o Homicide rates in CAN more than doubled over 10 yrs. to 1975, rate has gradually declined
since then with some fluctuations year-year
o Myth that homicide is a random act with no social determinants at work, 83% cases show
victims knew attackers, 1/3 killed by family, 1/3 acquaintance, 12% ppl known through
criminal activity
Social life is bound together by laws- 40 000 federal/provincial statues and municipal bylaws
Constitution Act- only offenses defined by federal laws are "crimes"- single criminal code unlike US
Crime: the violation of norms that are written into laws
o Offender must have acted voluntarily and with intent, no legally acceptable
excuse/justification for the beh
3 major types of statistics used to measure crime: official statistics, victimization surveys and self-
report offender surveys
1. Official Statistics
Canadian Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR) collects info monthly from more than 400
municipal police departments, services, agencies across CAN on 91 specific categories of crime
and offenses
Information complied and published each year with counts and calculated rates per 100 000 pop'n
each province/territory and CAN as whole
o Number of persons charged with different types offenses
Within UCR crimes grouped into major categories- crimes of violence, property offenses
Many incidents of cram go unreported and police fail to record all crime reports received, some
rates exaggerated- motivations for distortions may come from public/ political organisational
o EX: police crack down on drug-related crimes then reported rates will increase
o Reflects change in behaviour of law enforcement not number of drug violations
o Official crime statistics may be better indicator of what police are doing not criminals
2. Victimization Surveys
Ask people If they have been victims of crime
Youth tend to be considered by medial and popular opinions as dangerous/ violent even though
data on youth crime does not support the negative view
o Overlooked that youth are at risk for victimization in crime
Correlates b/w youth before and their victimization:
o Because youth increase use of alcohol, drugs and less parental supervision as they get older
they expose themselves to increased victimization risk
o Youth also account for 61% all victims of sexual assault , 60% by family members

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o Youth witness domestic violence face increased risks to their own health, becoming abusers
themselves in adulthood
Only 55% of victimization incidents reported to police and most are property offenses
3. Self-Report Offender Surveys
Asks offenders about their criminal behaviour
Sample may consist of population with known police records, prison population, respondents
from general pop'n such as university students
Compensate for many problems associated with official statistics, still subject to
Many criminal acts never wind up in official crime reports: cannabis use, underage drinking,
shoplifting, private assaults, small fraud adds up to mills of dollars
Some explanations of crime focus on psychological offenders- psychopathic personalities,
unhealthy relationships with parents, mental illness
Other explanations focus on potential biological variables- central nervous system malfunction,
stress, hormones, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, generic predisposition for aggression
Sociological theories of crime emphasize role of social factors in criminal behaviour and societal
responses to it
Some theorists interested in the positive aspects of crime and deviance
o Structural -functionalists - understand crime such as treason/blasphemy can encourage
change in oppressive social structures and ideas in the church and state treatment of
o Conflict Theorists/Feminists- agree lack of power some ind/groups have may necessitate
breaking the law of deviating from typical behaviours in order to secure increased rights and
access to privileges - property rights, personal autonomy
o Symbolic Interactionist- see "Deviance" as ability for subjects to re-vision their worlds and
to make new meanings out of situations
o Refusing to live by the status quo can extend rights, recognition, to all members of society
instead of only the powerful -gay/lesbian rights
Structural -Functionalist Perspective
Crime is functional for society- strengthens group cohesion
Lead to social change- local violence can achieve improvements in city services, families, social
Functionalism is not a theory of crime, 3 major theories have developed from functionalism:
1. Strain Theory: when legitimate means (job) of acquiring culturally defined goals (money) are
limited by the structure of society, the resulting strain may lead to crime or other deviance
o Ind must adapt to inconsistency b/w means and goals in a society that socializes everyone
into wanting the same thing, provides opportunities only for some
o Conformity occurs when ppl accept culturally defined goals and socially legitimate means of
achieving them
Innovation occurs when ind accepts goals of society but rejects/lacks socially legitimate means of
achieving them- mode of adaption most associated with criminal behaviour
o High rate of crime committed by uneducated/poor who lack access to legitimate means of
acquiring social goals of wealth and power
Ritualism: ind accepts lifestyle of hard work, rejects cultural goal of monetary rewards- get edu,
works hard yet is not committed to goal of wealth/power

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o Rejecting both cultural goal of success and socially legitimate means of achieving it
o Withdraws/retreats from society and may become an alcoholic, addict, vagrant
Rebellion: when ind rejects both culturally defined foals and means and substitutes new goals and
means- replace goal of personal wealth with social justice and equality
2. Subcultural Theory: certain groups or subcultures in society have values/attitudes that are
conductive to crime/violence
o Members of groups/subcultures/interact with mu adopt crime-promoting attitudes
o EX: inner city youth live by survival code on streets emphasizes respect through violence
3. Control Theory: strong social bond b/w person & society constrains some ind from violating
o For elements of social bond: attachment to significant others, commitment to conventional
goals, involvement in conventional activities and belied in moral stands of society
o Higher these elements/ social bond lower probability of criminal behaviour
o Local community ties, varying by neighbourhood/offence decrease probability of crimes
Conflict Perspective
Deviance is inevitable whenever 2 groups have differing degrees of power and the more inequality
in a society, greater the crime rate in that society
Social inequality lead ind to commit crimes such as armed robbery/burglary as a means of
economic survival others who are angry with low socioeconomic status may express rage through
crimes such as drug abuse, assault and homicide
Those in power define what is criminal and not definitions reflect the interests of the ruling class
o Laws against vagrancy penalize those who do not contribute to capitalist and consumerism
Societal beliefs also reflect power differentials - rape myths perpetuated by male dominated
culture, include notion that good girls don’t get raped and yes means no
o In societies with greater equality b/w men and women less rape occurs
Symbolic Interactionist Perspective
Two important theories:
1. Labelling Theory: concerned with effects of labelling on the definition of a social problem (egg.
Social group is considered problematic if labelled as such) and with the effects of labelling on the
self-concept ad behaviour of individual (egg. Label of "delinquent" may contribute to development
of a self-concept and behaviour consistent with label)
Primary deviance: deviant behavior committed before a person is caught and labelled as an
Secondary deviance: deviance that results from being caught and labelled
o Label dominates social identity of person becomes primary basis on which person is defined
by others
o Leads to further deviant behaviours because (1) person who is labelled as deviant is often
denied opportunities for engaging in non- deviant behaviour and (2) labelled person
internalizes the deviant label adopts a deviant self-concept and acts accordingly
Differential association: holds that through interaction with others individuals learn the values,
attitudes, techniques and motives for criminal behaviour
o Children who see their parents benefit from crime where success is associated with illegal
behaviour are more likely to engage in criminal behaviour
Conventional Crime (Street Crime): traditional illegal behaviour that most people think of as crime,
including such offences as murder, sexual assault, assault, armed robbery, break and enter and
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