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Criminology Dissertation

This is a dissertation chapter on Criminology:

Ever since criminology was established it has sought to answer as to why some people choose to commit crime. Cessare Lombrosso (1835-1901) “has been called the father of modern criminology” (Williams p141) known as the first phrenologist, he believed that people were ‘born’ criminals and destined to a life of crime. Primarily Lombrosso believed that a person’s physical appearance and make up were what determined a person’s potential criminality, for example “enlarged jaw and cheek bones” (Williams p142). Today we know that every possible theory as to why some choose to live a life of crime has been investigated, and the answer is simple, there will always be reasons such as poverty and drugs, but what about those who simply just choose crime as a way of life, they always have and probably always will.

Finding out what causes crime is futile (pointless, not worthwhile etc.) as people are always going to commit crime, therefore those in control; the Government and the Police, shouldn’t concentrate one hundred per cent on trying to find the causes of crime but should concentrate on and investigate more effective ways to control and prevent crime. “It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them” (Beccaria p11 in Muncie et al). Crime prevention needs to be investigated greater by those in control and also by the individual. It can be very frustrating having you’re car broken into, this type of crime is usually opportunistic, for example the offender walks past, sees a mobile phone and decides that he/she would like to steal it, “there are some purely opportunist crimes, where a person responds ‘there and then’ to a set of attractive environmental cues (e.g. a teenage boy calls at a friend’s house, find the back door open and Ј20 unguarded on the table)” (Bottoms et al p324 in Maguire et al).

Trying to establish what causes this type of crime is pointless as it is never going to stop people from breaking into cars. Car owners should be aware that in today’s society car crime is a very big problem, be that opportunist theft of valuable’s from inside the car or actually stealing the car itself. Individual car owners should take it upon themselves to employ several crime preventative measures so as to make it as hard as possible for their car to be broken into.

car should always be fitted with an alarm, this won’t stop the passenger window being smashed ( the easiest way of breaking into a car) bit with the load alarm being activated it is likely to deter the offender from continuing with the act.

Cars should always be parked somewhere safe, if it was left unattended in a dark side street it would stand a greater chance of being broken into; a car criminals are very good at spotting vulnerable and easy targets such as this, which is why in order to maximise the security of an individual’s car they should always leave it in a car park or area which has security.

Valuables should never be left on display, if a car doesn’t have an alarm and immobiliser (device that doesn’t allow the car to be started without a special key) fitted the offender will be able to notice this by the fact that there will be no flashing light on the dash board. So if a car has been left in an area which could be considered as an unwise decision, has no alarm and has valuables on display, such as a car stereo; the car then becomes very unsafe and a very easy target for the criminal.

Closed Circuit television (CCTV) is a very big part of today’s crime prevention tactics employed by the Government, and contrary to popular belief its main objective is not to catch criminals in the act of committing a certain crime but it is actually to deter them from doing so. In 1996 the then Home Secretary, Howard, said “I am absolutely convinced that CCTV has a major part to play in helping to detect and reduce crimes and to detect criminals” (Pease p 971 in Maguire et al).

The thought of being watched is a very good crime prevention tactic, but there is an alleged opposite affect that CCTV has; and that is that it pushes crime away to other areas where there is no CCTV, this can be related to what’s mentioned above about car crime, a car is more likely to be broken into in a car park that has no CCTV, this is an argument that suggests that CCTV does push crime to other areas, but also shows how it is a good preventative tactic.

Today CCTV is everywhere, “By 1994, it was reported that ninety five per cent of local authorities were contemplating the installation of CCTV in city centre locations” (Taylor p121). There are numerous cameras in shops, shopping centres , pubs, night clubs etc. CCTV is never going to answer what the causes of crime are, and it has never asked that question; it’s purely and simply a crime control and prevention method. As well as preventing crime it can make people feel more secure, a person walking home at night alone will feel safer if there is CCTV in the area that they are walking.

