Why are crime rates higher among some social groups than the others? Are some groups more prone to crime, or are they in situations more conducive to crime? Many factors can influence a person to commit a crime, but is there a common trait that leads people down the road to actually committing a crime. Some traits that can influence criminal behavior are: Families, Economic status, Gender, Race, and Age.
Married life domesticates but also can cause strain and difficulties. There are new conflicts that arise from people getting married. Often it is the first major decision of one’s life and soon there are more bills, more relatives, conflicting plans, children, your spouse might die, and annoying habits that your spouse may have emerge, in most relationships these can all be overcome in time as divorce stats indicate, society is not yet to the point where for every marriage there is a coinciding divorce. “A correlation rises from low incomes, increased uncertainty and fear, and increased personal frustration. These factors put family life under a strain and lead to an increase in child and spouse abuse.”1 If these new challenges cannot be overcome then a broken home is the most common result. A broken family can generate in different ways, death, separation, divorce. These are the most common but not all possible reasons for a broken home. There are two ways to observe a break in a family: Husband-wife and Parent- Child. “In addition, less than one-third (31%) of the inmates were married at the time of admission to a correctional facility, compared with almost two-thirds (63%) of adults aged 18 and over in the general population.”2
The death of a partner can cause an unstable mind in a surviving spouse and their children. Widowed people are chiefly older, so crime is a smaller more limited problem with the survivors. Younger widows tend to migrate to different cities, females generally moving west and males moving east. This migration, as we will call it, of widowed women overcrowding cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington cause desperate males to follow women to these cities. Knowing that widows are usually left with money through life insurance policies and inheritance from their deceased partners, less fortunate people envy the cash and see the dense population of female widows as being easy victims. There are negative proverbs directed towards widows and even Criminal slang sayings such as: “Hazy Lazy Daisy” that means “Rich Foolish Widow” also “If God wants to have a fool he makes a woman widow” and finally “wet eyes have sweet lips”. 3 All of these sayings depict widows as being an easy target for criminals.
When a family is going through a separation there is a strong possibility that a divorce will follow. If there is only a separation, over time, this can prove to be a stress provider as the person that you could not live with is still a part of your life. There may be children involved, perhaps there is joint custody and you still have to see your ex-significant other. Divorce is a more final way of ending your relationship but there still may be children involved. If you get divorced you may feel as though you are a failure and cannot make even the simplest of tasks a success. For a married couple to get a divorce something insurmountable must occur, maybe one of, or both the husband and wife have a change in their personality traits, temper, sexual desires, possibly some economic problems arise, mental and physical illnesses or an addiction or overuse of drugs or alcohol. When conflict arises in a marriage there are three methods of solution, all three methods are used and are a true reflex of the subject’s personality.
Escape is one method. Types of escape are divorce, separation or possibly suicide. The infamous “silent treatment” is also a method of escape, one partner will not make any conversation with the other no matter what the circumstances, for an undetermined period of time. An employed spouse may turn to the office for shelter from their hardships at home and become a workaholic, an unemployed spouse may decide to spend most of the couple’s time together daydreaming and fantasizing. Religion is a possible alternative as are substances such as alcohol and drugs is as a form of escape.
One can “Make a stand” in attempts to not be taken lightly when conflict arises in a relationship. Arguing and fighting over disagreements prove to be very stressful for both people and can cause problems away from the home.
The final option is to attack, which is usually some form of a criminal or illegal activity against society. Crime rates of married men between eighteen to twenty-five surpass single men of the same age. Figures are higher in larceny and fraud but not in crimes of violence. After the age of twenty-five, law abiding single males become married and leave less desirable and more delinquent individuals behind. Females, on the other hand, show higher crime rates for married than single, with a vast age range of eighteen to sixty years of age. This fact does not hold true in economic and propery crimes because this burden usually rests upon the husband, but for small offenses such as assault or infringement of the peace.
The born criminal can be identified as someone who usually commits a crime at a tender age, this out of character conduct for a young, innocent, child is passed down and is a result of an undefined series of hereditary influences that build up and pass on from one generation to the next. These crime-committing children do not know any better due to the environment they are raised in. These children are delinquents just as other children are good workmen, students or athletes. They are unable to tell the difference between committing crimes, honest industry, or developing a trade. With crime a part of their life at an early age, a born criminal will find prison as a place where food and shelter are guaranteed without having to do much work and more often than not, they are usually forced to sit and do nothing, therefore making prison more comfortable than the community or city that they are from. Society may force people to fall back into crime, with institutions, segregation and surveillance, these constant reassurances of their not being able to function outside of prison deprived them of any chance of leading a normal life. The only way these individuals know to survive is to simply return to the so called houses of correction and prisons.
