According to the definition given by criminologists Sutherland and Cressy, criminology can be defined as the study of crime and criminal behavior which involves making and breaking the law and the causes of crime in a social setup (Siegel, 4). Criminologists are the professionals who study and identify the natural causes of crime. This paper is going to address three questions under the topic of criminology concerning criminology enterprise, ethical issues in crime research, the study of crime, crime measurement, crime victimization, and the theories of victimization.
Describe Criminology Enterprise?
Criminologists are dedicated and committed to studying crime and criminal behavior despite their strict expectations in delivering services to people. They use a scientific approach in identifying and analyzing the nature of crimes and criminal behavior. Most professionals in this field were initially trained as sociologists, psychologists, natural scientists among other related areas. The study of criminology involves diverse fields and subareas such that reflect a broader view of the subject. These different subareas are what are referred to as criminological enterprise. They include criminal statistics, the sociology of law, theory construction, criminal behavior systems, penology, and victimology.
Criminal statistics is a subarea of criminology that deals with criminal records, how much crime occurs annually, through reliable measurement methods and thorough analysis (Siegel, 6). Another criminological enterprise mentioned above is the sociology of law which deals with the role that the social force play in shaping criminal law and the role of criminal law in shaping society. In the sociology of law, there are topics which are of great interest in studying criminology, they include the history of legal thought, legal change, law, and social control, and the impact of criminalization of behavior. Theory construction involves the use of theory in explaining interrelated statements and principles in asocial life. They provide a deeper understanding of criminal behavior (Siegel, 7).
Criminal behavior systems are a subarea of criminology concerning crime types and patterns which involve organized crimes. Sutherlands (a criminologist) refers to them as “white-collar” crimes. Penology is also one of the criminology subarea that deals with the correction/punishment of criminal offenders in agencies of social control. Finally, victimology involves the study of the victim’s role in the criminal process, assessing the probability of victimization risk, and creating programs that deal with these issues (Siegel, 35).
What are the Ethical Issues of Researching Crime?
Many different issues are surrounding the study of crime and criminologists as a profession. Practicing this career, criminologist must always remember their social responsibility in crime and justice and never ignore the fact that this field has its political and social consequences. The decisions made in researching a crime have a great influence on millions of people. Citizens will always debate on issues to do with crime control. So it is up to the criminologists to be aware of the ethics of their profession and be able to defend what they do to the public attention (Siegel, 23).
There are three major ethical issues in researching a crime. They include, what to study, whom to study, and how to study.
What to study
Criminologist influence of what to study come from their scholarly interest and other pressing issues at hand. However other government bodies such as the National Institute of Justice, National Science Foundation, and National Institute of Mental Health have had a great influence in the direction of support for study and offer support. The government provides funds for the criminal and justice department for researching crime. Never the less a conflict of interest may potentially manifest when the fund’s providers are the subjects for the research. For example, a government may hesitate to fund research that that involves corruption allegation by the top government officials. This can cause a deviation of the agency’s objectives because the institution providing funds to choose the direction of the research project. This may also raise questions on the credibility of the findings if the sponsor of the research has an absolute interest in the outcome (Siegel, 23).
Whom to study
This area of ethics focuses on who the subject of research is. Criminologists have been known to regularly pay attention to the poor and the minority groups when choosing their crime research and paying less attention to the rich and the middle class who are more likely to commit the organized crimes and fraud in the government. Criminologist uses controversial facts and records in deciding whom to direct the research to. This raises ethical questions on how criminologist base their research and findings on a particular community and ignore others (Siegel, 24).
How to study
This is a third major ethical issue that involves how the researches on crimes are being conducted. The subjects of the study are sometimes given misleading information about the study. Many questions are raised about this issue; what information to be disclosed to the subjects and the effect it will have on the findings. Subjects for a criminal research study should be selected in an unbiased manner, be protected, and cared for. Researches involving experiments should be conducted with a lot of care and caution not to harm the subjects (Siegel, 24).
How Do Criminologists Study Crime?
