Crime

Crime

Crime is a major source of insecurity in the society one of the world’s serious and most prevalent problems. Concern about it is shared between the public as victims of criminality have to battle the trauma and other lasting negative effects and the government that has to bear the costs associated with tracing prosecution, and detention of criminals (Groot, & Van, 2010). In recent years, the concern has significantly increased with the dramatic rise in the modern day and advanced crime trends.   As a consequence, it is necessary to research and study the topic further, to enable the development of strategies that can reduce the number of criminal activities from happening in the future. Ideally, crime is generally defined as an offense committed by an individual, and punishable by the rule of law (Lynch, Stretesky, & Long, 2015). Unfortunately, while crime is easily defined, understanding why crime is committed and understanding what compels offenders to commit criminal activities is challenging because it cuts across a wide array of disciplines such as sociology, psychology, and criminology among others. In the battle for crime control, researchers across these disciplines have attempted to analyze the root of crime from various angles amidst hotly contested results to come up with a way to reduce crime rates. A few recent statistics indicate that there is a strong connection between education and crime, as research results indicate that, education has the potential to reduce crime rates. Consistently, we look at crime from the perspective of two disciplines – sociology and media to support the claim, “the only way to stop crime is to increase education levels.”

Crime from a Sociological Perspective

The sociological theories of criminology claim that society influences a person to get involved in criminal activities. More specifically, the society under certain conditions influences people to commit crimes (Simons, & Burt, 2011). In fact, most of the sociological theories of criminology look at crime as a social problem and not a problem of the individual. For instance, the social control theory believes that deviance is a sign of a weak connection to informal agencies such as family or the community (Agnew, 1985). An individual commits a crime if their attachment to the society becomes weak. Merton’s strain theory views crime and deviance as an act that occurs when there is a strain between socially accepted goals and available opportunities to attain the goals (Einstadter, & Henry, 2006). It claims that crime occurs when a person wants to achieve success, but can only do so if they abandon the socially approved means. The sub-cultural theory views crime in terms of sub-culture of groups. According to Einstadter and Henry, individuals suffering from status frustration are likely to conform to the values of a subculture that rewards bad behavior, thus triggering an individual to engage in criminal activities. Notably, there are several different sociological theories and one similarity in all of them is that criminal behavior is not innate to human beings. Rather, circumstances within the society determine the way people act. People are not born criminals, but the environment in which they are raised or live in influences their indulgence or abstinence from engaging in criminal activities. 

Shifting the focus from sociological theories and their attempt to explain crime from a sociological perspective, there is abundant literature associating social factors with criminal behavior. For instance, a research by Graif, Gladfelter, and Matthews (2014) indicates that environmental conditions such as socioeconomic disadvantages, residential mobility erode the social control within a neighborhood and facilitates criminal behavior. Consequently, another study by Ayar, Lotfi, and Nooraee (2012), indicates that deviance is a universal phenomenon and its intensity varies from one society to another. Along with that, the study associates various social factors such as age, unemployment, ethnicity, and education among others with criminal behavior. 

Crime from a Media Perspective

For a long time now, criminologists have approached the media from a communication viewpoint and directly or indirectly treat them as a powerful social force. In practice, crime is permanently embedded in the media content in the most obvious form of news, to the most complicated, and also in terms of entertainment. Numerous content analyses have attempted to explore the extent of crime and violence broadcast on the media and results indicate that the media is playing a major role in the high number of crime rates. However, beyond these assumptions, a particular problem is posed by the matter of interpretation. More precisely, the ultimate question remains, what does media content mean to the individual who interacts with it? According to Jewkes (2009), the construction of meaning may be partly set by the producer or the message itself. It can also be shaped by the cultural characteristics of the audience, their cultural background, personal history, and in most cases level of education. For instance, in the realm of fiction where the hero is a criminal who attempts to challenge the government, the audience may be influenced to copy the offender because of the appeal of the message put across. 

