The study of crime encompasses many aspects hence it is an interdisciplinary field of behavioral science. It covers the extent, causes and measurement of crime as well as methods of mitigating crime. Based on the data and information published by sociologist, anthropologists, psychologists and lawyers; crime study, crime measurement, crime costs, criminal law formulation and identification of methods of curtailing crime can be established. Historically, crime has existed from the long time ago and documented evidence dates back from biblical old days when Cain killed his brother Abel.
Throughout all the ages of human existence, deviant behavior from the cultural norms has always been observed and many societies had established means of punishing criminals. This paper explores crime and its costs. The main issues studied are the general study of crime, exploring the methods of measuring crime and studying the costs of crime. Definitions Crime Crime can be defined as a breach of regulations and laws set by a governing authority and which can lead to a conviction. Nations and states characterize crime as breach against laws established by the state and are offenses against the state and the public.
Crimes can be distinguished from torts in that torts are violation of private parties and lead to civil cause of action. Crime can also be considered as an unexpected behavior performed by an individual or a group of people and which violates the prevailing standards and cultural norms established or set by communities or a republic. Criminology Criminology is the scientific study of the nature of crime, causes of crime and establishments of means of mitigating criminal activities. It entails the study of incidences that lead to crime, forms of crime and the causes and consequences of criminal acts.
Criminology also entails the study of the rules and regulation set by the government and other social institutions to curtail crime. Quantitative methods are employed in criminology. Crime science The study of crime with the major objective of identifying method of curtailing it is referred to crime science. Forensic study Forensic science refers to the application of scientific methods to find solutions to questions relating to crime or civil action. Forensic study employs scientific methodology and norms through which facts regarding a given event or crime are ascertained.
History of crime and development of its study Crime existed from ancient times, religions and communities regarded sin as a crime. The bible documents a tale of Adam and Eve who sinned against God in the original sin theory which resulted to a punishment. The Sumerians had written codes to identify methods of punishing those who committed acts considered as naturally abnormal. They were among the first community to compile rules and law codes. The Babylonians had a written code “Code of Hammurabi” written in 1790 BC and were derived from Mesopotamian belief that the law was the will of the gods.
Like the Babylonian rules, many societies in early times had rules based on religious codes. According to Henry Maine (1861) who studied the ancient codes, there was no differentiation of offences against the state and offences against individuals. Also, there were no formal courts in early communities and survivors of the offence dealt with acts of crime. Significant development in methods of curtailing crime was developed by the Romans who had systemized laws and assaults were privately compensated.
Rules against theft, rape, violent robbery and trespass were a breach of law and resulted to “vinculum Juris” that is “an obligation of the law” and monetary compensation were awarded to those affected by the crime. Later, the Germanic tribes established Teutonic laws that enhanced and enforced methods of compensation against a wide range of criminal activities. After the Romans rule, Germanic mercenaries continued enforcing laws with many laws being written by the Anglo Saxon kings. Later, an English monarchy was established and laws against individuals and the state were established.
In the 19th century, sociological developments enabled fresh views of crime and piloted the beginning of the study of crime in the society. Types of crimes Crime may be classified in different categories, these include: Crimes may be classified based on severity. Based on this classification crimes can be distinguished as: • Federal crimes • Felonies • Indictable crimes • Infractions • Misdemeanors • Summary offences Crimes defined by a treaty are regarded as crime against international law and include: • Apartheid • Genocide • Crimes against peace • Piracy • War crimes
• Slave trade Crimes can also be classified according to the nature of the crime. Based on this classification crimes can be categorized as: • Blue collar crime • Corporate crime • Organized crime • Political crime • Public order crime • State crime • State-corporate crime • White –collar crime Theories of Crime The theories of crime are established to determine the reasons why individuals results to acts of crime. These theories are based on Marxism, system theories, psychoanalysis, functionalism, interactionism, postmodernism and econometrics. Some theories include:
Social disorganization: This theory postulates that social neighborhoods with high population, poverty and economic deprivation have high population which in turn leads to criminal activities as it is hard to maintain social order in such a community. Social ecology theory This theory attributes crime to community deterioration. Poverty, presence of abandoned buildings and disorder in some communities may result to high crime rates. Sub cultural theory This theory suggests that a small group of people may deviate from the cultural norms to form their own values and meaning about life.
