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Custom Measures of Crime in a Sociological Theory essay paper sample

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Sociological  causes  of crime  can  be  grouped into three  main  classes  which  are:  social  learning  theory,  strain  theory  and  control  theory,  while  methods  used  to  measure  crime  include:   uniform  crime  reports (UCR), National  Incident-Based  Reporting  System(NIBRS) , National  Crime  Victimization  Survey (NCVS) ,  Self  report  studies ,  National  Household  Survey  on  Drug  abuse(NHSDA),  and  Monitoring  the  Future ( MTE).This  paper  will   Describe how the sociological  theory explains  crime,  theories  explaining  why  people   engage  in  crime,   and   how  to  measure  crime through its theoretical model . Previous  research  has  not  addressed  adequately  several  issues  in  this  area  and  this  is  of  great  concern.  

Research Objectives     

The following areas are intended to be addressed in the study.

To  explain  the  sociological  theory.

To  explain  the  theories  explaining  why  people  engage  in  crime.

To  explain  how   to  measure   crime  using  the  sociological  theoretical  model.

Crime  refers  to  any  wrongful  act  which  affects  the  community  adversely  and  therefore  the  state  acts  in  the  interest  of  the  public  to  repress  it.  Sociological  theories of  crime  explain  it  in terms    of  the  social  environment   such  as  the  family,  peer  groups,  school, work  place,  community  and  the  society (Deflem, 2006).  There  are  about  three  major  sociological  theories  of  crime  which  are:  strain  theory,  social  learning  theory,  and  control  theory.  These theories explain why people engage in crime (Deflem, 2006). 

The  social  learning  theory  of  crime  explains  that  people  involve  themselves  in  crime  because  they  are influenced  by  others  to  do  so.  Through  others,  people  learn  beliefs  which  predispose  them  to  committing  crime,  are  exposed  to crime  models  and   therefore  they  end  up  being  reinforced  to  commit  the  vice (Cesare,1764).  Strain  theory  of  crime  on  the  other  hand  argues  that  people  in  low  socioeconomic  class  are more  likely  to  commit  crime  as  they  strive  to  achieve  their  goal  since  ordinarily,  they  have  less  opportunity  to do  so (Cesare,1764).  

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Control  theory  of  crime  has  it  that  people  have  various  needs  and  desires  which  they  see  as  easier  to  fulfill   through  crime  as  opposed  to  legal  means. This theory seams to take crime for granted.  For  instance,  according  to  this  school  of  thought,  a  person  would  afford  an  item  easily  through  stealing  money  to  purchase  it  as  opposed  to  through  working  to  get  money  to  purchase  it (Cesare,1764).    

The theories discussed above relate crime and social environment. There are  a  number  of  theories  which  focus  on  official  reaction  to  crime.  For  instance,  the  labeling  theory   argues  that  official  efforts  to  control  crime  may  backfire  by  causing  the  very  vice they  seek  to  suppress  skyrocket (Siegel, 2003).  When people are arrested and prosecuted, they are viewed as criminals.  Treating them as   such causes them to go back to it.  For instance, employers would hesitate giving them employment  hence  they  then  engage  in  crime  to 

afford  their  needs (Siegel, 2003).  Labeled individuals are also ostracized by the conventional society.  They  thus  opt  to  seek  refuge  in  the  criminal  world  where  they  can  get  accommodated.  Associating with criminals leads  to  the  social  learning  of  crime.  Such  individuals  start  to  view  themselves as  criminals  and  this  influences  them  to  act  as  such (Siegel, 2003). 

Social  disorganization  theory  on  the  other  hand  explains  community  differences  in  crime  rates.  This  theory  argues  that  crime rate  is higher  in  communities  which  are  economically  deprived,  large  in  size,   high  in  residential  mobility,  as  well as  those  with  high  divorce and  separation  rates (Siegel, 2003).  Situations  conducive  sociological  theory  argues  that  people  are  more  likely to  engage  in   crime  if  the  benefits  of  doing  it  outweigh  its  losses (Clarke, 1992). 