Additionally, it is important to note that currently, the aspect of media has extensively expanded from what it was about two decades ago. Nowadays, people do not have to rely on mainstream media to get informed. Instead, the presence of social media and news websites has transformed the media industry (Franklin, 2014). Previously, it was only thought that people form opinions about crime from what they read and see in the media. However, with the current wave of social media taking over mainstream media, the concept o crime has been completely transformed. Consumers can easily come into contact with crime acts as the production of criminal activities can be easily produced and distributed for public consumption. When that happens, the public is likely to emulate these acts of crime and practice them as a way of copying the offenders.

Level of education and Crime Rate

Reducing crime is a high public policy agenda due to the economic and social benefits associated with it. A study by Machin, Marie, and Vujic (2011) indicates that determinants of crime point in several ways in which reduction of crime can be facilitated. More specifically, it is well established that education is one of the characteristics that has received substantial attention in its ability to reduce crime. Empirical literature indicates that people who are involved in criminal activities are often lower educated (Rud, Klaveren, & Groot, 2016). In fact, the estimated relationship between criminal involvement and school dropout remains statistically high. Interestingly, the relationship between education and crime are significantly strong.  For example, in 1993 statistics indicate that more than two-thirds of the men incarcerated had not graduated from high school (Lochner, 2004). The patterns indicate that studying crime within the human capital framework is important and may provide useful data to develop strategies to reduce crime rates. 

The idea that education enhances the skills levels, which is then reflected in wage rates and lower crime rates, is not a new one. Consequently, this is backed up by Sabates (2010), who noted that there are several reasons as to why education is linked to reduced crime rates among young people. For instance, as Sabates explains, education enhances skills, improves productivity, and the value of earnings that young people can get from legal engagements. The same is echoed by Machin et al., who noted that education increases the availability of legitimate work, thus raising the cost of illegal behavior. Empirical evidence indicates that offending behavior among the young people is linked to price incentives. Reduction of wages is likely to trigger the young people indulging in criminal activities.  However, it is also important to understand that education may also have unexpected consequences for crime reduction. For example, in a situation where there are accelerating rates of enrollment in higher education, the situation might lead to de-valuing of certificates. Graduates may end up displacing other laborers from their area of income generation, which may end up increasing the number of workers looking for low-skilled jobs. Subsequently, the result may be lower wages for the jobs due to increased supply and lower wages are associated with high likelihood of individuals engaging in criminal behaviors.  Along with that, there is also evidence that certain skills acquired from school have the potential to increase levels of crime. According to Machin et al., people with the higher technical know-how are likely to get involved in high-rated criminal activities such as cybercrime among others. 

Education also has the potential to provide a positive peer selection environment, which is one of the major contributors to criminal behavior. According to Machin et al., teenagers who spend more time in education had lower chances of participating in criminal activities. Anderson (2010) also reports evidence indicates that increasing the minimum age at which youths are legally allowed to drop out of school keeps them away from the streets and crime. The same is supported by a study carried out by Fella and Gallipoli (2006), which indicated that a subsidy for high school completion had a large efficiency and welfare gains as opposed to increasing prison sentences.  However, there are is also strong evidence showing that increasing the minimum dropout age has a negative effect on juvenile incarceration rates. Precisely, increasing the minimum dropout age leads to keeping delinquents in schools for an extended period, and this can affect other students.  Some of the consequences include increased gang activity in schools, bullying, threats, and in extreme cases decreased school safety. 

Along with that, education may influence crime through its effect on patience and risk reduction. As Michin et al., elaborates, education teachers people the virtue of being patient. Students who remain in school for longer appreciate low discount rates and value future earnings as compared to those with high discount rates. To understand this, young people who drop out of school often focus on immediate costs after school and not on future gains. Adolescents also lack reasoning skills, which exposes them to more risky behavior. Education can increase individual’s patience, thus reducing the discount rate of future earnings and subsequently propensity to commit crimes. 

