"Crime occurs when societies do not provide the institutional means necessary to secure socially desirable goals" Does this statement adequately explain the persistence of crime in western societies?
Crime is a problem that affects both societies and social groups cross culturally and across the world. It is a form on anti social behaviour that often leads to the detriment of another individual through no fault of their own. The persistence of crime has been and continues to be a problem in every culture. It is clear that throughout history, societies have struggled toward forward progress in many areas, crime prevention being among them. In general, Western societies have been viewed as the most advanced in making improvements for individual opportunity and upward movement along the socio-economic ladder. Why does crime then continue to be the problem that it is? In this essay, I will explore how leading theorists have explained this phenomenon through the ideas of: Opportunity Costs, The Fractured Family, Crime and the Culture of Consumption and Unfair Employer Screening.
In the view of many, there is a sort of rational thinking that takes place among criminals. This is to say that a large number of crimes are committed in light of a deliberate calculation of a number of factors that may make illegal activities more beneficial than legal ones in a particular society or subculture. For example, a minimum wage earner will look at his situation and reason within himself, "What will I lose if I commit a crime and am caught?" If in his mind he perceives that his current life is a prison of debt, despair, and doubtful advancement, he figures that he might as well try to succeed in a crime that may actually pay off in a big way and quickly.
On the other hand, an individual with a better paying job will most likely have so much more to lose. Social status, lucrative business, an accomplished career, and a relatively stable family life are all at risk if this person is imprisoned. Therefore, in this somewhat simple, but very real way of thinking, people make their daily decisions based on a summary of the future perceived outcomes. Basically, if the opportunities of legally sanctioned employment, severity of punishment, and risk of being caught don't exceed the expected gains from crime, many people will find themselves engaged in illegal behaviour. This is the basic theory that researchers such as Ann Dryden Witte and Robert Witte explain in abstract from the "Encyclopedia of Crime and Justice".
Economic pressures have adverse effects on the family structure as well. Ironically, these pressures come from opposite directions. Not having a job as well as working too much can contribute to the stresses that are often too strong for families to overcome. In the case of unemployment, it is often related to the "economic marginalisation of whole communities" says Elliot Currie. This would lend one to believe that this is a case of institutionalised racism. Whenever a homogenous group of people are discriminated against economically, it is a sure sign of prejudice at some level. For instance, if whites in England and America are more likely to get jobs than blacks (even if both are equally qualified), unemployment or discrepancy in pay are almost certain to result. This seemingly hopeless situation may provide more incentive for crime.