All the criminologists from every sub-area of criminology are required to understand the law because any nature of criminal behavior is tied to it. There are several ways in which criminologists study crime. First of all, they can study crime through a consensus view of crime. This is whereby criminologists understand that criminal law is a set of rules and believes that are equally applicable to every community. The consensus view of crime by criminologists is essential in helping the government achieve several goals in the justice system such as enforcing social control and deterring criminal behavior (Siegel, 18). Conflict view of crime is another way that criminologists study crime. By studying the origin of criminal behavior, criminologists found that there is a conflict view of crime. Most criminals believe that criminal law is discriminative in terms of economic status, race, gender, and political power.
The third way in which criminologists study crime is by interactionist view of crime. This is whereby reality can only be interpreted by an individual and by observation of other people’s actions either negative or positive. According to this view, there is no specific definition of reality but rather interpreted by one’s actions influences by others. This is the same way people define crime, what you view as negative might hurt someone else (Siegel, 14). Lastly, the definition of crime, which is a summation of the discussed ways of studying crime, shows how criminologists view crime. As mentioned earlier there are different interpretations of crimes, so the criminologists use the definition by law in carrying out their research studies.
How Do They Measure Crime?
The amount of criminal activity used and the manner that it occurs is measured by criminologists using reliable and valid techniques. The data and records from institutions such as the police and court are collected and analyzed using formulated techniques by criminologists. Criminologists also measure crime by developing instruments that estimate the percentage of criminal activities that were not reported to the police by victims. The creation of surveys that receive reports from victims who lost their property and got injured but did not report is one of the ways of how criminologists measure crime. Finally, criminologists measure crime by developing data through research studies that can be used to test crime theory (Siegel, 6).
How do Criminologists View Victimization?
A national world survey is conducted to address the issue of the victims who fail to report their crime experiences to the police. It is reported that more than half of the victims of crime do not report to the police. This survey is conducted annually by the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). Some criminologists pay attention to the crime victims, the nature and extent of victimization. Criminologists analyze the importance of understanding the victims’ role in the criminal process. Some people blame the victims in a criminal process and claim that the victim could have done things differently to avoid the crime from happening.
There are different problems associated with crime victims which bring about long-term consequences. Economic losses are one of the effects of victimization which can cost up to hundreds of billions of dollars considering that nearly 20 million people annually (Siegel, 72). This burden is carried by taxpayers who pay taxes to meet the needs of the criminal and justice department. The amount of citizen pay is approximately more than $400 every year. Nonetheless, the financial burden is not the only problem that victimization brings; victims suffer mental disorders long after the judicial procedure is over. The lack of support from family and friends after a crime results in hopelessness and depression. PTSD which is resulted from the criminal process also includes fears which lead to a change of behavior including becoming antisocial; feeling enraged all the time and the urge to seek revenge (Siegel, 74).
Criminologists explain the nature of victimization in terms of its trends and patterns. The social ecology of victimization describes how, where, and when a crime takes place. Rape cases mostly occur during the night after 6 pm and violent crimes hardly occur in open places. Victimization mostly takes place in schools where adult supervision is minimal. According to a survey by NCVS, urban homes and larger ones are more vulnerable to crime as compared to rural homes. There are several factors such as gender, age, race, and social status which determine the vulnerability of being a victim.
What Theories Do they Use to Better Understand Victimization?
Victimization theory demonstrates the role of the victim in a crime which was earlier ignored. These theories include victim precipitation theory, lifestyle theory, deviant place theory, and routine activities.
The Victim Precipitation Theory
This theory of victimization explains that there are victims who initiate a fight that results in fatal injuries or instant death. There are two types of victim precipitation; active and passive. Active victim precipitation is when a person physically or verbally provokes the offender while passive victim precipitation is when a person has the traits that unknowingly threaten the attacker.
According to criminologists, a person’s lifestyle plays a big role in criminal attacks. There are behaviors that a victim engages in that increase their risk of being attacked such as being in the public at night and drug use.
Deviant Place Theory
Routine Activities Theory
This theory involves three variables that raise the risks of crime. These are the suitable targets, the absence of capable guardians such as security officers, and the presence of motivated offenders.
Siegel, Larry J. Crime, and Criminology. 7th ed., Wadsworth Publishing Co, 2000, pp. 2-89.