One of the most prominent and unfortunate components of modern society is crime. Various factors influence and individual's criminal tendencies, including childhood background factors, socialization, the economy, and a myriad other factors. In addition, there are about as many types of crimes as there are individuals to commit them. Hence, the study of crime and collection of crime data are somewhat challenging, especially in terms of unreported crimes. The fact that many crimes go unreported creates an element known as the "dark figure of crime," referring to unrecorded crime statistics. The two main methods of recording crime statistics in the United States that also address the dark figure of crime include National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and the National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS). These methods attempt to address the challenge of collecting accurate crime statistics across the country (Cole and Smith, 2008, p. 42).
The dark figure of crime is of importance in terms of criminal justice, as it creates a challenge to the accurate detection and deterring practices for crime. Without knowing the exact statistics related to crime in the country, there is no way to determine whether deterring strategies are in fact effective. According to Attewell (2011), underreporting by both the public and the police, as well as a lack of crime detection, is responsible for much of the dark figure of crime as it occurs today. It is therefore important to attempt to address this challenge. Hence, investigating the effectiveness of data collecting strategies is also important in this regard.
The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) has been created by the FBI as a response to the basic shortcomings of the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), in that the latter does not provide an accurate picture of crime statistics in the country. The reason for this is that crime reporting is voluntary, and the UCR offers only statistics on reported crime. Another major factor leading to inaccurate reporting is underreporting by officials for reasons such as department budgets, which are often dependent on positive crime deterrent outcomes.
Whereas the UCR offers uniform data for 29 types of crimes and eight major crimes. The NIBRS, on the other hand, provides for police officers to report all crimes committed during an accident rather than only those that are most serious (Cole and Smith, 2008, p. 43). The system also requires complete data on offenders, victims, and the locations of their interactions. The NIBRS provides detailed incident data on 46 offences within 22 crime categories. It also distinguishes between attempted and actually committed crimes. A major advantage of this system is therefore that it addresses the dark figure of crime with greater accuracy than the UCR.
The National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS) has the same advantage (Cole and Smith, 2008, p. 43), in that it addresses the dark figure of crime by means of interviews with a probability sample of citizens. The Census Bureau has done such surveys since 1972. It includes a sample of 76,000 individuals in 43,000 households, who are interviewed twice per year for three years to determine whether, and to what extent, they have been affected by crime. This method of determining the crime rate creates an even closer focus on unreported crimes, since victims or potential victims themselves are interviewed. Hence, it is a closer approximation of the actual crime rate than even that provided by the NIBRS.
In conclusion, the importance of addressing the dark figure of crime cannot be underestimated. Indeed, authors like Attewell (2011) mention how this very lack of crime detection and reporting is a potential factor in the allure of crime. More accurate reporting can lead to greater arrest, incarceration and rehabilitation rates. Ultimately, specifically addressing the dark figure of crime can lead to a safer and more secure society and a greater deterrent for criminals faced with the choice between crime and being productive citizens themselves.
Attewell, R.G. (2011). Dealing with Uncertainties in Policing Serious Crime: Can Statistics Help? Australian National University. Retrieved from: http://epress.anu.edu.au/apps/bookworm/view/Dealing+with+Uncertainties+in+Policing+Serious+Crime/4581/ch03.xhtml
Cole, G.F. And Smith, C.E. (2008). Criminal Justice in America. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
As rational, learning creatures, it is the tendency of human beings to create theories according to which explain the world they observe around themselves. This has been the case since the earliest human beings began to develop their mental faculties. Indeed, even the earliest religions and hunting tactics are the result of theorizing about the experienced world. Today, this is no different. There are many theories people use to explain the world to themselves. Perhaps the most interesting of these are those that focus on human societies and the interactions of individuals with each other. Some theories that can be identified in this way is social structure theory, Merton's Anomie theory, the broken windows theory, and rational choice theory. Whatever their differences, the main thing that these theories have in common is the fact that they make observations about humanity and create theories based upon these observations.
The social structure theory, for example, determine how the underlying social structures of society influence human action and thought (Baert and Da Silva, 2010, p. 4). What is interesting here is that the individuals who are so influenced are, generally, not aware of these structures but are nonetheless influenced by them. Examples of these are religious structures, education, constructs of gender, employment, and so on. These structures are usually so integrated in the human psyche that their influence is accepted as a given without conscious awareness.
Merton builds his Anomie theory on the premise of social structure theory. He takes it a little further by suggesting that the cultural structure and social structure interrelate in such a way that, often, conditions are created that lead to higher crime rates (Kittleson, 2012, p. 4). As an example, one might use the United States, where the emphasis on material success is the result of the country's cultural values in terms of this type of success. On the other hand, the social limits of access to material success creates conditions that lead to a type of "end justifies the means" viewpoint, leading to higher crime rates in pursuit of financial prowess. The fact that the pursuit of money overrides institutionalized norms for acceptable means of gaining material success is referred to as "a strain toward anomie." Merton uses the term "innovation" to refer to those who give in to the pressure to achieve the same success level of others by illegitimate means.
The "broken windows" theory, formulated by Wilson and Kelling, also focuses on the social influences on the crime rate. It refers to the idea that areas where minor offences such as prostitution and disorderly conduct are not well controlled by police are also victim to major crimes. Conversely, the control of misdemeanors leads to less crime in that vicinity. This theory has been created during the 1990s to explain the homicide decline in major U.S. cities. Whereas Merton's Anomie theory therefore considers the drive to financial success and its influence on crime, the broken windows theory focuses on investigating the influence of high minor crime rates on other types of illegitimate activity. Subsequent investigations have disproved the broken windows idea by means of collected statistics. This finding has added to the controversy of the theory (Cerda et al., 2009, p. 533). The rational choice theory, on the other hand, is sociological in nature and applies the assumption that people make rational choices to their social and political behavior (Baert and Da Silva, 2010, p. 126).
If one applies it to the Anomie and broken windows theories, one might conclude that it is somewhat closer to the Anomie theory. Merton indicates that people make choices influenced by the drive to success. The only rational course of action in such conditions may be to resort to illegitimate means of gaining material wealth, since legitimate means are not as accessible. In conclusion, the myriad of social theories available is somewhat daunting, but no less fascinating for it. Indeed, it forms a very solid basis for future investigation and new theories.
Baert B. And Da Silva, F.C. (2010). Social Theory in the Twentieth Century and Beyond. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Cerda, M., Tracy, M., Messner, S.F., Vlahov, D., Tardiff, K., and Galea, S. (2009, Jul.). Misdemeanor Policing, Physical Disorder, and Gun-related Homicide: A Spatial Analytic Test of "Broken-Windows" Theory. Epidemiology, Vol. 20, No. 4. Retrieved from: http://188.8.131.52/bitstream/handle/2027.42/63094/cerda_misdemeanour%20policing_2009%20(2).pdf;jsessionid=95E244316C5809DBB9914BB29193D30F?sequence=1
Kittleson, M.A. (2012). A Cross-National, Longitudinal Test of Institutional Anomie Theory. Western Michigan University. Retrieved from: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu
It is an unfortunate fact of business that many business owners and managers -- even those respected in their fields -- become perpetrators of corporate crime, misjudgment, or misdemeanor. Martha Stewart is a very famous example of this kind. Although she has certainly redeemed herself in recent years, the lesson remains that a prominent business person's reputation can be severely damaged if corporate crime comes to light. In Ms. Stewart's case, one can apply social theories like consensus or…