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Why We Commit Crime

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Why do people commit crime? According to Thomas (2011), this is a question that is often not asked even by many policy makers. He noted that in contrary, crime and terror has been increasing posing a lot of insecurity challenges all over the world. According to Thomas (2011), various governments are currently spending the better part of their budget on measures aimed at combating crime. New laws are enacted every year in various nations against the actions of crimes while at the same time new laws are passed in an attempt to combat crimes and criminals.

Thomas (2011) emphasizes that it must be noted that people are never criminals at birth. He asserts that there could certainly be various circumstances and needs that help in the making of a criminal (Thomas, 2011). There are numerous causes of crime that have been identified ranging from poverty to those factors that are intrinsic within the individuals. Theoretically criminologists, sociologists and psychologist have come up with various theories in an attempt to explain why people commit crime (Thomas, 2011). These theories have attributed this trend to different factors depending of the discipline. In utilizing the relevant theories and integrating them with relevant causal factors, this study will try to answer the question “Why do we commit crime?”

Community and Crime

According to Thomas (2011), the role of community is determining criminal activities can be explained both theoretically and critically. However, any of the two concentrates its efforts in examining the opportunities a given community avails in an attempt to enable its members achieve their goals in life (Thomas, 2011). Important to the analysis is also the amount of pressure put by the community on the need for the realization of such dreams. Thomas (2011) notes that the rates of crime is normally higher in the communities which tend to present there members with unequal opportunities. According to him, such a system will automatically deny some individuals a chance to achieve their goals through legitimate means. These groups of individuals are normally forced to pursue their goals through illegal methods to meet the demands placed on them by the same community. Thomas (2011) concludes that as much as the society will still present different opportunity to its members, criminal behaviors will never be eliminated.

According to Thomas (2011), another way in which the community may breed violence is associated with the way in which it controls the handling of such technologies as handguns. Easy access to such lethal technologies in a community may make its members easily resort to violence as a means of solving problems. Thomas (2011) reports a study which showed that in U.S. alone, 333,000 among the 400,000 violent crimes in 1998 were committed using firearms. According this study, firearms related deaths rose to be the eighth in the United States.

Thomas (2011) reported another case study in which the issue of unequal opportunities was much evidenced. The study was carried out on inmates in the U.S prisons in 1990s. The researched revealed that the majority of the prisoners had very low education levels. This was also reflected in the kind of crimes that they had committed.  The crimes included: robbery, burglary, and automobile theft, drug trafficking, and shoplifting (Thomas, 2011). Asked why they had involved themselves in such criminal activities, most of the prisoners indicated that their low level of education could not allow them to secure well rewarding employment positions. Thomas (2011) emphasizes that lack of employment and provision of any employment below living wage does not help deter criminal activity. According to him, it only put people in a situation where they have to make a decision to either continue in their low income levels or join criminal activities.

Theoretical Explanations

There are a number of theories that linked crime to the action of the larger communities. According to the rational theorists, before one involves himself in any criminal act, he or she must reason rationally.  Grant noted that every individual has their interest which they seek to accomplish through legitimate means (Grant, 2006). This position is supported by the strain theorists who explain that in any given community people have similar goals and aspirations. However, the community does not present its members with similar opportunities. According to Grant (2006), whenever the community fails to present these opportunities to its members, it is a usual phenomenon to find members resorting to criminal ways of achieving their goals. In such cases the need to satisfy one’s interest supersedes the potential risks from committing crime (Grant, 2006).

On the other hand the social organization theory explains that every behavioral choices made by the individuals are explained by ones immediate physical and social environments (Grant, 2006). According to these theorists, a society with loose social structures will most likely experience high rate of crime. Discussing this theory Grant (2006) sites factors relating to poor planning such as failing to demolish vacant and vandalized buildings and mixing of both commercial and residential houses as the factors that may fuel criminality in a place. The same thought is shared by the routine activities theorists who propose that the probability for one to commit crime is also directly related to the available opportunities to commit crime within a given community. According to Grant (2006), crime rates will always be high in communities with unorganized and unsupervised activities.

Third is the social learning theory. This theory takes into account the way people associate with one another in its explanation of crime (Grant, 2006). That both the vigor and the skills of committing crime are developed form the individuals that one associate with. Forth is the social control theory which attributes the probability of crime commitment to the measure of control that is placed upon the individuals by the larger society. The theorists hold that societies whose social institutions have loose structures and lack well defined laws will experience high rate of crime (Grant, 2006).

