It is crucial to understand both the terms, ‘crime’ and ‘society’ when we discuss crime and society. Because it is hard to comprehend crime without researching society as a whole, there is a relationship between criminology and sociology. The concept of deviation in society is where the idea of crime originates. Deviance entails defying a social convention and arousing hostility from others. Laws are standards that are established and upheld by the government. When deviation breaks the law, it is considered a crime.
What constitutes a crime?
A crime is any act, omission, or circumstance that is forbidden by law, which, if committed, results in legal action being taken by and on behalf of the state rather than a specific individual, and which, upon conviction, results in a punishment of some kind being meted out by state agents rather than the payment of compensation.
As a result of the aforementioned definitions, we can define crime as any morally or socially wrong deed committed by an individual or group of people against another person or the state that is against the law, and when convicted, punishment is meted out by the state rather than the specific offender. Crime can take many different forms, including crimes against people, crimes against property, organized crime, workplace crimes, political crimes, and corporate crimes.
For the same reason, many actions that are prohibited in one nation but permitted in another are legal in that nation. Alcohol drinking is one example, permitted everywhere but prohibited in Muslim nations. People’s perspectives on what constitutes a crime also alter as a result of cultural changes. As a result, there may be numerous causes of crime, which vary depending on the type of crime, the time and location where it occurs, and other factors. The criminalization and decriminalization of different phenomena is thus a continuous process.
The Latin word “socious,” which means affiliation and friendship, is where the word “society” originates. Therefore, the definition of society is “a larger group of people who are connected.” Sociologists define society as a group of individuals who share a common environment, way of life, and culture. Individual and communal (shared) benefits can thus be distinguished, or in many situations found to overlap, insofar as a society is collaborative, it can enable its members to benefit in ways that would not otherwise be conceivable on an individual basis. In a dominating, bigger society, a group of people who share similar beliefs and norms might also be considered a society. A subculture is another name for something that is frequently used in criminology.
Societal definition of crime
In essence, crime is defined via the prism of society. An act is not criminal until society declares it to be so, and if society deems an act to be in line with its values, then it is not a crime at all. The primary purpose of laws is to punish criminal behavior, and these laws are the outcome of society’s desire to put an end to such activities. To better grasp it, consider the fact that witchcraft was once regarded as a crime and subject to punishment. People at that period were extremely devout, believed in witchcraft or black magic, and believed that witches assisted the devil in his evil deeds. Witchcraft, thus, became a felony and a basis for prosecution of anyone suspected of practicing witchcraft. The definition of crime by society is crucial because it influences the creation of laws that will stop it from happening. In defining crime, society’s perspective on the specific act is crucial because, for instance, if society does not view giving bribes as a crime, they will not be recorded as such and no laws will be passed on them even though they are morally wrong.
Money as a reason for crime
Money is one of the most crucial components of everyone’s life in the modern era. The value of money extends beyond a person’s bank account balance and includes things like their social standing, value, and even morals. People, therefore, place a higher emphasis on money than on relationships and pleasure. They place more value on others’ opinions of them than their own. Even colleges and universities do not instruct students on how to lead happy and fulfilling lives; rather, they focus on teaching them how to increase their income, which subtly equates wealth with value. People who are in awe of students who study and choose careers in science rather than the arts since, traditionally, they have a better chance of making more money, would be an example. People who make less money feel unworthy as a result, and they are forced to engage in criminal activity to increase their income and improve their self-worth.
Variations in crime
Due to advancements in technology, crime has changed significantly over time along with societal change. People used to believe that crimes were primarily perpetrated by people from lower socioeconomic classes who were trying to get materialistic things and had little other options than to use illegal means to accomplish so. But rich individuals can commit crimes as well as poor people, and most of the time they can do it without leaving any evidence. Anyone can commit a crime, regardless of their social, political, or economic standing. It has been said that crime doesn’t go away; it just changes.
Do the crime figures include any errors?
