Introduction to Criminology
A Brief Essay – Coursework
Academic Subject: Criminology
Word Count: 1000
Submitted by: Student
In a society, there is no one who is infallible, in fact, Innes (2013) argued that everyone is fallible and it is not simply because of poor decision-making but rather because of flawed information that is sent to the brain, which makes one to act, think, or talk in manner that is considered inappropriate. However, it is the severity of the wrongful act, thinking, or talking and the party that has been offended that determines whether such a wrong can be considered crime or deviance. This brings in the question of what is considered a crime or a deviance keeping in mind that the two terms are usually used interchangeably (Hammon et al. 2015).
This paper is a discussion on the problems involved in defining and measuring crime and deviance. In particular, the discussion will entail definition of criminological concepts; establish the difference and relativity of crime and deviance; differentiate the two approaches that are used in defining crime and deviance, and lastly, evaluate the use of official crime statistics.
To begin with, criminology has been described by Mannheim & Bernard (2016) as a scientific approach to the study on causes of crime, correctional procedures for offenders, and prevention strategies. This means criminologists do not focus on the legal aspect of crime but rather the policy aspect, and hence it is correct to qualify them as public policy experts since findings of their study are used for policy formulation in tackling crime. In the recent years, the field of criminology has witnessed tremendous progress, which has given birth to areas such as criminalistics and victimology (Mannheim & Bernard, 2016). Criminalistics is described as the scientific study of crime detection, which comprises of fingerprint study, photography, DNA evidence, and toxicology (study on how living organisms are affected by chemicals (Smith, 2015). On the other hand, victimology focuses on the victim of the crime, the victim’s connection to the criminal, and the role of the victims in the criminal act (Mannheim & Bernard, 2016).
From the discussion on criminological concepts by Mannheim & Bernard (2016), crime is defined as an act that has been forbidden by law and therefore, punishable by law either through penalty, conviction or murder in certain countries. Example, of a crime, is the forceful entry into someone’s personal property or space without authorization. As for deviance, Hammon et al. (2015) described it as an act that is in violation to societal norms and expectations. The societal norms and expectations are usually shaped by the media, education sector, religious sector, ethnic belonging, the government, and peers.
The relationship between crime and deviance
From the same discussion by Mannheim & Bernard (2016), crime is an act that has been prohibited by law and there are usually consequences that have been stipulated as punishment for engaging in the criminal acts. Therefore, by engaging in criminal acts, the offenders are usually made to pay for their acts by going through the stipulated consequences.
Kumar (2015) on his part stated that deviance has two categories that include formal and informal deviance. Formal deviance includes acts that are against the law and punishable by law such as murder while informal deviance is an act that contravenes social norms and expectation such as attending a lecture while naked or talking on the phone during a church service. Despite their offensive nature, informal deviances do not attract harsh punishments.
It is without a doubt based on Kumar (2015) writings that crime and deviance are relative terms; this is because the definition of crime perfectly fits the definition of formal deviance. This means that despite robbery, murder, or rape being criminal acts they are equal acts of formal deviance since they have been prohibited by law and punishable by the same law.
The only significant difference between crime and deviance is when the focus is on informal deviance, which bears significant difference from crime because it is simply a violation of social norms and expectations that have not been expressly prohibited by the law such as making noise in a library (Kumar, 2015).
Approaches in defining crime and deviance
The first approach of defining a crime is by referring to the law and this could be the constitution (which is the supreme law), directives, or regulations issued by a state-sanctioned bodies or authorities. Through these legal sources, criminal acts are clearly defined and their consequences are stipulated (Mannheim & Bernard, 2016). On the hand, deviance is first defined by social norms and expectations. These are usually not written but are regarded as part of unacceptable behavior, which means a deviant act is something considered as bad manners and is discouraged by religion, education, family, and/ or friends (Hammon et al. 2015).
The second approach of defining a criminal or deviant act is by focusing on the offended party. For an act to be defined as criminal it has to cause harm to another party (victim), and the harm needs to be quantifiable by value. For example, robbery results in the victim losing tangible assets while the fraudulent transfer of company’s funds by an accountant result in the loss of shareholders’ earnings (Mannheim & Bernard, 2016). The victims of informal deviance do suffer quantifiable harm, for example, when a student a lecture in nudity other classmates cannot claim to have lost anything or incurred a certain value of harm, they will just be uncomfortable and if they choose not to focus on the nude student they will not be interrupted (Hammon et al. 2015).
Mannheim & Bernard (2016) wrote that criminologist study official crime statistics to determine causes of crime, the actions that can be taken to prevent the crime from happening, the remedies that can be offered to victims, and correctional procedure that the criminal can undergo. Thereafter, criminologist and other public policy experts formulate policies and strategies that can be implemented to deter the occurrence of crime. MacDonald (2002) added that the official crime statistics are also used to determine areas and groups of people that need more police attention (patrol or surveillance) secondly, which police departments and/ or stations need an additional resource in order to effectively tackle crime.
In conclusion, crime is an act that has been prohibited by law and punishable by the same law while deviance is described as an act that is prohibited by social norms and expectations; however, this definition only applies to informal deviance. Formal deviance as it has been noted is a relative term of crime, which means the only conspicuous difference is between informal deviance and crime.
- Innes, E. (2013) Why do we make mistakes? Researchers discover ‘noisy information’ and not our brain is to blame, Mail Online. Accessed 16/9/2016. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2310363/Why-make-mistakes-Researchers-discover-noisy-information-brain-blame.html
- Hammon, R. Cheney, P. & Pearsey, R. (2015). Introduction to Sociology. Payson UT, Rocky Ridge Press. Accessed on 16/9/2016. Retrieved from http://freesociologybooks.com/Introduction_To_Sociology/08_Deviance_and_Crime.php
- Kumar, A. (2015) What are some examples of “deviant” acts? Quora. Accessed on 9/16/2016. Retrieved from: https://www.quora.com/What-are-some-examples-of-deviant-acts
- MacDonald, Z. (2002) Official Crime Statistics: Their Use and Interpretation. The Economic Journal. Vol. 112 (477), p 85 – 106
- Mannheim, H. & Bernard, T. (2016). Criminology, Accessed on 16/9/2016. Retrieved from: https://www.britannica.com/science/criminology
- Smith, Y. (2015) What is Toxicology? News Medical. Accessed 16/9/2016. Retrieved from: http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Toxicology.aspx