How can criminologists reduce high levels of crime studying criminal behavior?

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Introduction

The study of criminal behavior helps criminologists to understand offenders better and establish who the criminals are and why they commit crimes. Knowing motivation for crime helps in coming up with ways of preventing criminal behavior. Understanding how offenders think and their actions could help in predicting future actions and assisting investigators to catch criminals. Aggarwal et al. (35) provided four broad classifications of criminal behavior. They include acts prohibited by the law and punishable by the state, violation of the religious and moral code, violation of societal norms, and acts that cause severe mental damage or psychological damage. Thus criminal behavior can be stated to mean any antisocial behavior that is punishable by the law or societal norms (Verdier, Thierry and Yves 734). The study of criminal behavior encompasses a grasp of the risk factors and assessing crime to assist in crime prevention. A risk factor is considered as anything in a person’s mind that would increase the possibility of involvement in a criminal act. They include lack of education, behavior disorder, poor personality temperament, media influence, antisocial beliefs, poor parenting, among other underlying factors (Aggarwal et al. 36). Criminal behavior is assessed by the number of arrests and charges made, actual crime rates, self-reported crimes, which are obtained by government agencies or private investigators. They can use the information from the crime reports to classify crimes by type as well as characteristics of an offender such as race, location, age, and gender. This paper underscores the fact that studying criminal behavior comes in handy for criminologists to identify causes of crime, predict future crime, initiate new ways of combating criminals and investigate the crime.

Background

Although motivations for criminal behavior vary a lot in different cases, they can be put into two major categories—environment and genetics. The question of criminal conduct was first raised in the mid-19th century (Wilson 373).  Then, many psychologists insisted that the only reason for the crime was genetics. Moreover, they emphasized that the inclination of a person to crime could be assessed according to the mental state of their parents (Aggarwal et al. 37) For instance, they proposed that if the parents had some psychological problems their children were more predisposed to becoming criminals. From the late 20th century a new school of thought emerged that opposed the perception that people with a high likelihood of committing a crime to be disallowed by the society or state to live normally (Erskine 288). With the passage of time, more experiments and studies were conducted, and the contemporary approach to the question is that while genetics is a significant reason for the criminal behavior, the environment also plays an important role (Wilson 373). It includes the family into which a child is born brought up, the models the parents set, education, social status and the stability of the families.

Today, criminalists and psychologists agree that what motivates an individual to criminal behavior is very complicated and complex mechanism that involves many factors. For instance, some children born in “criminal” families but having a good education and a job portray no antisocial behaviors (Erskine 288). The tendency underscores the fact that genetics alone does not influence criminal behavior. Many factors could explain why people commit the crime: Financial difficulties and starvation—predominant in developing countries—could lead to people becoming thieves to get food and survive (Sharma et al. 56). The low social class makes individuals from poor backgrounds be bullied. In retaliation, they feel aggrieved and fight back against the society. Genetics include disorders that increase aggression that would lead to criminal behavior (Erskine 288). The current research looks at the gaps in previous studies and adds theories of criminal behavior to justify the need for criminologists to study the behavior of criminals.

Theories of Criminal Behavior

Many theories have been brought forward in an attempt to establish the best ways to deal with and prevent crime. The arguments continue and would perhaps continue to be developed; undoubtedly, they influence criminal and forensic work of a psychologist. There are three broad models of illegal behaviors namely sociological, psychological, and biological (Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor Melville 1). In essence, it is hard to separate them, and all of the three determine the understanding of behavior. The principles emerging from the models can be implemented across various crime control measures and policies.

Psychological Approaches

They are based on the fundamental assumptions that the person the primary tenet of analysis. People are assumed to be responsible for their behaviors. According to the approaches, personality informs response in an individual since it is the significant motivational element (Verdier, Thierry and Yves Zenou 733). Crimes can be due to dysfunctional, abnormal, or inappropriate mental processes in the personality of the individual (Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor Melville 1). People could resort to criminal behavior where they feel that it addresses their needs. Persons from a given social group define their actions or problems as normal or acceptable (Wilson 373). The theory also proposes that abnormal or defective processes could be occasioned by many factors such as inappropriate learning, mental disorder, imitation of wrong role models and adjustments to internal conflicts (Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor Melville 1). In other words, crime control policies that base on psychological principles focus on the person and strive to prevent criminal behavior at the point. Consequently, policies meant to avoid crime by targeting the individual such as education, training, and promotion of self-awareness, socialization is psychological (Sharma et al. 54). Moreover, psychologists recognize that past behavior of a person can be used to predict their behavior in the future.

Sociological Approaches

According to this approach, scientists examine criminal behavior based on a sociological angle. Most of the sociological theories maintain that a combination of social surrounding, economic and political factors influence criminal behavior (Sharma et al. 57). They do not necessarily view criminals as sick people. Instead, they tend to examine the social context of the individual’s situation, studying his race, intelligence, education, neighborhood, family, media, and political influence, income, and childhood history to establish why they became criminals (Aggarwal et al. 38). Some of the theories attempting to explain criminal behavior are Social Structure Theory, Differential Theory, Neutralization and Social Control Theory, among others.