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The sociological theory of crime proposes several methods of measuring crime. The  uniform  crime  reports (UCR)  as  a  method  came  into  use  in  the  1930’s  courtesy  of  the  FBI (McLennan, 1980).  This  body  of  investigation  came  up  with  this  theory  by  using  data  send  to  it  by  police  precincts   about  crimes  reported.  From  this  data,  they  came  up  with  two  categories  of  crime. These  are:  violent  crimes  and  poverty  crimes.  Violent crimes include:  homicide, robbery and forcible rape.  Poverty  crimes  on  the other   hand  include  crimes  such  as  burglary  and  arson (McLennan, 1980).  This  method  is  however  criticized  by  many  scholars  who  argue  that  not  all  crimes  are  reported  to the  police,  the  police may  not  be  competent  in  the  recording  and  that  such  reports  to  the  police  vary  in accuracy  and  completeness  since  they  are  given  by  people  out  of  their  own  volition (McLennan, 1980). 

The  National  Incident-Based  Reporting  System(NIBRS)  as  a method  of  measuring  crime  is  similar  to  UCR  but  more  detailed.  It’s  basically an  advancement  of  UCR.  This  means  that  NIBRS  will  replace  UCR  as  a  method  used  by  FBI  to  measure  crime (Merton , 1957).  This method is an incident based reporting system.  It  involves  collection  of  data  on  incidents  which  are  reported  to  law  enforcement  agents  such  as  the  police.  The  data  collected  includes  the  nature  of  the  crime  committed,  the  types  of  specific  offences  in  the  reported  incidents,  characteristics of  those  involved  in  the  incident  (offenders  and  victims),  the  types  as  well  as  the  value  of  the  stolen  and recovered  property  and  characteristics  of  those  apprehended  in  connection  with the  crime  incident (Merton , 1957).  This  method  provides  law  enforcers  with  a lot  of  valuable  information  regarding  the  crime  committed.

The  National  Crime  Victimization  Survey (NCVS)  as  a  method  of  crime  measurement  was  developed  in  the  1970’S  by  the  U.S.  Department of justice.  This  method  is  more  investigative  since  it  gives  details  pertaining  the  time  the  crime  was  committed,  the  place,  gender  of  those  involved,  their  incomes  and  relationships (Reiner, 2000).  Critics  of  this  method  argue  that,  since  it  basically relies  on  the victims  of  crime,  it  may  not  be  accurate.  They  say  for  instance  the  number  of  victims  may  not  be  equal  to  the  number  of  offenders.  They  also  claim  that  some victims  may  fail  to  report  the  crime,  forget  about  it or  lie.  This method also has another weakness of failing to capture offences  without victims  such as drug  abuse,  gambling,  homicides,  etc (Reiner, 2000).  This  argument  is  quite  valid  especially  when  we  consider  a  case of  rape  where  the  victim  is  a  close  relative  of  the  offender.  Majority  of  such  cases  go  unreported  or  the  victims  are  intimidated  by  family  members  hence  a  wrong  account  is  given  to  protect  the  offender. 

Self  report  studies  is  a  method  of  crime measurement  which makes  use  of  reports  where  the  participants  come  up  with  information  regarding  the  crimes  they  commit (Siegel, 2003).  This  method  is  basically  built on the  assumption  that,  respondents  are  likely  to  give  an  accurate  account  of  the  crime  if  they  are  assured  of  confidentiality  and  anonymity.  This  method  is  very  good  for  measuring  crimes  which  are  hardly  reported to  the  police.  These include:   prostitution and drug abuse (Siegel, 2003).  Critics  of  this  method argue that  some  respondents  may  lie,  exaggerate,  understate,  or  even  forget  and  this  compromises  the  validity  and  reliability  of  the  data  obtained (Siegel, 2003). 

