Criminal Justice and Criminology

Economic factors suggest that there is a link between unemployment, poverty and crime. The most persistent offenders had not had a stable employment record; changing jobs often (Farrington and West 1990). An analysis of data from 42 police forces in the UK demonstrates an association between crime and male unemployment, the amount of easily stolen and resalable property and high wage disparities (Witt, Clarke and Fielding, 1999). Jacobs et al (1965) suggested that men with the XXY syndrome were more aggressive than the normal 'XY' men. XXY men are over-represented in the prison population.

There are 15 sufferers per 1,000 in prisons and 1 per 1,000 in the general population. XXY men have lower intelligence and it could be this that leads to aggression. However some men thought to have the XXY syndrome have later been found to be XY, causing problems with studies. Key symptoms of XXY are being unusually tall and suffering from acne and scars; some men have been incorrectly classified as XXY on this evidence alone. The Neurochemical explanation states that the chemistry of the brain can be affected by environmental as well as genetic factors.

Lower levels of serotonin have also been blamed for depression and eating disorders. Serotonin is linked to control or inhibition of behaviour. Another suggestion is that certain individuals, as a result of genetic predisposition or brain damage at birth, suffer from a cluster of symptoms which render them incapable of moral control and because of cortical under arousal, they are constantly seeking stimulation. The symptoms appear in early childhood and are subsumed in the term attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

They include inappropriate degrees on inattention, impulsiveness, challenging behaviour and hyperactivity. While attributing crime to biological characteristics has produced much interesting research, it has had limited applicability as few characteristics clearly differentiate offenders from so called 'non-offenders'. Also crime is a form of behaviour which contravenes rules made by society. Even if we assume that people could inherit a propensity to behave aggressively, such aggression could have legitimate and illegitimate outlets.

Criminality involves issues of morality, a choice between right and wrong, learn within the social environment. Thus it is virtually impossible to establish the extent to which characteristics are a result of genetic inheritance or socialisation. Another line of enquiry has been to explore psychological factors. Criminal behaviour, like any other form of behaviour is learnt during the socialisation process and learning theories have considerable potential in establishing how criminality is learnt. Bandura's social learning theory stated that violent behaviour is modeled from others.

This occurs mainly through media such as films and television. Other psychological approaches have focused on links between personality traits such as extraversion, neuroticism, psychoticism and crime (Eysenck 1977), while others have looked at the possible relationship between criminality and mental illness. While these factors are related to some individual offences, mental illness for example, is found only in a minority of offenders and, in addition, the majority of people considered to be suffering from mental illness do not commit crime.

There are three forms of crime prevention, primary, secondary and tertiary crime prevention. Primary crime prevention refers to strategies aiming to prevent crime before it happens and involves all the social, physical and other strategies to prevent crime. Secondary crime prevention identifies 'at risk' people and situations. It involves policies which target people considered to be at risk of becoming offenders- such as young people in areas known for high levels of offending; or situations where crime is likely to occur.

Tertiary crime prevention deals with known criminals and crime situations. It aims to prevent those already convicted from continuing with their criminal careers, mainly through the sentences of the court. In 1988 Crime Concern, a charity funded partly by the Home Office and partly by private enterprise, was launched. This organization has been responsible for a large number of crime prevention projects in conjunction with both commercial and public organisations. The Crack Crime campaign was also launched in 1988.

In 1993 a National Board for Crime Prevention was established to bring together representatives of central and local government, business, voluntary agencies, the media, the police and the probation service. A major development was Safer Cities programme, launched in 1988. their goal were to reduce crime, lessen fear of crime and to create safer cities where economic enterprise and community life can flourish. Situational crime prevention, involves altering the situational or spatial characteristics either to make offending more difficult or detection easier (Crawford 1998).

What is sometimes described as 'opportunity reaction' can take three forms: – increasing the effort involved in crime, e. g. speed humps and physical protection to targets such as locks and bolts. – Increasing the risks of detection, which involves increasing surveillance, e. g. redesigning buildings, installing CCTV cameras. – Reducing the rewards of crime, e. g. traceable property, replacing coin operated meters with those which require a swipe card (Crawford 1998) The introduction of steering locks has been found to reduce car theft, and also improved street lighting.

Social crime prevention is based more on the social factors associated with crime such as living conditions, relative deprivation and social disorganisation. Young people are often the targets of social crime prevention as they feature to prominently among offenders and there has always been a general belief that the pursuit of a criminal career can be prevented by 'nipping it in the bud'. Early intervention involves a range of schemes including, for example, supporting 'good' parenting by working with families and improving parental supervision, targeting schools by focusing on school discipline, tackling truancy.

A large number of schools now attempt to tackle 'bullying', often seen to be associated with youth crime. Professionals, lay groups, and the community at large, as well as central government and local authorities, have a responsibility for responding to crime and seeking to prevent it.


John Muncie, David Wilson, Student Handbook of Criminal Justice and Criminology (2004) Malcolm Davies, Hazel Croall, Jane Tyrer, Criminal Justice, third edition (2005)