VI. The Link Between Drugs and Crime

VI. The Link Between Drugs and Crime

Learning Objective 9: Discuss the connection between the learning process and the start of an individual’s drug use.

A. The Criminology of Drug Use

i. Theories of Drug Use

a. Several theories have been proposed to explain drug abuse, including choice theory, trait theory, social disorganization theory, and learning theory.

ii. Drugs and the Learning Process

a. Learn the techniques of drug use

b. Learn to perceive the pleasurable effects of drug use

c. Learn to enjoy the social experience of drug use

Class Discussion/Activity

Ask students why it may be very difficult to stop taking drugs. What would they do if they thought one of their friends was taking drugs?

B. Drug Addiction and Dependency

i. Drug Use vs. Drug Abuse

a. Drug abuse is the use of any drug – licit or illicit – that causes either psychological or bodily harm to the abuser or to third parties

b. Despite their small numbers, abusers have a disproportionately large impact on the market

ii. Addiction Basics

a. Extreme abusers are dependent on a drug

b. When the drug is cut off, the abuser’s brain strongly feels the lack of dopamine stimulation, and the abuser suffers withdrawal

C. The Drug-Crime Relationship

i. Prescription Drug Abuse

a. Increased demand for these prescription drugs has led to home invasions, robberies, assaults, homicides, thefts—all kinds of crime.

b. Prescription drugs are second only to marijuana in government rankings of the most abused drugs in the United States

c. Legal, over-the-counter substances are the main ingredient in the manufacture of methamphetamine (meth), a highly addictive stimulant to the central nervous system

ii. Meth and Heroin

a. Meth is easy to make and highly addictive

b. Heroin is also very popular

c. When law enforcement concentrates on one drug, drug users turn to other drugs

iii. Marijuana Legalization

a. Colorado and Washington recently legalized marijuana

b. The question about the impact on crime and drug abuse are unknown at this point

c. 52% of adults favor legalization

Media Tool

“Reports: Miami Zombie Attacker May Have Been Using Bath Salts” CNN; Brad Lendon


· Assignment: Ask students to think about other drugs that may be linked to violent behavior.

· If drugs were legalized, how would that impact the crime rate? Will it have similar effects across different types of crimes or may the impact vary?

See Assignment 5

Lecture Notes

Chapter 2 introduces students to the major categories of crimes, how crime is measured and the various explanations for criminal behavior.

In order for crime to be measured, it must first be identified. The beginning of the chapter introduces the student to the six major categories of crimes. They are: 1) violent crime; 2) property crime; 3) public order crime; 4) white collar crime; 5) organized crime; and 6) high tech crime. Within each category, several specific crimes are discussed, as they form the actions that are collected, measured, and reported through the various statistical measures. For example, murder, sex assault, assault, and robbery are defined under the major category of violent crime.

Crime is measured in three primary ways. First, official crime statistics are collected annually and published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR) presents data collected by law enforcement agencies throughout the U.S. according to rates per 100,000 persons and as a percentage change from the previous year. Encourage students to familiarize themselves with the UCR; you might spend some time accessing data in class and allowing students to observe. A second source of crime data is that which is collected through victim surveys. This method captures crimes that are never reported to police or are not associated with a criminal arrest. This method is also touted as being extremely successful in identifying and counting the “dark figure” of crime, defined as the figure of crime that is impossible to detect because these crimes are never reported to the police. Finally, self-reported surveys allow offenders to disclose their own criminal behaviors, even those that may have gone undetected. Walk students through the advantages and disadvantages associated with each of these methods, and explain how, taken together, the nature and extent of offending can be revealed. Why might crime victims not report victimizations to the police?

Chapter 2 also explores current trends in criminal offending, including declining crime rates over recent years. Special attention is paid to linkages between crime, race, and poverty. Racial differences in crime rates are one of the most controversial areas of the criminal justice. In addition to race, what are some other correlates that are linked to crime and why might they be substantively more important in explaining criminal behavior? For example, statistically, poor people commit more crimes, and are victims of more crimes, than people of a higher socioeconomic status. Why does this occur? What risk factors can be found in low-income communities that might contribute to increased criminal activity? In addition to racial differences, special attention is also paid to the tremendous explosion of crimes being committed by women. Over the last three decades, male arrest rates for the crime of aggravated assault has remained relatively constant, yet female arrest rates for the same crime has nearly doubled. What explanations are offered by the author? What do the students feel about the expert explanation offered that “rising female criminality is the result of a criminal justice system that is more willing to incarcerate women?” End your discussion by encouraging students to brainstorm ways that we can use these variables related to crime (guns, gangs, drugs, age, and poverty) to prevent crime from occurring.