National  Household  Survey  on  Drug  abuse(NHSDA)  as  a  method  of  measuring  crime  basically  monitors  the  patterns   of  drug  abuse  throughout  an  entire  country.  Its is a self report method.  It  was developed in  1971  and  it  makes  use  of  sampling of  persons  over  12 years  in  an  household.  It  gives  people  guided  questions  like  their  illegal  drug  abuse,  alcohol  and  tobacco  abuse (McLennan, 1980).  This method makes use of interviews contacted in private places.  The  results  of  the  interview  are  then enclosed  in  envelops  and  mailed  back  to  the  body  conducting  the  research.   Telephone interviews are the current trend this method has taken.  This  method  has  however  been  highly  criticized  since  it  doesn’t  capture  people  not  living in  households  and who  may  be  heavy  drug  users (McLennan, 1980). 

Other  shortcomings  of  this  method  are those  given  for  self repot  studies  since  it  belongs  to  that  family. Monitoring  the  Future ( MTE)  is  another  self  report  method  which  was  developed by  the  U.S.  National  Institute of  Drug  Abuse  in  1975  basically  targeting  high  school  seniors,  college  students  and  young   adults (McLennan, 1980). It  monitors  the  behaviors,  values  as  well as  attitudes  of   members  of  the  target   groups.  This method makes use of a cohort- sequential design of research.  It  carries  out  annual  cross-sectional  surveys  of  samples  of  students  drawn  from  all  corners  of  the  Nation.  8th and 10th   graders  are  also  surveyed.  Follow-up  surveys  of  each  senior class  every  year  through  age  32  as  well  as  at  half-  decade  intervals  every  year  are  also  done.  The  problem  associated with  this  method  is  its tendency  to  report  higher  numbers  of  drug  users  if  conducted  in  schools  than  when  conducted at  home (McLennan, 1980).  Students  who  have  high  school  absenteeism  cases  are  also  not  captured  by the  method.      

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Research design/methodology

In the research, both qualitative and quantitative research methods were employed.  Quantitative research methods used include:  questionnaires and surveys.  The  aim  of  this  research  method  was  to  come  up  with  precise  measurements  as  well  as  analysis  of  issues.  The  research  at  the  same  time  relied  on  qualitative  methods.  These include:  in depth-Interviews and participant observation.  

Data  collected was  analyzed through use of content analysis. Content analysis is the art of describing behavior through asking questions like who, what, where within specific rules so as to reduce biasness. Narrative summary analysis was  also  used to give explanations of participant’s views to avoid reliance on raw data only.

This  paper  has  defined  Sociological  theories of  crime  as  those  which  explain  it  in terms    of  the  social  environment   such  as  the  family,  peer  groups,  school,  work  place,  community  and  the  society.  About  three  major  sociological  theories  of  crime  have  been  focused  on  which  are:  strain,  social  learning,  and  control  theory.  These theories explain why people engage in crime.  The  social  learning  theory  of  crime  has  been  discussed  as  one   which  explains  that  people  involve  themselves  in  crime  because  they  are influenced  by  others  to  do  so  while  Strain  theory  of  crime  on  the  other  hand  argues  that  people  in  low  socioeconomic  class  are more  likely  to  commit  crime  as  they  strive  to  achieve  their  goal  since  ordinarily,  they  have  less  opportunity  to do  so.  Lastly,  Control  theory  of  crime  has  been  seen  to  argue  that  people  have  various  needs  and  desires  which  they  see  as  easier  to  fulfill   through  crime  as  opposed  to  legal  means.  Methods    used  to  measure  crime  have  included:   uniform  crime  reports (UCR), National  Incident-Based  Reporting  System(NIBRS) , National  Crime  Victimization  Survey (NCVS) ,  Self  report  studies ,  National  Household  Survey  on  Drug  abuse(NHSDA),  and  Monitoring  the  Future ( MTE).

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