“There has always been a reluctance to accept poverty officially as a cause of crime.”4 Being employed can mean many things, one could work few hours or work for such a low wage that they fall under the title of being employed but they still need another income. This, for some people, results in crime, typically property crime for males and prostitution for females. Economic conditions do correlate with certain crime rates and these circumstances cast their influence far into our societies. There is a positive relationship between crime and business, but only includes property crimes such as larceny, burglary, robbery, vagrancy, begging and to a certain extent prostitution, procuring and arson. Crimes of violence and sex crimes are negatively related to business. Property crime is a solution to most economic difficulty. “Unemployment is a serious social problem because it puts strains on communities and families. For example, during the periods of severe unemployment, theft, alcoholism, depression, suicide and domestic violence all show an increase. The main reason for the correlation between theft and unemployment is that some people, when they cannot earn an income from legal work, turn to illegal activities. As a result the amount of theft increases.” 5
In the majority of the crimes we meet the attempt to gain necessities of life by an unlawful means. Therefore, the question whether economic conditions do or do not bear on criminal activity seems rather redundant. However, there is a wide variety of “necessities” In different individuals there are different degrees of want and also different types of “necessities”. A person’s wants can never be fully satisfied. ” The protection that money gives to the dangerous criminal is even more shocking than the individual without funds”6
There are indications that the male is not only a husband, but usually the head of his household. If he is, or becomes, unemployed he cannot fulfill the role as the family’s breadwinner, therefore his wife looses her respect for him. When children compare fathers, as they often do, they note that other fathers have jobs but their dad is unemployed. Children will speak up at home, questioning why this is so and wanting to know what is wrong with their father that he can not get a job when other fathers have jobs. Once a person looses the respect and support from their family a feeling of being defeated or being incompetent hits. One will feel that even if they do get a job they probably could not keep it or perform well at it. Unemployment for the husband leads to a loss of some of his authority and this authority usually shifts to his wife or occasionally to an older child. Situations like this can cause a husband to become desperate in his attempts to gain his lost authority and respect back. When pondering his frustrations of not having a job, and feelings of being inferior he will try to come up with a solution of how he can become the head of his household. This defeated inferior feeling causes old people to feel that they now unfit to work and also unfit for delinquency they feel that they cannot even do that right. This is only true for older men as younger men are more likely to rebel and turn to crime. Turning to criminal activity appears to be an easy answer. He can steal property and resell it, or sell illegal substances such as drugs for a large profit, if he is lucky enough to find a job, he may commit fraud within the company or steal from the company due to the fact that he is under the assumption he will just lose his job anyway and therefore has nothing to lose. The majority of offenders are occasional or accidental offenders and they cannot live alone on their illegal behaviors. Crime has turned into a supplementary income. “Of 12,000 inmates whose employment status prior to being jailed was available, one-half (52%) were unemployed at the time of admission, compared with 7% of the adults aged 18 and over in Canada.” 7 The oldest child may look for a substitute group to act as protector and provider, a group such as a gang if his father remains unemployed.
Inflation brings employment and prosperity to one group of people yet disaster for another. Prices increase before wages, a person with insurance, pension, savings (bank) accounts and private income is caught between rising and the decreasing value of his funds. Wallets and purses that use to hold twenty dollars now hope to hold five dollars. This can be fatal to a family of very low income. If the family in question is just barely scraping by, living from paycheck to paycheck, a quick rise in prices and the delayed rise in wages to compensate for inflation and families may find themselves unable to continue paying their bills. Families may turn to banks to take out loans, receive credit cards, or turn to other credit organizations to support them in their time of need, assuming that once their wages rise up they will be able to pay off all of their debts. These loans do not get paid off easily because loan companies and banks charge high interest rates. Families soon forget that they could only get by previous to inflation and will only be able to get by after their wages rise back up leaving no or little money to pay off their debts owed.