Prison Education Programs Significantly Prevent and Reduce Crime

It is evident that low levels of education and high dropout rates increase crime rates. Majority of the prison systems have undertaken to offer educational programmes inside the prison systems to help inmates’ complete compulsory education. Unfortunately, the completion rate is significantly low and dropout rate critically high. However, the ultimate question remains, does prison education programs reduce and prevent crime among inmates? Ideally, research indicates that low levels of education can have negative impacts on an individual and possibly lead to their involvement in criminal behavior. Consequently, a large body of research indicates that inmates who participate in education programmes rarely went back to reoffending and recidivism. In fact, as Rosario, Nunez, and Pereira (2016) insists, educational and professional programmes have been proven to minimize the behavioral problems of inmates, due to their ability to offer instructional opportunities, foster social reintegration, and promote positive behavior. 

Crime is a hot issue in a majority of the nations policy agendas. Unfortunately, one of the most challenging issues has been to understand why offenders commit the crime, what compels them to offend and strategies to prevent and reduce crime. From a sociological perspective, it is clear that crime is not inherent to human beings. Rather, the society under certain circumstances influences or compels individuals to get involved in criminal behavior. There are also several social factors associated with criminal activities including age, unemployment, ethnicity, and lack of education among others. Looking at crime from the media perspective, it is also clear that crime is not innate to individuals. Instead, the media through its broadcasting content influences the audience or the consumers, triggering them to develop an urge to engage in criminal activities. That aside, it is evident that education has the ability to prevent and reduce the crime rate within the society. Taking a firm stance and increasing the school dropout age can significantly reduce the number of criminal activities, despite the many negative effects associated with keeping delinquent students in school. It is also clear that providing educational programmes to inmates has the potential to reduce reoffending and recidivism rates. 

References

Agnew, R. (1985). Social Control Theory and Delinquency: A Longitudinal Test. Criminology, 23(1), 47-61.

Anderson, D. M. (2014). In school and out of trouble? The minimum dropout age and juvenile crime. Review of Economics and Statistics 96(2) 318-331.

Ayar, A., Lotfi, Y., & Nooraee, E. (2012). The Effects of Social Factors on Committing Crimes: A Case Study of Darehshahr Prison, Iran. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 35, 70-82.

Einstadter, W. J., & Henry, S. (2006). Criminological theory: An analysis of its underlying assumptions. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

Franklin, B. (2014). The Future of Journalism: In an age of digital media and economic uncertainty. Journalism Studies, 15(5), 481-499.

Gallipoli, G., & Fella, G. (2006) Education and crime over the life cycle. In Computing in Economics and Finance, 192, 1-53

Graif, C., Gladfelter, A. S., & Matthews, S. A. (2014). Urban Poverty and Neighborhood Effects on Crime: Incorporating Spatial and Network Perspectives. Sociology Compass, 8(9), 1140-1155.

Groot, W., & Van, B. H. M. (2010). The effects of education on crime. Applied Economics, 42(3), 279-289.

Jewkes, Y. (2009). Crime and Media: Vol. 1. (Crime and media.) London: SAGE.

Lochner, L. (2004). Education, work, and crime: A human capital approach. International Economic Review, 45(3), 811-843.

Lynch, M. J., Stretesky, P., & Long, M. A. (2015). Defining crime: A critique of the concept and its implication. New York, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.

Machin, Stephen, Olivier Marie, and SunčicaVujić. (2011). The crime reducing effect of education. The Economic Journal, 121(552), 463-484.

Rosário, Pedro, José Carlos Núñez, Joana Pereira, Sonia Fuentes, Martha Gaeta, Jennifer Cunha, and SoelyPolydoro. (2016).Studying while doing time: Understanding inmates’ conceptions of learning. British Educational Research Journal, 42(1), 151-167.

Rud, Iryna, Chris van Klaveren, Wim Groot, and HenriëtteMaassen van den Brink. (2018). What drives the relationship between early criminal involvement and school dropout?. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 34(1) 139-166.

Sabates, R. (2010). Educational expansion, economic growth, and antisocial behavior: evidence from England. Educational Studies, 36, 2165-173.

Simons, R. & Burt, H.B. (2011). Learning To Be Bad: Adverse Social Conditions, Social Schemas, And Crime*. Criminology, 49(2), 553-598.

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