The functionalism perspective is perhaps the least appreciated of the main paradigms or ways of looking at crime in sociological techniques. Everything has a function, according to functionalism. Sociologists such as Emile Durkheim postulated that since crimes happen in every culture, they must have a purpose otherwise they would not be widespread. Crime provides targets for societal moral outrage, maintaining society and fostering stronger solidarity.
Particularly Marxists contend that many crimes perpetrated by the wealthy are not recorded in crime statistics. The wealthy are less likely to be under investigation or to become suspects since they can more easily afford skilled lawyers who can clear their names or even bribe officials to stop the investigation altogether. Marxists would add that since the wealthy are the class that creates the laws, a large portion of the detrimental behavior that they do participate in is legal.
Crimes perpetrated by “middle class” people (as opposed to “blue collar” laborers) are referred to as “white-collar crime.” It is typically used to describe the crimes most associated with the middle class, such as fraud and tax evasion, rather than, for example, violent crimes that just so happened to have been committed by a middle-class person. Although theoretically, it could mean any crime committed by members of that class, it is typically used to describe the crimes most associated with the lower class.
Because many white-collar crimes are more difficult to identify, prosecutions are less likely. The crime is frequently perpetrated at a distance, possibly via computer, rather than face-to-face, and victims are frequently spread and remote (for example, there may be thousands of fraud victims who may never be aware that a crime has taken place).
Both victims and witnesses to crimes are less inclined to come forward because of these two factors. In the past, these crimes have been dealt with more leniently, and occasionally, white-collar criminals’ associates will assist in “brushing it under the carpet” to escape the unfavorable publicity. Therefore, thieves discover new and improved ways to accomplish a crime.
These days, cybercrime, often known as computer crime, is very common. The offense is perpetrated when someone uses a computer to carry out unlawful activities such as cyberpornography, fraud, infringement of intellectual property, identity theft, or invasion of privacy. With the development of technology, cybercrime, particularly over the Internet, has become more prevalent.
The advancement of technology has led to new criminal opportunities. Cybercrime typically involves an attack on data about people, businesses, or governments. Even though these attacks lack a physical component, they still affect a person’s or a company’s virtual body since, in the digital age, our virtual identities are vital components of daily life.
Consequences of crime
Most often, crime had a detrimental impact on society in terms of its economy, social structure, and political climate. The following are the consequences of crime on contemporary society: –
- Hinders societal development
Crime frequently impedes society’s development. For instance, the rise in crime rates forces the government to allocate resources to crime reduction rather than investing them in profitable areas. Building jails, buying tools to fight crime and paying those working in the criminal justice system all cost enormous sums of money. In this approach, crime prevention costs the government more, which slows down social advancement.
- It leads to the killing of people
In countries where crime rates are rising, there are more fatalities each year. Crime directly results in death through violence, such as the terrorist attack on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, in the United States, which left about 2996 people dead and over 6000 injured.
- The expense of living in society rises as a result
The cost of living in society also rises as a result of crimes being committed there. This occurs in several ways, including the costs required by society to prevent crimes, investigate and punish criminal activity, and maintain those who have committed crimes behind bars. For instance, the criminal must be imprisoned after being charged. Criminals require pricey housing, clothing, and food.
The saying “money is the root of all evil” makes it obvious that crime is a combination of many various aspects of our lives, with money being the first and most significant factor. A person may commit various crimes to obtain money if there is a lack of funds and he cannot meet his needs. The need for retribution is a key motivator for criminal behavior. Both crime and society are a part of society, and their relationships are interdependent. Since society determines whether a particular act is considered criminal or not, crime is always committed in society. Crime is also more likely to occur where there is society because of social conflict and other factors.
- Encyclopedia Britannica. [Online] August 22, 2022.
- Rao, C N Shankar. 2019, Sociology, Karnataka: S. Chand Publishing, 2019.
This article is written by Kanika Arora, from Delhi Metropolitan Education (Affiliated to GGSIPU).