Another societal cause of crime is related to actions like stereotyping and labeling of individuals as criminals (Grant, 2006). This is mostly done or perpetrated by the community leaders whose positions in the society allows them to decide which acts can be considered  as a crime. Studies by psychologists have indicated that the individuals who are labeled criminals in most cases turn out to be thus. This holds true because once a person is labeled a criminal, he is always denied his legitimate opportunities of achieving goals by the same community which demands prosperity from him (Grant, 2006).

Media and Violence

Several studies have linked both the video game violence, the television based movies and the print media to the increasing rate of crime. Surrette (2011) notes that even the simple children’s cartoonist and fantasies have been linked to the increasing aggression in children. According to Surrette (2011), such simple plays done repeatedly may breed violence in children. Studies have also found out a close link between video games and the today’s increasing rates of bullying in the learning institutions. According to Surrette (2011), video game violence makes it easy for children to learn violence. He noted that the confirmation of the same by the FBI in its 2000 report when it listed violent video games among the activities that are closely linked to the shootings experienced in the learning institutions.

Surrette (2011) noted the strong link between media game violence and increased aggression among today’s younger generation. It has been a common phenomenon to find cases where violent video game players confess to have literally resorted to violence based methods as the means of achieving their dreams. Surrette (2011) also notes that it is always a hard task for the players of video game violence to forgive others whenever a dispute occurs especially when they were on the right. In addition, he noted that those who developed aggression from playing this game may totally loose their sense of apathy.

According to Surrette (2011), it is also common among the video game players to want to display their strength leading to increased desire to involve themselves in violent related activities. The affected always find themselves reacting in a violent manner even without considering the risks involved.

Study by Professor Eron of the University of Michigan also concluded that there is high probability of the boys who watched television crime to try committing the same crimes during their latter stages of life (Surrette, 2011). The study on the effect of crime images in the media by the Professor Brandon Centerwall of the University of Washington also revealed the same findings. It covered the first eight years after a wide scale introduction of TV in California. The study found out that there was an unusual increase in the rate of the reported murder cases in North America during this time. The same was confirmed during his second study in South Africa. According to Surrette (2011), these findings are still applicable as the images in the media still has the potential of making one to resort to being a life long criminal.

Media’s strong influence to criminology is also explained by the way it dramatizes crime. In most cases, the criminals in video game violence always end up receiving the glory. This acts of media points towards normalizing crime.  Another aspect of the media which makes it risky is the king of publicity that it gives to the criminals. Studies have shown that the impression it creates has lured many young people into committing crime (Surrette, 2011).

Similarly, the improvement in the field of communication has also ease the coordination of criminal activities. An example is the internet which has greatly enabled the criminals to find and share the information among themselves and also to influence new peers into their activities. Surrette (2011) noted that over the years, the rate of cyber crime has been on the increase especially among the middle and high school students. Some of the highly committed cyber related crimes today include digital piracy, pornography and online bullying (Surrette, 2011).

Peer Pressure and Crime

According to various studies presented by Smith and his colleagues (2009), there is a link between the kind of friends one has and the probability that he or she will be involved in criminal activities. They noted that effect of Peer pressure is largely felt among the children and the adolescents. According to their findings, most often, children and youths burn with desire to experiment what their fellow age mates are doing. This has led to an increasing number of youths beginning to take alcoholics and drugs. Through their interaction with other criminals, the newly deviant individuals also graduate into involving themselves in more complex activities (Smith et al, 2009).

Smith (2009) comments that it is ironical that the often preferred treatment to deviant/criminal behaviors in majority of states is to put them together in some facility. According to Smith, criminality is common among certain adolescent groups and placing them together would worsen the situation. Smith (2009) further notes that there is also a link between exposure to criminal peers and increase in one’s involvement in diverse delinquent behaviors. He explored a number of evidences to show that deviant peer influence is largely responsible for both the initiation and worsening of delinquency.

According to Smith (2009), another issue that presents peers with an opportunity to advance in criminal activities is their segregation from the normal population. He faulted the initial researches done to determine the best developmental measures on deviant behavior. The researchers had recommended segregating these individuals. However, according to Smith and his colleagues (2009), the contributions of such measures are always offset by the influence the criminal peers have on one another. Their study also found out that putting deviant peers together greatly increases their likelihood of delinquency. Smith (2009) found out that the influence of peers was also rampant among the children.

