In this paper, I will be providing a prediction of how strangers will describe a criminal and whether those descriptions would be likely to focus on street criminals, corporate, white-collar, or state crime. An insight of how society defines crimes and how decides what to define as a crime will also be provided. A statement about a particular crime will be presented and used in order to illustrate how we as a society know that it is an accurate statement. At last, an example of a widely held myth or misconception about crime and society will be provided explaining how society determines that it is a myth and why is so difficult to abandon that myth.
It is clear that as a society we have the misconception that a criminal is a person that comes from a very poor area, lack of resources, and does not have an education. As a society we tend to focus on street criminals rather than other types of crimes that we barely hear about because they are not presented or shown on the news as much as street crimes are. I am sure that if I would have to ask or interview one hundred strangers to describe a criminal, many of them would say that a criminal is a person that breaks or does not want to follow the law. A person that steals because that is the only way they can provide for their families, a person that has mental issues that affect his/her stability to be able to have a normal life without breaking the law, can be also described as a criminal.
I would say society has described crime as one of the most serious problem that our community faces due to the different behaviors people have adapted that violate values and norms. As society would say crime is a system that is put in place in order to protect the human rights of others; crime is an act of breaking and violating the law, or a behavior that offends or harm a community or the ones around it. As the Former President Richard Nixon said in several occasions “crime is our number-one enemy and we must declare war against it” (Zastrow, 2010) but it can never be that way because we never know when we are going to be involved in some type of crime just like president Nixon was, when he faced criminal charges in connection with the Watergate affair. There are many different types of crimes that had helped society create and understand the definition of it but I think, society tends to “think that crime is a well-defined phenomenon and to have stereotyped views about who criminals are” (Zastrow, 2010).
Most of the times, we believe that criminals are only those who are not able to have a decent job, those who does not have an education, those with lack of resources that in order to provide for their families the only way to do it is by committing a crime, and many times we tend to stereotype that generally only people of a certain race and color are the ones that commit crimes, when actually, “criminal offenses and the characteristics of lawbreakers are almost as varied as noncriminal offenses and law abiders” (Zastrow, 2010). As an example of a particular crime we have “theft” which refers to “illegally taking someone’s property without the person’s consent” (Zastrow, 2010).
As a society we know this is an accurate statement because as many of us were growing up, our parents always taught us to not to take or touch things that do not belong to us otherwise we would go to jail or we will have consequences since we were committing a crime because we were violating someone else’s property and space. But as we all know this type of offense is not only about taking some else’s property, these types of offenses “range from pickpocketing and burglary to sophisticated multimillion-dollar swindles (Zastrow, 2010).
Misconceptions about crime make society believe certain things that are not true most of the times. And knowing that is not true, we tend to hold this myth and misconception because that is what we heard as were growing up and learning about different types of crimes. As an example of a misconception or myth that we usually believe is true is that, “Most sexual assaults are committed by strangers” (CSOM, 2012), why do we believe this? Because we would never relate or think that our families or friends would commit a crime such as sexual assault to one of our loved ones. But the truth is that “most sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim or the victim’s family, regardless of whether the victim is a child or an adult” (CSOM, 2012).
According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, statistics indicate that the majority of women who have been raped know their assailant. The CSOM also states that relatives, friends, baby-sitters, persons in positions of authority over the child, or persons who supervise children are more likely than strangers to commit sexual assault. It is clear that myths like this one, makes us believe that only strangers have the power to hurt us and our families when the truth is that many times we have the enemy living under the same roof. It is sad but true, nowadays as parents and adults we have to very cautions and aware of the people around us because we never know when someone is going to harm our family and loved ones.
I believe this is a myth that is very difficult to abandon because as I have stated before we do not believe that our family or friends, the people we trust are going to hurt us. We have always learned to be aware and be careful of strangers because they are dangerous person that only want to harm us and that is what teach our children too. I think we have to educate ourselves a little more in order to be able to abandon this myth and be able to teach our children the importance of speaking up when someone is trying to touch or hurt them even when is someone we know.
In conclusion, as we know crime is one of the most serious problems that we face as a nation and the misconception we have as a society makes us believe that only certain type of people are the ones that commit crimes. When reality is that there are different types of crimes such as organized crimes, gambling, drug trafficking, loan sharking, white-collar crime, computer crime, hare crime, and many more. The misconceptions we have about crime create myths which makes it hard for other to believe that there are many other types of crimes and that anyone is capable of committing a crime or violate laws.
Center for Sex Offender Management. (CSOM). (2012). Myths and Facts About Sex Offenders.
Retrieved from: http://www.csom.org/pubs/mythsfacts.html
Collica, K., & Furst, G. (2012). Crime and Society. San Diego, CA: Bridgeport Education, Inc. Short Cuts TV (Producer). (2010). Crimes of the Powerful [Video]. In Crime and Deviance: A Sociological Inquiry. Retrieved from http://digital.films.com/OnDemandEmbed.aspx? Zastrow, Charles. (2010). Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare. Empowering People.