Differential Association Theory—developed by Edwin Sutherland—states that people learn criminal behaviors through communication with other individuals. Through the interactions, they learn attitudes and values that influence future criminal behavior (Sinha 55). In fact, the more the people see delinquent acts that are not criticized by the society, the higher the likelihood of them committing the actions again.

The Social Control Theory states that where the social bonds of an individual are weak, he or she is more likely to perform a criminal act since people are mindful of what others think about them (Sinha 56). Instead, they would conform to the social expectations given the attachment they have to others.

Biological Approaches

Biological theories state that criminal behavior is the result of some mistakes that in the natural makeup of a person. In this study, Raine Study proposed that the causes could be neurotransmitter dysfunction, heredity, and brain abnormalities that could be the result of trauma.  Some of the biological theories are Y Chromosome Theory, Trait and Psychodynamic Trait Theories, Lombroso’s Theory, and others (Aggarwal et al. 37).  Many crime control mechanisms entail artificial meddling in human biologies such as brain stimulation, psychosurgery, and chemical crime control methods.

Developed in 1880’s by Sigmund Freud, psychodynamic therapy is an vital criminality theory. Freud believed that everyone has an emotional attachment to their childhood that determines how they relate to others in the future. The approach has three parts namely the id, the ego, and the superego (Wilson 373). The id carries the underdeveloped and primitive part of a person’s markup, and it dictates the need for sleep, food, and basic instinct. It focuses on instant gratification. The ego sets boundaries for the id. The superego is the mediator between the id and the ego. Offenders have the id dominating them, psychodynamic theorists agree (Wilson 373). Additional problems that necessitate control of the ego are excessive reliance on other people, poor social skills, immaturity, among other factors. Some schools of thought believe that criminals are pushed by the unconscious need by their previous offenses (Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor Melville 1). Thus, crime is the result of feelings of domination and the inability to institute proper rationales and psychological defense to control the emotions.

Reasons for Studying Criminal Behavior

Criminologists have a complex role. Studying criminology provides an individual with the opportunity to participate in many fields. Primarily, a criminologist reviews criminal behavior, regarding the causes and reactions to different types of offenses (Wilson 373).  Additionally, they examine the preparedness of law enforcement agents and assess the efficiency of criminal rehabilitation initiatives (Verdier, Thierry and Yves Zenou 733). Irrespective of which field one a criminologist works in, most of the design and take part in the area and academic research in the course of their careers, writing statistical reports that are often published and can significantly assist the society to understand crime better.

Causes of Crime

Many criminological studies focus on causes of many types of crime. Most of the studies analyze the patterns and trends that provide clues to explain why people deviate from the norms (Verdier, Thierry and Yves Zenou 733). Consequently, the studies help the society to comprehend how social and cultural factors affect criminal behavior. In a bid to understand the motivation for criminal behavior, criminologists also evaluate the methods and practices of well-known offenders (Singh, Dinesh and Asha Rani 64). The knowledge of standard features found in offenders could make it even easier for law enforcement officials to arrest a criminal that they could have been tracking by enabling criminologists to deliver to the authorities a profile that can be matched with any potential suspects.

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Gauging Crime

Criminologists are charged with the responsibility of measuring the extent of crime locally, regionally, and in some cases, globally (Verdier, Thierry and Yves Zenou 732). In the situations, they frequently work with alongside law enforcement organizations to establish a statistical figure for the offenses committed (Singh, Dinesh, and Asha Rani. 63). Moreover, they could also employ law enforcement databases to ascertain the characteristics of the offending criminals and attempt to explore the psychological and demographic patterns in different kinds of offenders (Perc et al. 7). The analysis comes in handy in helping law enforcement officials and criminologists to provide somewhat accurate profiles of an offender that they are tracking.

Preventing and Controlling Crime

Through the data they obtain through research, criminologist could also strive to find a workable and reasonable proposal for the control and prevention of crime in a community (Singh, Dinesh and Asha Rani 62). The ideas of criminology could encompass articulating and implementing educational initiatives that assist the community’s youth to grasp the demerits and consequences of involving in crime or taking part in criminal acts (Perc et al. 5). An essential element in controlling and preventing crime in the society entails establishing rules and laws that are authorities enforce. For instance, laws that prohibit teenage drinking are meant to prevent underage drinking from happening.

The Responsiveness of Law Enforcement to Crime

In a bid to ascertain if laws and policies intended to stop criminal behaviors are successful, criminologists have the duty of assessing the receptiveness of law enforcement agencies. Where the officials cannot persecute the criminals, the laws meant to discourage then are likely to fail (Perc et al. 6). Consequently, criminologists always study the patterns in reaction to law enforcement so that they can establish weak areas as well as necessary improvements.