Midway through Chapter 2 students are introduced to criminological explanations for crime. Undoubtedly, most students will have their own theories as to why offenders break the law. It is interesting to brainstorm those causes prior to sharing information from this part of the chapter, and then compare those responses to the various criminological theories. Did students subscribe to one of the theories in the text without even realizing it? Encourage students to reflect on their beliefs as you move through this section of the chapter. Do their perceptions of the motivations behind offending remain consistent, or are the persuaded by a theory that is introduced in the chapter?

Choice theories are based on the concept of free will. Offenders weigh the costs and benefits of a particular criminal behavior and then choose to offend. This idea can be illustrated to students by asking them to discuss a common illegal behavior like underage drinking. Many students engaged in this behavior prior to reaching the legal age for alcohol consumption, and did so knowing that it was illegal. In contrast, trait theorists believe that criminal behavior is not a rational choice, but the result of some biological or psychological condition. While students might be quick to dismiss the idea that traits compel people to commit crime, there are numerous examples of criminal defenses based on positivistic factors. Have them consider the case of Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children. Yates’s defense was based on her diagnosis of postpartum psychosis. After considering cases like hers, how viable do students feel that traits are as an explanation for criminal offending?

Several sociological theories are also presented in the chapter. These theories assert that offending is the result of interaction between the offender and his or her environment. These theories can be grouped into several families, including: social disorganization theory, strain theory, social process theories, learning theory, and social conflict theories. This portion of the chapter may be the most confusing for students because there are so many theories from which to distinguish. It may be helpful to spend a few minutes distinguishing between each of the three types of sociological theories and then place each individual theory in the correct category on the board as you discuss them.

Victimology, or the study of the interaction of the criminal justice system and victims, is another concept discussed in Chapter 2. Victimology first emerged in the 1940s. While anyone can be a crime victim, the risk of victimization is disproportionate. For example, some who are victimized will be victimized more than once. Also, data suggest that some who are at higher risk of victimization also have a greater propensity to commit crime as well. Why is this the case? Ask students to discuss the typical traits of criminal offenders and also to identify those of crime victims. Do they notice any similarities?

The final part of Chapter 2 explores the link between drug use and crime and then closes with a brief discussion of the concept of the chronic offender, otherwise referred to as the career criminal. Ask students to discern the differences between illegal drug use, drug abuse, and drug addiction. Given the important role that illegal drugs may play in criminal activity, what might this mean for the kinds of treatment programs needed for inmates housed in jails and prisons?

Key Terms

Assault – a threat or an attempt to do violence to another person that causes the other person to

fear immediate physical harm. (p. 35)

Battery – the act of physically contacting another person with the intent to do harm, even if the

resulting injury is insubstantial. (p. 35)

Biology – the science of living organisms, including their structure, growth, function, and

origin. (p. 47)

Burglary – the act of breaking into or entering a structure (such as a home or office) without

permission for the purpose of committing a crime. (p. 35)

Causation – the relationship in which a change in one measurement or behavior creates a

recognizable change in another measurement or behavior. (p. 45)

Control theory – a series of theories that assume that all individuals have the potential for

criminal behavior, but are restrained by the damage that such actions would do to their

relationships with family, friends, and members of the community. (p. 54)

Correlation – the relationship between two measurements or behaviors that tend to move

in the same direction. (p. 45)

Criminology – the scientific study of crime and the causes of criminal behavior. (p. 45)

Dark figure of crime – a term used to describe the actual amount of crime that takes place. The

“figure” is “dark,” or impossible to detect, because a great number of crimes are never reported

to the police. (p. 39)

Domestic violence – maltreatment, including physical violence and psychological abuse,

that occurs within a familial or other intimate relationship. (p. 58)

Drug abuse – the use of drugs results in physical or psychological problems for the user as well

as disruption of personal relationships and employment. (p. 60)

Genetics – the study of how certain traits or qualities are transmitted from parents to their

offspring. (p. 48)

Hormone – a chemical substance, produced in tissue and conveyed in the bloodstream,

that controls certain cellular and body functions such as growth and reproduction. (p. 48)

