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Chapter 8

Social Problems Chapter 8 [COMPLETE] Notes - I 4.0ed this course

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8.1 The Problem of Crime • Crime - Behavior that is prohibited by the criminal law because it is considered especially harmful or offensive. • Deviance - Behavior that violates social norms and arouses strong social disapproval. Sociologist Becker said that "deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, • but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules or sanctions to an 'offender.'" This definition reminds us that some harmful behaviors, such as white- collar crime, may not be considered deviant and fail to result in severe legal punishment, perhaps because wealthy individuals perform them. Some less harmful behaviors, such as prostitution, may be considered very deviant because the public deems the behavior immoral and because poor people engage in them. • The application of a criminal label to an offender is problematic: People arrested and/ or convicted of a crime may not have engaged in a very harmful behavior or even in the behavior of which they are suspected, and people with no criminal record have in fact engaged in harmful and even criminal behavior. Public Concern about Crime: • The public believes the crime rate has been rising but it has actually been declining since the early 1990s. • Homicide does not rank among the top ten causes of death Media Myths: • Newspapers and TV news cover crime stories and the public becomes more concerned even though crime in general has not risen at all. • The new media increases their crime coverage even when crime is falling. • The media devote particularly heavy coverage to violent crime. More than 25% of the crime stories concern homicide, even though homicide comprises less than 1% of all crime. • The media tend to highlight crimes committed by African Americans and other people of color and crimes with white victims. • Most crimes involve offenders and victims of the same race. • The media tends to highlight crimes committed by youths. Measuring Crime: • It is difficult to know how much crime occurs because usually only the criminal, victim, and an occasional witness know about it. • Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) - The FBI's regular compilation of crime statistics, most of them on Part I crimes. • Part I Crimes - The FBI's term for the major crimes committed in the UCR including homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny (shoplifting, purse- snatching), motor vehicle theft, and arson. • Violent crimes: homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery • Property crimes: burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson • More than half of all crime victims do not report their crimes to the police and thus the police do not know about them. Dark figure of crime - The large number of crimes that do not come to the attention of • the police and thus also not to the public. • The UCR excludes white-collar crimes and thus diverts attention away from their harm. Police practices affect the number of crimes listed in the UCR. Ex: The police do not • record every report they hear from a citizen as a crime. Sometimes they don't have the time, and other times they don't believe the citizen. • The crime rate also rises and falls depending on how many victims report crimes. National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) - An annual survey conducted by the US • Department of Justice that asks a representative sample of the American Public about crimes they have suffered. • These responses are thought to be more accurate than the UCR's figures. • The NCVS excludes commercial crimes such as shoplifting while the UCR includes them. • Self-report survey - A survey given to individuals, usually adolescents, that asks them about offenses they have committed and usually about their families and other aspects of their lives. 8.2 Types of Crime • Criminologists commonly group crimes into several major categories: 1). violent crime, 2). property crime, 3). white-collar crime, 4). organized crime, 5). consensual or victimless crime Violent Crime: • Although some homicides are premeditated, most in fact are relatively spontaneous and the result of intense emotions like anger, hatred, or jealousy. • Most homicide offenders and victims knew each other before the homicide occurred. • About 2/3 of homicides involve firearms. • Intraracial - In criminology, the commission of crime by offenders against members of their own race/ethnicity. • Males commit about 90% of all homicides. • Homicide rate is 4x higher in large cities than in small towns. Property Crime: • Property crime has declined along with violent crime since the early 1990s. • Most property offenders are amateur offenders (young and unskilled in the ways of crime, and the amount they gain from any single theft is relatively small) • Professional property offenders tend to be older and skilled in the ways of crime, and the amount they gain from any single theft is relatively large. They often plan their crimes well in advance. • Cat burglar - someone who scales tall buildings to steal jewels, expensive artwork, or large sums of money. Prototypical example of the professional property criminals • Many professional thieves learn how to do their crimes from other professional thieves White-Collar Crime: White-collar crime is arguably much more harmful than street crime, both in terms of • economic loss and of physical injury, illness, and even death • White-collar crime - Crime committed by people in the course of their occupations; Edward Sutherland's definition emphasized crime by people of high social status. Much of the study of white-collar crime today focuses on fraud by physicians, • attorneys, and other professionals and on illegal behavior by executives of corporations designed to protect or improve corporate profits. • Corporate violence - Actions by corporations that cause death, injury, or illness Annual deaths from corporate violence exceed the number of homicides • • Employees of corporations suffer from unsafe workplaces in which workers are exposed to hazardous conditions and chemicals because their companies fail to take adequate measures to reduce or eliminate this exposure. (coal mining, asbestos workers) • Unsafe product example: Ford Pinto was a car sold in the early 1970s that was vulnerable to fire and explosion when hit from behind in a minor rear-end collision. Organized Crime: • Refers to criminal activity by groups whose major purpose for existing is to commit such crime. • This crime thrives because it provides goods/services that the public demands Consensual Crime: • Aka victimless crime; Refers to behaviors in which people engage voluntarily and willingly even though these behaviors violate the law (prostitution, pornography, illegal gambling) • Critics of consensual crime laws say our laws are causing the same problems that Prohibition caused. Proponents of these laws respond that the laws are still necessary as an expression of society's moral values and as a means of reducing involvement in harmful behaviors. 8.3 Who Commits Crime? Gender: • Males commit more crime than females • Blame sociological factors: Boys raised to be assertive and aggressive, girls raised to be gentle and nurturing • A second factor is opportunity. Studies find that parents watch their daughters more closely than their sons, who are allowed to stay out later at night and thus have more opportunity to break the law. Age: • Offending rates are highest in the late teens and early twenties and decline thereafter • Peer relationships matter more during adolescence and peers are more likely to be offenders during this time. • Adolescents are more likely than older adults to lack full-time jobs; for this reason, they are more likely to need money and thus commit offenses to obtain money As we age out of our early twenties, our ties to conventional society increase: Many • people marry, have children, and begin full-time employment. These events and bonds increase our stakes in conformity Social Class: • Poor individuals seem to commit more crimes • Poverty is said to produce anger, frustration, and economic need that makes them more likely to commit street crime Most poor people do not commit street crime at all • • Since the poor commit more street crime and the wealthy commit more white-collar crime, there does not appear to be a social class crime relationship Urban versus Rural Residence: • Urban areas have high crime rates in part because they are poor and have a greater population density. • There are more people to come in contact with: teens have more peers to influence, criminals have more targets, there are more bars and convenience stores that can become potential targets and drinking at bars can cause tempers to flare and violence to ensue Race and Ethnicity: • Research finds that African Americans and Latinos have higher rates of street crime than non-Latino whites. • Reasons for this: • African Americans and Latinos are much poorer than whites on average and poverty contributes to higher crime rates • They are more likely to live in urban areas • The discrimination they experience leads to anger and frustration that can promote criminal behavior 8.4 Explaining Crime • Biological and psychological explanations cannot easily explain why crime rates rise and fall or why crime rates are associated with certain locations and social backgrounds. The Functional Perspective: Social Structure Theories • Social structure theories stress that crime results from the breakdown of society's norms and social organization and fall under the functional perspective. They trace the roots of crime to problems in the society itself rather than to biological or psychological problems inside individuals. They suggest the need to address society's social structure in order to reduce crime. Social Disorganization Theory: • The view that the weakening of social bonds and conventional social institutions in a community raises its crime rates. Anomie Theory: • Robert Merton's view that deviance is caused by a failure to achieve the American goal of financial success through the conventional means of working. • Conformity: accept the goal of economic success
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