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Criminology is a field that scientifically studies the causes of crime. It is a complex field due to the dynamic nature of offenses. Criminologists are professionals that partake in this area. They attempt to evaluate the situations leading to crimes and the aspects that contribute to their unrelenting existence. In a bid to comprehend the causing factors, various theories attempt to provide an explanation of criminal behavior and, thus, offer insight for evaluating existing policies and introduce effective strategies that can alleviate crime (Clear & Natasha, 2008). These principles are vital for the improvement of social and political systems. The primary aim of criminology is the harmony of verified principles concerning the procedures of law, crime, and treatment. Thus, the areas of concern to criminologists includes the definition of crime and the progress of criminal law, the causes of law violation, and the approaches used to regulate criminal behavior. Since Criminology is an interdisciplinary field, it is important for criminologists to be trained in several disciplines including sociology, political science, economics, criminal justice, etc.
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Brief History of Criminology
The systematic study of crime is relatively recent. Even though crime codes have been in existence for many years, they were limited to describing crime and determining punishments. Thus, the motivation for individuals to violate the law remained a concern of conjecture. In the middle ages, superstition dominated thinking. Individuals that violated social norms were perceived as possessed by demons. The prescribed method for dealing with the law violators was burning at a stake (Huebner, 2013).
Criminology and Criminal Justice
Criminal justice entails the study of institutions of social control like the police and correctional facilities. Therefore, this field is related to criminology and is often misunderstood as the same thing. Due to the connection of criminology and criminal justice, criminologists must be mindful of the operation of institutions of justice. For instance, they should have insight on how justice policies influence crime rates and trends. Similarly, criminal justice professionals cannot instigate policies of crime prevention without the knowledge of their nature (Jones, 2009).
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In the 18th century, social philosophers embraced the view that behavior occasioned from rational thought processes (Siegel & McCormick, 2002). This model suggests that people decide to act after considering costs and benefits. They chose actions that increased pleasure and reduced pain. Criminal behavior could be regulated if violators were convinced that the pain derived from the consequences of their actions exceed the pleasure obtained from engaging in the crime. This theory includes the following components. In every community, individuals have free will to choose criminal or lawful solutions to meet their requirements or solve their problems. Second, illegal solutions may be more enticing since they often require less work for a superior payoff. Third, a person’s decision to commit crime may be regulated by their fear of punishment. Finally, to be an effective crime prevention, punishment must be severe, definite, and swift. This classical viewpoint shaped penal codes for two centuries (Valasik, 2013). The regulations were intended to be proportionate to the crimes. Hence, harsh punishments were delivered to severe crimes.
The crime rates have been increasing recently in most parts of the globe. These increases can be attributed to different factors that are unique to specific regions. For instance, India has been experiencing a novel type of violence referred to as bride burning. Women in this part of the country may get burned to death when their families do not offer the expected dowry. Consequently, numerous Indian women commit suicide to evade this situation.
Numerous countries, particularly those experiencing social upheaval, have higher murder rates than the United States. Violence against women is linked to economic hardships and the social rank of the women. The magnitudes of violence against ladies are high in developing nations, where women are oppressed.
Criminologists often align themselves with a specific school of thought. Each school maintains its specific view of what constitutes criminal behavior and causes crimes. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of the field of criminology, fundamental issues like the nature and description of the offense itself are the primary causes for disagreement amongst criminologists (Clear & Natasha, 2008). A criminologist’s decision of orientation is contingent on their definition of offense. The crimes studied by criminologists include homicides, rapes, robberies, burglaries, vehicle thefts, and child abuse amongst others. Irrespective of their theoretical orientation, criminologists are dedicated to the study of crime.
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The Role of Criminologists
Conducting research is the primary role for criminologists. Their research aims to establish why crimes occur. They concentrate on the education, behavior, social status, family life, mental state, and environmental factors of the lives of the offenders. They profile criminals to understand the motivations for engaging in criminal behaviors. They collect information regarding biological conditions and any past occurrences in behavior. They evaluate data concerning crimes, arrests, and verdicts to determine any common traits amongst offenders. They aim to establish methods to predict and prevent future crimes. Several criminologists study criminals to draw conclusions and suggest recommendations for high-risk individuals. By gathering extensive information, criminologists help law enforcement agencies in catching violators and evaluate the motives for crimes.
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Criminologists develop theories that attempt to explain why individuals commit crimes and what viable risk factors exist. They gather all their data to identify patterns in behavior. Subsequently, they develop models to assist other experts in obtaining a clear understanding of criminology. The theories comprise law enforcement tactics, forensics, substance abuse, juvenile delinquency, and law reform.