Usually the only fear that a criminal has is of getting caught. As mentioned above CCTV’s primary goal is not to catch criminals but to make them think twice before committing a crime; therefore crime prevention is its main aim and fear of getting caught is in itself a very good crime prevention method without the help of CCTV. With cameras everywhere the criminal stands a greater chance of being arrested and prosecuted if they decide to commit crime in areas with CCTV.

Warehouses and other similar industrial establishments with surveillance are not an easy a target for burglars as those who do not have it, crime prevention comes down to common sense, just in the same way that the individual car owner should employ crime prevention tactics to keep their car free from criminal intervention, so should the warehouse or shopping centre. These businesses shouldn’t only rely on CCTV but they should also have visible security such as store detectives as CCTV alone isn’t always able to keep track of everybody in the store or by the time the camera operator has tracked an offender they might be at the exit and have the opportunity to make a fast escape.

If CCTV’s main objective was to catch criminals then it would all be hidden, for example pin hole cameras and other measures such as plain clothed store detectives, but it isn’t; it’s usually well advertised with signs saying ‘store detectives’ and ‘CCTV in operation’ and ‘shop lifters will be prosecuted’, all of which prove that CCTV is purely for crime preventative measures, it’s only in certain circumstances that it is used in other ways, such as actually identifying offenders who choose to ignore the warnings that CCTV promotes. The same can be said for the other type of CCTV we have in Britain; speed cameras on our roads. Driving faster than the speed limit is against the law and therefore it is a crime; it is also very dangerous, if the aim of the cameras was to catch speeders (those driving faster than the speed limit for that particular road) then the cameras would be hidden, obviously if a driver goes through a speed camera too fast they will be prosecuted, but there main objective is to prevent people from driving too fast and causing accidents. People know what the penalties are for breaking the law so sign saying ‘speed cameras ahead’ deter people from speeding, therefore preventing them from driving too fast and breaking the law; just in the same way that CCTV in our city centres and shopping centres act as an extremely good crime prevention method.

Being a victim of burglary can be very harrowing, the figures have probably increased but the 1982 British Crime Survey revealed “a burglary every minute throughout the country, with a one in forty likelihood of being burgled in a year” (Muncie p 32 in Muncie et al). Questions have been asked as to why somebody would burgle another person’s home, is it because of poverty, being addicted to drugs and needing to find money to pay often very high prices for their habit! In the same way as car crime, burglary is often opportunistic (see quote above by Bottoms), for example, a burglar walks past a house and sees a laptop computer on a table and decides that he/she would like to have it! Criminology seeks to answer questions as to why people decide to do these things, but will it ever really find the answers?

What criminology can do is help those is help those who are vulnerable do everything they possible can to protect themselves and their property, as in today’s society burglaries are always going to happen to those who are vulnerable. Lowering opportunity is vital to protect one’s home “Opportunity is a key factor: offending levels can be reduced by taking practical steps to reduce the opportunity for criminal behaviour” (Johns p 127).

Student houses in particular are seen as an easy target by potential burglars; especially if the house has been left empty during the holidays, and even more so if valuables are left in these houses unattended during these holiday periods.

Once again crime prevention comes down to common sense. When living in a high risk area (such as a student house) it is imperative that one has home contents insurance, as it is well known by the criminal society that students bring with them to university high valued electrical goods such as televisions, stereos and computers. Having insurance isn’t going to stop a house from being broken into, but at least if it does happen the victim will have the opportunity to have their stolen property replaced.

Having good quality doors and windows very important in protecting a house, double glazing is far more secure than old wooded window frames, the doors and windows should always be shut and locked properly when not in the house.

A persons home doesn’t usually have CCTV like a shopping centre has, but that could prove to be a very good security measure if the home owner decided to invest in this type of equipment. Having a burglar alarm fitted and on display to the public is a very good crime deterrent, a house is far more likely to be burgled if it can be done quietly; which is why those who have alarms in their home’s should never become complacent and should therefore always set the alarm when they go to sleep, as burglaries are more likely to take place during the night. One final home protection/crime prevention tactic is to make it look like there is somebody at home at all times, a house is more vulnerable if it is empty, a radio should be left playing and the lights should also be left on.

