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What is Crime?

Four definitional perspectives

What is Crime?

Human conduct in violation of
the criminal laws of a state, the
federal government, or a local
jurisdiction that has the power
to make such laws
Legalistic Perspective

high ground to powerful

individuals who can influence
law making
Laws are social products –
crime is socially relative,
created by legislative activity
Political Perspective
The result of criteria that have been
built into the law by powerful groups
and are then used to label selected
undesirable forms of behavior as illegal
Laws serve the interests of the
politically powerful
Crimes are behaviors those in power
perceive as threats to their interests
Sociological (Sociolegal)
An antisocial act of such a nature that
its repression is necessary or is
supposed to be necessary to the
preservation of the existing system of
Crime is an offense against human
relationships first, a violation of law
Psychological (Maladaptive)
Problem behavior, especially human activity
that contravenes the criminal law and
results in difficulties in living within a
framework of generally acceptable social
Any behavior which is maladaptive would
be considered crime
Includes any harmful or potentially harmful
Crime and Deviance

Deviant behavior
Human activity that violates social
Deviance and crime overlap – not
Delinquency: Violations of the
criminal law and other misbehavior
committed by young people
Illegal in certain areas and not others.

• What are some examples of this being the case?

• Gambling here in Nevada
• Prostitution

• What’s illegal for some may be illegal for others.

• Drinking
• Smoking
The Causes of Crimes
What causes crime?
Lack of education
Breakdown in morals
Lack of parental guidance
Abuse of drugs and alcohol
Inadequate police protection
Ineffective correctional system
Crimes of Omission

Most crimes occur when a person does something or performs an

act that violates a law
Sometimes a person may be criminally liable for failing to act
Examples of omission:
Failing to pay taxes
Child neglect

Crime of omission – Failing to perform an act required by criminal

Consensus & Conflict Models
• Consensus Model
• Majority agreement
– People gather as a group, form a
society together
– Agree to what is right and wrong

• Conflict Model
– Larger societies
– Diverse segments of society,
different value systems/norms
– Constant struggle between
separated segments
The Purpose of the System
• Three main goals
• Control crime, prevent crime, provide/maintain

• How does the system control crime?

– Arrest, prosecute, punish

• How does the system try to prevent crime?

– Harsh punishment prevents others from
committing a similar crime

• How does the system provide and maintain

– Fairness
– All people are equal before the law
Types of Crimes
• Crimes separated based on seriousness – 6 groups
• Violent – crimes against persons
– Murder, sexual assault, robbery, etc.

• Property – most common form

– Goal is economic gain
– Shoplifting, theft w/out force

• Public Order Crime

– Public values and morals – public intoxication, gambling,

• White Collar Crime

– Business world – economic/personal/business advantage
(ex: embezzlement)

• Organized Crime
– Use of legal business facilities/employees to commit illegal

• High Tech Crime

– Latest type to emerge – cyber crimes, getting worse