Low class youths may deviate from middle class youth’s norms and tend to be tough and have inherent disrespect for the authority. According to Richard Cloward, delinquency can results into differential opportunities for lower class youth and result in the low class youths choosing illegitimate path that provides them with high lucrative incomes as opposed to the minimum wage jobs available to them. Strain theory The strain theory was suggested by Robert Merton, an American sociologist. In this theory, the sociologist argues that in United States, people are saturated with dreams of opportunities freedom and prosperity.
As a result, most people buy into this dream and if one is unable to accomplish this dream legally, he will try illegitimate means resulting to crime. Trait theory This theory was developed by Lonnie Athens who attributed the possibility of an individual indulging into crime due to parental brutalization. This makes the child to result to violent crime in his adulthood. Control theory This theory identifies factors that make one “not to result to crime and violent activities”. The key aspects of one not resulting to crime include; attachment to others, ones belief to moral values and persons committed to achievements.
Symbolic interactionism This theory compares a powerful state or media comprised of elite on one hand against a less powerful group. If the powerful elite group becomes significant, the less powerful group may result to crime. Rational choice theory This principle argues that swift and severe punishment may act as deterrent to crimes. Based on imposed sentences, it was possible for people to opt not to commit crimes. Routine activity theory: This principle was developed by Marcus Felson and Lawrence Cohen. It attributes that for a crime to occur, elements such as time and place are important.
Others include a suitable target, lack of protection on the victim being attacked, motivations leading to theft as well as absence of security guards. Contemporary cultural and critical criminology The theory states that human beings are hedonistic opportunists whose behavior can be manipulated by changes in technologies, opportunities benefits and costs. Measurement of Crime There are several sources of data for crime, these are; 1) Self report surveys 2) Comparative criminology 3) Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) 4) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
a) Self Report Surveys This is one of the major methods of measuring crime and involvement in delinquent or criminal behavior (Terence et al, 2000). It encompasses asking an individual if they are engaged in criminal activity and how often they are involved in crime. The method has evolved from long time ago and currently, specialized data collection methods, random response techniques and audio assisted computer interviewing methods are all used thus increasing the psychometric quality of self reports. Self reports are widely used in the USA for data collection (Klein 1989).
A substantial amount of crime is not reported and thus the reliance of self report may shed light to unreported crime. Self report is the nearest data source to the actual behavior of individuals who commit crime. Despite their ability to collect data from sources close to the criminals, self report methods have been criticized as a fad, avoided serious criminals and misrepresentation of the dependent variable occur (Thornberry, 1987). b) Comparative Criminology Comparative criminology involves a comparative study of crime. This means that crime data is compared and contrasted from data available or corrected from another source.
With the rapid development of internet and international transparency, crime data is now readily available and easily accessible (Newman, 1999). In comparative criminology, crime data is compared and contrasted from data collected elsewhere and findings can be used to effect changes in countries other than the one data was collected from. This method of data collection was abandoned in the early 20th century as most nations sought for internal methods of combating crime but lately, this method has been rejuvenated especially to study and curtail international crime.
The data availed include crime statistics, criminal justice among others (United Nations Development Program (1998). Comparative criminology relies on transparency of available data. However comparative criminology is dogged with problems such as theoretical, philosophical and methodological problems. c) Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) Uniform Crime Report (UCR) is a database comprising of all the data on crime reported to the law enforcement agencies. In the USA, this data is then reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after collection by the law enforcement agencies.
The UCR mainly focus on crime index and has data on manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, car jacking, arson etc. The data in the UCR is summarized, aggregated to city, country state and other geographical regions and published in crime in the United States series. Future developments in UCR include the development of National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) which solves the limitations of UCR and is slowly being adopted by law enforcement agencies (Lynch, 2007). d) National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) This is administered by the bureau of justice statistics.