Knowing what the causes of burglary are isn’t going to protect a person’s home in the same way as taking the above preventative measures, and once again as with the other crimes mentioned, it is imperative to make it as hard as possible for the criminal to commit the crimes mentioned above; which is of course the best type of crime prevention.

The majority of this essay has been about theft and CCTV, the final type of crime going to be discussed is attacks on the person. There are numerous types of personal attacks which a person could have inflicted upon them, ranging from common assault, actual bodily harm, grievous bodily harm all the way to murder; also there a sexual assaults which can happen, these range from indecent assault all the way to full rape (these crimes can happen to men as well as women).

Once again criminology has always sought to find out why these crimes against other people happen, there are numerous theories as to why some choose to commit rape; is it purely through sexual frustration? Or is it due to other reasons such as it gives a rapist a feeling of power over another person when he commits this most horrendous of crimes?

Street violence can often be associated to young men and alcohol, “western cultures usually encourage young single men to socialise widely, and therefore the normal and encouraged lifestyle for this group within society is also one which exposes them to the most risk from street crimes” (Williams p125). Finding the answers as to why street violence and sexual assaults happen is not going to stop those who commit them from carrying on committing these nasty crimes against other people. The best thing to do is to try prevent these harsh crimes being committed upon intervals. The following preventative measures can be related to any type of personal attack (see above) not just rape.

To prevent a personal attack, a person should never go out at night on their own in an area that they are not familiar with, this adds to the risk as not knowing what’s round the corner is dangerous, as the potential victim could walk up the wrong street at the wrong time; leaving themselves very vulnerable. When on a night out people should always try to walk home in groups as much as possible, as a group is far less likely to be confronted by potential attackers than an individual. It is not always possible to walk home with friends as people live in different places, if this is the case those on their own should carry a personal attack alarm and have a mobile phone so they can call a friend or the police if they suspect that they are, or have a high chance of being attacked.

Attacks don’t just happen at night; it’s just that there is a greater risk of being attacked at night, as the darkness acts as good cover for the attacker and also there will be less people around which all adds to the potential risk of being attacked.

If going out alone, the person doing so should inform their family/house mates what time they are going to be home at, so as the third party can notify the authorities if the first person isn’t home when they said they were going to be, if they suspect that something has happened!

As with the other types of crimes discussed in this essay, every investigation into why these crimes against other individuals happen is never going to actually stop them from happening. The best thing to do is for individuals to take measures to protect themselves and their property, as the majority of crime prevention measures are pure and simple common sense; don’t give the criminal easy opportunities to commit crime!

The causes of crime are never going to be truly established, quite simply because there are hundreds of criminological theories as to why some people choose to commit crime, but the sad fact is that those who do commit crime; just simply do! Even as early as 1876 when Lombrosso published L’Uomo Delinquente (the criminal man), ideas were being established as to why people choose to live a life of crime.

The only way it is possible to ever establish a true cause of crime is to look into new and better ways of preventing and controlling crime.

It is a fact that the majority of crime is what is known as opportunist crime; for example stealing a purse from an opened handbag, for the criminal it’s a simple case of being in the right place at the right time, usually with this type of crime it isn’t premeditated (thought about in advance). For the victim it’s a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time!

To conclude the only way to stop crime is to keep one step ahead of the criminals, get more police, get more CCTV, get more industrial security and more schemes like neighbourhood watch, make it as hard as possible for the criminal. Every possible cause of crime has been investigated and that alone does not stop those who commit crime from doing so; in today’s society we have criminals, and we shall always have criminals so the only way to stop crime is by trying to control it; the best way for achieving this is for those who are in power (the Government and the Police) employing more of the crime prevention methods discussed in this essay, and for the general public to have a bit of common sense; as stated in the recent television commercial ‘don’t give them an easy ride’.

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