Conversely, criminologists often assess the legal establishments in the society that are instituted to ensure peace and minimize rates of crime (Cotton, Christopher and Li Cheng 972). Where there are mistakes or loopholes in different arms of the government, including the judiciary, criminologists could uncover the issues (Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor Melville 1). An example is where the work of criminologist helped to increase attention for the white-collar crime that was caused by leniency in the judiciary.

The Rehabilitation of Criminals

Perhaps a significant duty of criminologists is assessing the efficiency of correctional and rehabilitation initiatives for criminals. Some treatment programs are developed to enable the offender to comprehend the social and psychological reasons for crime (Cotton, Christopher and Li Cheng 971). Accordingly, criminologists struggle to design and implement the treatment options. Additionally, they evaluate the efficacy of the rehabilitation programs, unearthing any mistakes that require correction and offer solutions to the problematic issues.

Furthermore, criminologists study the efficiency of rehabilitation programs. The correction programs include prison and jail facilities where criminals remain following their convictions Cotton, Christopher and Li Cheng 969). It is significant to comprehend the usefulness of the services so that the criminologists can ascertain whether staying in prison encourages or reduces crime.

The Role of the Criminal in the Society

A relevant and exciting job of a criminologist is to assess the role of the criminal in the community. Besides attempting to understand the part of the deviant citizens in the society, they also study how the media and the culture react to criminals present in the community, for instance, the discrepancy between white-collar crimes and street crimes (Perc et al. 7). With many subcategories falling within the scope of the more massive criminology, criminologists find jobs in various positions—psychological, sociological and legal.  Most people holding criminology degrees are most likely to be employed by law-enforcement companies, including the local police service, and government agencies such as Federal Bureau of Investigations (Cotton, Christopher and Li Cheng 965). Conversely, psychological criminologists could opt to use their experience of criminal behavior to develop, implement, and run penal correctional facilities. Finally, sociological criminologists work together with community policymakers to advance reasonable policies and processes regarding offenses and offenders.

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Conclusion

The topic of criminal behavior is one that is very important to psychologists and law enforcers because instead of just concentrating on punishing crime, it focuses on unearthing motivation for crime and how crime can be prevented. It is analogous to treating the disease rather than dealing with the symptoms. Some crimes can only be avoided by studying the patterns of previous crimes and use them to predict future likelihood of repeat offenses. If possible causes of crime are known, it is then easy to predict next actions that of criminal, prevent offense as well as assist investigations. Studying criminal behavior thus comes in handy for criminologists as it helps to understand various theories that explain criminal behavior. They know triggers such as the role of environment and personality type on criminal behavior and offer suggestions on how law enforcers can understand and better deal with crime. The paper has underscored the need to understand the criminal and work at both punitive and correction measures as opposed to just demonizing the criminal.

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  1. Aggarwal, Atul, et al. “A Study of Personality Profile and Criminal Behavior in Substance Abusers.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal, vol. 24, no. 1, Jan-Jun2015, pp. 35-39. EBSCOhost, doi:10.4103/0972-6748.160960.
  2. Cotton, Christopher and Li Cheng. “Profiling, Screening, and Criminal Recruitment.” Journal of  Public Economic Theory, vol. 17, no. 6, Dec. 2015, pp. 964-985. EBSCOhost.
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  4. Marsh, Ian, and Gaynor Melville. Theories of Crime. London: Routledge, 2006. Internet resource.
  5. Perc, Matjaž, et al. “Understanding Recurrent Crime as System-Immanent Collective Behavior.” Plos ONE, vol. 8, no. 10, Oct. 2013, pp. 1-7.             EBSCOhost,doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0076063.
  6. Sharma, Neelu, et al. “The Relation between Emotional Intelligence and Criminal Behavior: A Study among Convicted Criminals.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal, vol. 24, no. 1, Jan-Jun2015, pp. 54-58. EBSCOhost, doi:10.4103/0972-6748.160934.
  7. Singh, Dinesh and Asha Rani. “A Study of Psychological (Personality) Correlates of Criminal Behavior.” Indian Journal of Health & Wellbeing, vol. 8, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 62-66. EBSCOhost.
  8. Sinha, Sudhinta. “Personality Correlates of Criminals: A Comparative Study between Normal Controls and Criminals.” Industrial Psychiatry Journal, vol. 25, no. 1, Jan-Jun2016, pp.   41-46. EBSCOhost, doi:10.4103/0972-6748.196058.
  9. Verdier, Thierry and Yves Zenou. “Racial Beliefs, Location, and the Causes of Crime.” International Economic Review, vol. 45, no. 3, Aug. 2004, pp. 731-760. EBSCOhost,  doi:10.1111/j.0020-6598.2004.00285.x.
  10. Wilson, James Q. “What to Do about Crime.” Vital Speeches of the Day, vol. 61, no. 12, 4/1/95, p. 373. EBSCOhost.
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