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.
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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).
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).
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.
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).