Hypothesis – a possible explanation for an observed occurrence that can be tested by further investigation. (p. 46)

Larceny – the act of taking property from another person without the use of force with the intent

of keeping that property. (p. 35)

Learning theory – the hypothesis that delinquents and criminals must be taught both the

practical and emotional skills necessary to partake in illegal activity. (p. 52)

Life course criminology – the study of crime based on the belief that behavioral patterns

developed in childhood can predict delinquent and criminal behavior later in life. (p. 54)

Murder – the unlawful killing of one human being by another. (p. 35)

Organized crime – illegal acts carried out by illegal organizations engaged in the market for

illegal goods or services, such as illicit drugs or firearms. (p. 36)

Part I offenses – crimes reported annually by the FBI in its Uniform Crime Report. Part I

offenses include murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle

theft, and arson. (p. 38)

Part II offenses – all crimes recorded by the FBI that do not fall into the category of Part I

offenses. They include both misdemeanors and felonies. (p. 39)

Prescription drugs – medical drugs that require a physician’s permission for purchase. (p. 61)

Psychology – the scientific study of mental processes and behavior. (p. 47)

Public order crime – behavior that has been labeled criminal because it is contrary to shared

social values, customs, and norms. (p. 33)

Rational choice theory – a school of criminology that holds that wrongdoers act as if they weigh

the possible benefits of criminal or delinquent activity against the expected costs of being

apprehended. (p. 46)

Repeat victimization – the theory that certain people and places are more likely to be subject to

repeated criminal activity and that past victimization is a strong indicator of future victimization.

(p. 57)

Robbery – the act of taking property from another person through force, threat of force, or

intimidation. (p. 35)

Self-reported surveys – a method of gathering crime data that relies on participants to reveal and

detail their own criminal or delinquent behavior. (p. 40)

Sexual assault – forced or coerced sexual intercourse (or other sexual acts). (p. 35)

Social conflict theories – a group of theories that view criminal behavior as the result of class

conflict. (p. 52)

Social disorganization theory – the theory that deviant behavior is more likely in communities

where social institutions such as the family, schools, and the criminal justice system fail to exert

control over the population. (p. 50)

Social process theories – a school of criminology that considers criminal behavior to be the

predictable result of a person’s interaction with his or her environment. (p. 52)

Sociology – the study of the development and functioning of groups of people who live together

within a society. (p. 50)

Stalking – the criminal act of causing fear in a person by repeatedly subjecting that person to

unwanted or threatening action. (p. 58)

Strain theory – the assumption that crime is the result of frustration felt by individuals who

cannot reach their financial and personal goals through legitimate means. (p. 50)

Testosterone – the hormone primarily responsible for the production of sperm and the

development of male secondary sex characteristics such as the growth of facial and pubic hair

and the change of voice pitch. (p. 48)

Theory – an explanation of a happening or circumstance, that is based on observation,

experimentation, and reasoning. (p. 46)

Uniform crime report (UCR) – an annual report compiled by the FBI to give an

indication of criminal activity in the United States. (p. 37)

Victimology – a school of criminology that studies why certain people are the victims of crimes

and the optimal role for victims in the criminal justice system. (p. 56)

Victim surveys – a method of gathering crime data that directly surveys participants to determine

their experiences as victims of crime. (p. 39)

White-collar crime – nonviolent crimes committed by business entities or individuals to

gain a personal or business advantage. (p. 36)


1. Research two types of organized crime and explain characteristics of offenders and victims. What are the consequences of the crime? Which theory would you apply to organized criminals? Why do they commit those crimes? (LO 1, 6-8)

2. Have students go online and access the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report at Ask them to analyze the report and prepare a short report on the offending rates in your area. Once they determine crime rates locally, ask them to compare offending in your area to offending in other locations nationally. How safe is your city? (LO 2)

3. Research the relationship between crime rates in economic factors of communities. Prepare a class presentation about your findings. Are crimes rates higher in low or high income neighborhoods? What may cause these differences in crime rates? (LO 5-6)

4. Ask students to research the connection between alcohol use and offending and victimization. Write a discussion paper about whether the results of your research would warrant the prohibition of alcohol. (LO 8-9)

5. Research the methamphetamine epidemic in Oregon and the impact of methamphetamine on communities. How did Oregon solve the methamphetamine problem? (LO 9)

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VI. The Link Between Drugs and Crime
VI. The Link Between Drugs and Crime

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