Another way in which the community punishes criminal activities especially in the educational settings is suspension and expulsion. According to Smith and Colleagues (2009), these measures too have been proved to be more detrimental to the very children who are purported to be helped. When these suspended students are sent back from the learning institutions into the community, they meet and influence one another even to worse states than they were before. According to Smith and his colleagues (2009), the best option would be to leave the students in school settings. This would enable them to be exposed to and perhaps learn from their conforming schoolmates.

They concluded that because of the considerable evidence, it should never be recommended for the society to continue with its policies of detaining juvenile offenders. This would expose the offenders to deviant peers while minimizing their interaction with the adult role models and their reformed peers.

Cultural Values and Crime

Both norms and values aspects of cultures relate directly to the rate of crime that is witness. According to Abril (2011), these two aspects of culture affect what a given culture perceives as a crime and the seriousness with which it is taken. He reports various findings to show that the rate of crime is relatively low in cultures which practice collectivism compared to those which practice individualism. Abril (2011) noted that every culture perceives crime differently. Certain communities have their own tribal laws and respond collectively to criminal activities. Such arrangements enable the members of a given culture to internalize and practice the community laws. The cultures which stress on community involvement normally experience lesser crime cases compared to the culture in which individuality is stressed (Abril, 2011).

Within the larger culture, there are also the subcultures which may have totally different norms and values from those of the mainstream culture. According to Abril (2011), any attempt to explain the criminal activities in such sub-cultures must seek to analyze the discrepancy that exists between the norms and values of the mainstream culture and those of the specific sub culture. According to Walter Miller’s theory of Focal Concerns, criminal behaviors of a given small subculture, say gangs, can be described in terms of values and norms of the subculture (Abril, 2011).  

Walter Miller studied the gang subculture. According to him this group stresses on physical prowess, smartness in conning others, ability to take risk, fate and autonomy. He explained that any member of such sub-cultures must seek to direct their behavior towards living up to these values (Abril, 2011). To such a group being involved in crime is an indication of their autonomy and an opportunity for excitement. Abril (2011) concluded that the greater the discrepancies between the dominant cultures values and the subcultures values the more will be the opportunity of norm violating behavior.

Theoretical Explanation

Equally, there are theories which seek to explain criminality on the basis of the values and norms practiced by the cultures to which people belong. According to the theory of differential association, even the way in which a given culture defines what a crime is has the potential of making its members to engage in criminal activities (Grant, 2006). Grant explains that such definitions are leant by members from their social groups. Some individuals have therefore committed criminal acts based on the fact that their larger groups were not categorizing such acts as crimes. Grant (2006) reports that crime rate is normally high among social groups with loose definitions of what is considered as a crime (Grant, 2006).

Sports (Athletics) and Crime

According to the published reports by Valen, there is always one incident of crime involving an athlete in every two days (Valen, 2009).  Domestic violence is the most common crime among the athletes. Benedict carried out a study focusing on the rates of sexual assaults reported from thirty major Division I Universities within the U.S. His report showed that one in every three sexual assault cases reported was committed by an athlete. Through the three year study, it was revealed that even though athlete students only constituted 3.3% of the entire college population, they were responsible for 19% of all the sexual assaults committed during this duration. At the same time their involvement in domestic violence related crimes remained high at 35% (Valen, 2009).

Another study carried out in Georgetown yielded the same results. According to the study, the number student athletes were only 11 percent of the total population of the undergraduates within the town (Valen, 2009). Astonishingly, their rate of involvement in and being charged with violent assaults was more than twice that of the overall student population. Valen (2009) explains that even though many of the athletes are charged with crime, their charges were being freed every time. The study revealed that the conviction rate of athletes was as low as 38%. This can not be compared to that of the general population which still remains at around 80%. To Valen, these are some of the reasons for high involvement of athletes in crime.

Some experts have also attributed the high rate of crime commission by the athletes to their aggressiveness. According to Valen (2009), the athletes also seem live in their “own world” with the huge salaries and free scholarships that they receive. Most of them see themselves as special and are determined to achieve their goals by whatever means. This has made most of the athletes to believe that the rules and laws which guide the conduct of the rest of the population are not applicable to them.


In conclusion, the factors such as media, does not directly cause crime by themselves. In order for the governments to successfully address the issue of criminality, thorough research on the operations of the society is required. Any of such research carried out in future should lead to changes in certain policies as well as seeking to involve the community at all levels.

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