Distinguish between the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and self-reported surveys.
Learning Objective 3: Distinguish between the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) and self-reported surveys.
Learning Objective 4: Discuss the prevailing explanation for the rising number of women being incarcerated in the United States.
i. The UCR, NCVS, and other statistical measures represent only the tip of the iceberg of crime data
ii. Since the 1990s, the violent crime rate decreased by 70%
iii. Property crime dropped by 40%
a. End of the crack cocaine epidemic
b. Aging population
c. Improvements in law enforcement
d. Gentrification of many former high-crime neighborhoods
A. Leveling Off: Crime in the 2010s
i. UCR suggests plateau of crime rates
ii. NCVS suggests increase in violent crime by 15% and in property crime by 12%
iii. Reasons for the difference may be that many crimes are not reported to the police and thus are not reflected in the UCR
Ask students to discuss possible reasons of the stagnation or even decrease in crime in the past few years. How should policy makers respond to decrease the crime rate?
B. Crime, Race, and Poverty
i. Race and Crime
a. Official crime data indicate a strong relationship between minority status and crime
b. Black men are 12x more likely to be sent to prison for a drug-related conviction
c. Black women are 5x more likely to be sent to prison for a drug-related conviction
d. Racial differences in crime statistics are one of the most controversial areas of the criminal justice system
e. Regardless of race, a person has much higher risk of violent behavior if he or she lives in a poverty-stricken, disorganized neighborhood or in a household run by single parent
ii. Class and Crime
a. Lack of education, as a handicap faced by low-income citizens, seems to correlate with criminal activity
b. High crime rates in low-income communities are at least partly the result of a greater willingness of police to arrest poor citizens and of the court system to convict them.
Ask students to discuss why lower class individuals are overrepresented among offenders and victims. Then, ask them to discuss the relationship between race and class. Why does the prison population look so different from the general population?
iii. Ethnicity and Crime
a. Most research focuses on the differences between European Americans and African Americans, but many groups such as Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and immigrants from the South Pacific or Eastern Europe have been underreported in crime studies
b. Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the U.S. prison population
C. Women and Crime
i. Crime is a predominantly male activity – more than 68% of crimes are committed by males
ii. While women represent a small number of arrests, the number of female offenders in the criminal justice system is rapidly increasing, from 6,000 prison inmates in 1970 to 109,000 in 2012
iii. There are two possible explanations for these increases:
a. The life circumstances and behavior of women have changed dramatically in the past forty years
b. The criminal justice system’s attitude toward women has changed over that time period
Ask students to discuss the causes of the stark increase in female arrests and convictions. What type of crimes are females most likely to commit? What are the possible consequences of incarcerating females who have children?
IV. What Causes Crime?
Learning Objective 5: Discuss the difference between a hypothesis and a theory in the context of criminology.
Learning Objective 6: Explain how brain-scanning technology is able to help scientists determine if an individual is at risk for criminal offending.
Learning Objective 7: Describe the importance of early childhood behavior for those who subscribe to self-control theory.
i. The study of crime, or criminology, is rich with different philosophies as to why people commit crime
A. Correlation and Causation
i. Correlation between two variables means that they tend to vary together.
ii. Causation, in contrast, means that one variable is responsible for the change in the other.
iii. Correlation does not equal cause
iv. Studies may show a correlation between factors, but few criminologists would go so far as to show causation between factors
Ask students to provide examples of correlations and causes to help them understand the difference.
B. The Role of Theory
i. Criminologists have developed a number of theories that concern the causes of crime
ii. Theories are designed as explanations of happening or circumstance and are based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning
iii. Researchers test hypotheses to determine their validity
iv. Scientific and academic researchers observe facts and their consequences to develop hypotheses about what will occur when a similar fact pattern is present in the future.
v. Criminological theories are primarily concerned with determining the reasons behind criminal behavior, but can also provide practical guidelines for agencies of the criminal justice system
C. The Brain and the Body
i. James Q. Wilson posits about rational choice theory that before a person commits a crime, he or she will weigh the benefits against the costs, and when perceived benefits are greater, the person is likely to commit the crime
a. “Thrill Offenders”
1. Sociologist Jack Katz has expanded on rational choice theory by suggesting that the rewards of offending may be sensual as well as financial; he calls this the seduction of crime
b. Rational Choice Theory and Public Policy
1. The theory that wrongdoers choose to commit crimes is a cornerstone of the American criminal justice system
2. Because crime is the end result of choices, policymakers have reasoned that severe punishment can deter criminal activity
3. Supporters of the death penalty emphasize its deterrent effects as do legislators using harsh mandatory sentences
Ask students to discuss the underlying assumptions of rational choice theory. How “rational” are people in every day life and how “rational” are criminals? Do criminals have enough information to weigh the costs and benefits of a crime? Ask students to plan a robbery and list the costs, benefits, and unknowns. How would they decide whether to commit the robbery?
|What If Scenario
What if . . . you are asked to test rational choice theory with regard to whether the death penalty is a deterrent to the crime of murder. What arguments can you make for? Against? Can rational choice theory accurately explain and/or interpret why people with diseases of the mind commit crimes?
c. Trait Theories of Crime
1. Theories suggest that certain biological and psychological traits in individuals could incline them toward criminal behavior given a certain set of circumstances
2. Genetics and Crime
i. For example, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and low self control have been linked to antisocial behavior and crime
3. Hormones and Aggression
i. One trait theory states that biochemical conditions can influence criminal behavior
ii. Criminal behavior in males can be linked to the hormone testosterone
4. The Brain and Crime
ii. Exposure to lead increases propensity to violent behavior