Male crime is usually considered to be more masculine than female crime, typically much more violent. Strictly ‘male’ offenses are: rape, indecent exposure, abduction of female, sodomy by males, robbery with a gun, gun hold up, attempted pick pocket. Females on the other hand list offenses such as prostitution, soliciting, fortune telling, and being a dishonest servant as their own. Males and females differ in moral development, women’s moral choices constrain them from behavior that could be harmful to others. “Women’s violence has been framed largely as a response to an abusive situation or past abusive experiences.”8 Even in our always-changing society the majority of females don’t have to deal with being crowded into mine pits, machine shops and assembly lines. Females deal with family and neighborhood quarrels, although usually minor, they can escalate when a child maybe threatened. A female is more attached to offspring and is inclined to react violently towards a threat aimed at her child. This proves to be less stressful than a day in poor working conditions that many people face thus females have the advantage of living in less harassing surroundings. Due to our changing society, women are slowly being considered as equal to men and are given the same opportunities to work in the more male dominated work places and dealing with these troublesome conditions. “Due to the equal rights and feminist’s movements, women are becoming more masculine, resulting in an increasing number of women using weapons and wits to establish themselves as full human beings, a capable of violence and aggression as any man. Women’s crime is based on that of male violence: thus making macho, tough, and aggressive, violence by women deemed unnatural.”9
Race has been a very controversial issue for many generations. Stereotypical attitudes that point fingers in the direction of minorities for being the cause of problems or conditions. In the United States of America there is a strong association between black people and crime and in Saskatchewan there is the same association between crime and Aboriginal people. Aboriginals are stereotyped as being lazy and unwilling to work and therefore have to turn to crime to survive. This stereotype, that natives are more likely to commit an offense, is supported by the following statistics. Aboriginal people were over represented in correctional institutions relative to their population. Aboriginal peoples accounted for 74% of admissions to custody in Saskatchewan, almost seven times their share of the province’s population. While Aboriginal people accounted for about 2% of the adult population in 1996, they represented 17% of inmates (18% in provincial/territorial facilities, and 14% in federal facilities). These differences were particularly evident in Western Canada. 10 It should be noted however that a vast majority of aboriginals live in a state of poverty due to the fact that their self-government on reserves allocates the bands funds to areas of need, not necessarily to the people within the reserves.
A gang is a group of people associated together, specifically, a group of youths from one neighborhood banded together in an attempt to provide, safety, a sense of belonging, companionship, and friendship. Gangs give people within them a solution to their race, class or gender powerlessness, because there is “power in numbers” the gangs feel that they are in control. Gangs are often assembled so that youths can “get away from it all”. This is referring to everyday life, where children are in unforgiving environments, they may dwell in slums, may live in a bad neighborhood, or possibly have trouble at home maybe they have been forced to get a job and work because of an unemployed parent at home. There is no escaping these unfortunate characteristics of their lives so individuals will turn to crime to provide for themselves and others within their gang. Within gangs males generally commit robbery and females are most often charged with prostitution, both genders turn to drugs as a source of both income and pleasure. Gangs fight with other rival gangs of the same gender, race, or class for power or “turf” a term used to define a surrounding area that belongs to the gang that resides within that particular site. “Since the Young Offenders Act takes an adult to the age of 16, this lets people get away with more and not be held responsible. Individuals in gangs bring younger children in (to the gang) and get them to commit the crimes to avoid getting the older leaders of the gang convictions.” 11
Age is the most enthusiastic of all causes of crime. The younger an individual is the more likely they are to commit a crime and in comparison the older an individual gets the more likely that their criminal urges will be subdued. This relation appears to emerge from a persons physical
Power. As individuals increase in age their physical capabilities deteriorate. Men reach this physical peak at the age of 25 while women reach this peak later in life, at the age of 30. ” On average, inmates are younger than the general population. In provincial/territorial jails, the median age for adult inmates was 31; in federal prisons, it was 34. By comparison, the median age of the general population in 1996 was 41.”12
“When the economy is depressed, people turn to theft, the money they steal usually goes towards the purchase of alcohol and drugs. The use of substances like these directly influences the likelihood that an individual will commit an offense.”13 “Of 6361 inmates admitted between 1994 and December,96, 3037 (or 47.7 %) used a substance on the day of their offense.”14
It is apparent that some social groups are in situations more conducive to crime, because of the environment they live in. Boys and men dominate in crime. Arrest, self report and victimization data all reflects that boys and men perpetrate more conventional and serious crimes than girls and women. It appears that boys and men no longer are “normal subjects” of violence and that as equal rights and feminist groups become stronger and more profound so to do women in crime. In terms of race, “The countries where frequent mixture of people takes place; those in which industry and trade collect many persons and things together, and possess the greatest activity; finally, those where the inequality of fortune is most felt, all things being equal, are those which give rise to the greatest number of crimes.” 15 The question of economics as a cause of crime finds that people are not forced into crime because they are poor, but because they are not capable of getting the luxuries that they have deemed necessities. They have gone from being in a comfortable, employed state to an unemployed and very difficult state and no longer can live beyond their means. In addition, education also has an effect on crime. “Of the 25,000 inmates on whom data about the extent of schooling were available, 36% had a Grade 9 education or less. In comparison, the 1996 Census showed that 19% of adults aged 18 and over in Canada had a Grade 9 education or less.16 In addition, 78.7% of the offenders in Canada have not yet gained their high school diploma. 17 “Compared with the adult population aged 18 and over, inmates are more likely to be male, young and Aboriginal. Inmates also have fewer years of schooling, are more likely to be unemployed at the time of admission, and are less likely to be married, according to a census of correctional facilities conducted on October 5, 1996.” 18
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