Numerous criminologists work with law enforcement experts to assess crime scenes. The criminologists investigate all characteristics of the crime scene to get a better understanding of precisely what happened. They utilize their understanding of psychology and criminology to expound on what occurred during a crime and the likely causes of the said crime. They inspect evidence and occasionally autopsy reports to establish if an offender falls into a particular category based on the aspects of the offense.
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The criminologists compose reports that portray the nature of crimes. These reports are developed using statistical software which helps identify trends in criminal behavior. The reports can help law enforcement to formulate policies that will prevent and predict crime thus prevent it from occurring.
Causes of Crime
Numerous biological, physiological, and social factors cause people to engage in crime. Overpopulation is a significant social aspect that instigates people to perform criminal activities. Overpopulation results in scarceness of resources. As a result, there is stiff competition for these resources. For instance, only a few people can get jobs and the majority of the population will be unemployed. The unemployed population may easily get involved in criminal activities since they do not have money to pay for basic needs and services. Moreover, overpopulation results in the formation of slums. These slums serve as shelter for criminals, as they can afford the cheap accommodation offered.
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Parental neglect results in higher crime rates. Neglected children get involved with bad companies that introduce them to criminal activities. Since the parents are not close enough to monitor their kid’s behavior, they engage in crimes from early ages. When these children are fully grown, they are deep into the vice of the offense.
Alcohol and drug abuse are the leading causes of crime. Drug addiction makes people dependent on expensive drugs. However, these people will rarely engage in productive economic activities. They, thus, lack the money needed to participate in their addiction. Consequently, they partake in crime to obtain the money needed to purchase the drugs.
For the crime rates to decrease, the causes have to be addressed. Failure to do this will result in the recurrence of crimes. Criminology thus aims at studying these causes and observing how they change with time. The advancing technology has made it probable for the criminologists to engage in comprehensive research on the causes of crime. For example, criminologists may use social media to conduct surveys amongst a wider audience and use statistical software to obtain a meaningful pattern in the data. Hence, criminologists gain insight that can be utilized to instigate policies that will address the causes of crimes.
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Effects of Crime
The effects of crime include physical, emotional, social, and financial impact on families. The victims of the offenses suffer body harm dependent on the nature of the crime. For instance, robbery with violence often results in severe physical injuries that require urgent medical attention.
Crime also causes emotional pain to victims. The victims may develop fear and resentment which will affect them in their day to day life. The victims of crime may lose items that had a great significance to their lives. For instance, people may lose items given to them by their loved ones that passed away. Losing these things makes an individual feel guilty. They will be disturbed emotionally due to the crime.
Crime causes a financial impact on the victims. The victims lose valuable items that that cost considerable amounts of money. Often, victims have a tough time saving up money to repurchase items stolen by criminals.
Challenges of Criminology
Prevention of crime requires collaboration with the pertinent authorities. For instance, the government should ensure that the rate of unemployment is low so that people do not experience financial difficulties. Poverty is a leading cause of crime. Therefore, when people do not have jobs, they will likely engage in crime despite the measures taken to prevent crime. Unfortunately, criminologists do not have any authority over unemployment.
The advancing technology has created new ways for people to conduct crimes. For instance, hackers can log into other people’s computers remotely and use them to perform illegal activities. Alternatively, they can hide their IP addresses, which makes it hard to get them. Hence, criminologists should have the technical knowledge required to study and formulate policies that will help the authorities to prevent this type of crime.
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It is difficult to assess the social impacts of crime. This is because victims react emotionally and may take different actions. Moreover, the dynamic nature of crime makes it hard to predict. Even the statistical programs used by the criminologists cannot come up with an accurate model that will explain and predict crime accurately.
Criminology as a field has undergone numerous developments since its inception. Criminologists have developed theories that have been used to explain the causes of crime and establish ways to prevent it. Nevertheless, the dynamic nature of crime, advancing technology, and new data has posed serious challenges for criminology. Furthermore, this field is of a multidisciplinary nature which requires the criminologists to have knowledge in associated fields like sociology and criminal justice. Criminologists need to continue constantly researching and obtaining sufficient data which will ensure the policies they adopt are effective. Pertinent authorities should also perform their duties effectively to assist the work of criminologists. For example, the government should ensure that the rate of unemployment is low, and the criminal justice system should be fair to make sure that people are not arrested for crimes that they did not commit.