It is a national survey covering 77200 households and covers the frequency of crime victimization. The NCVS survey gathers information on assault, burglary, rape, robbery larceny and is used for crime data measurement and establishment of the crime index (Lynch, 2007). Cost of Crime In the modern world, state of the art techniques are used for estimating the cost and benefits of criminal justice and prevention programs. Evaluating the cost of crime as well as benefits obtained from criminal prevention program is necessary as the public demand accountability of government agencies.
Cost and benefits analysis are carried out to identify expected costs and benefits and allow the evaluation of programs to identify alternatives that are cheap and effective. The federal government regulatory agencies are required to conduct a benefit- cost analyses on major regulatory bodies. The cost effectiveness analysis of crime requires that all benefits and costs be expressed in monetary terms. The benefits are expressed in terms of comparable crimes, loss of years in life and comparable injuries. Estimates are used in such computations. Reasons for measuring monetary costs and benefits
One major reason for estimation of the cost of crime is the need to account for costs of combating crime and evaluate if public bodies use their monies as required. The public in any government requires documentation on expenditure of different public bodies one of them being the crime agencies. From an economic perspective, crime cost should be estimated to enable proper allocation of resources in any government. Criminal justice decisions have varying decisions which involve choices between several alternatives which have different costs and benefits.
It is also necessary to measure cost of crime to estimate the relative harm caused by any type of crime. Harm component is employed in many areas such as in issuing sentencing guidelines by most advocates. There are various harms which result from crime; these include property stolen, physical injuries as well as mental injuries. Such harms can be expressed in monetary terms. There are situation where cost cannot be expressed in monetary terms such as the number of days a victim suffer financial loss or lost life years or lost work days.
It is also necessary to compare the aggregate harm caused by crime to that of other social problems. The major reason for aggregating the cost of crime is to measure the total cost to the society. For example, the crime cost in the USA is $450 billion per year (Miller, 1996). This cost enables one to compare the total cost of crime with other social ill costs. Evaluating the cost of crime enable the evaluation of alternatives that can be employed to control crime. This enables the selection of the most cost effective tool for crime control and prevention. Measuring the Cost of Crime
There are many different methods of measuring the cost of crime. Generally the costs are classified as tangible cost and intangible cost and the cost measurement methods can be classified as direct and indirect methods (Mark, 2000). a) Tangible costs These costs include payment and compensations to crimes such as stolen goods, wage loses, police expenditure, medical costs and damaged property. These costs are included in individual wealth as well as the nation’s GDP. b) Intangible costs These are non monetary costs and cannot be exchanged in the ordinary market.
They include costs such as pain, loss of life, suffering and loss of quality of life. Methods used to estimate the costs of crime a) Direct methods These methods use primary sources of crime such as the crime victim to quantify the cost of crime. b) Indirect methods These methods use secondary sources of data such as jury awards and property values to measure cost of crime. New Ideas Learned From the study of crime outlined above, the student has gained the following: • Knowledge on crime, criminal activities and classification of criminal activates
• The student has also gained knowledge on historical development on crimes and methods of curtailing such crime • The student has gained knowledge on the reasons why individuals opt to become criminals. • The student is also able to classify crime. • The student can be able to classify and quantify crime • The student can be able to measure the cost of crime. • The student has also gained knowledge on methods of researching on crime, its effects, causes and costs. References Gregory J. Howard, Graeme Newman, & William Alex Pridemore. (2000).
Theory, Method, and Data in Comparative Criminology. Washington DC: U. S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. Klein, Malcolm. (1989). Cross-national research in self-reported crime and delinquency. Los Angeles: Kluwer Academic Publishers. Lynch, J. P. , & Addington, L. A. (2007). Understanding crime statistics: revisiting the divergence of the NCVS and UCR. Cambridge studies in criminology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Mark A. Cohen. (2000). Measuring the Costs and Benefits of Crime and Justice. Washington DC: U. S.
Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs. Newman, Graeme. (1999). Global report on crime and justice. New York: Oxford University Press. Terence P. Thornberry & Marvin D. Krohn. (2000). The self report method for measuring delinquency and crime. Measurement and analysis of crime and justice. Washington, DC: U. S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Thornberry, Terence P. (1987). Toward an interactional theory of delinquency. Criminology vol 25: page 863–891. United Nations Development Program. (1998). Human development report 1998. New York: Oxford University Press.