This article is written by Athira R Nair, a student of the School of Law, Christ University, Bangalore. This article aims at shedding light on the various types of crime, their causes, and measures to curb them.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
Crime is essentially an act that is punishable by law. It doesn’t occur owing to a single cause but is an extremely complex happening that is influenced by the culture of the place in which it takes place. For the same reason, many activities that are deemed illegal in one country are legal in another. A case in point would be alcohol consumption which is illegal in Muslim countries but legal everywhere else. With changes in culture, people’s outlook towards what constitutes crime changes too. Owing to this, there can be various causes of crime that change based on the nature of the crime, the time and place of its occurrence, and the like. As a result, criminalization and decriminalization of various phenomena is an ongoing process.
Causes of crime
Poverty is one of the main reasons for crime. Countries with high rates of economic deprivation tend to witness higher crime rates than other countries. Since people do not have the means to secure a living in the right ways, they invest their time in criminal activities since they are not only an easy means to get what they want but also do not require any other prerequisite talents. The ever-increasing divide we are witnessing between the rich and the poor can also be attributed to more and more of the poor looking to crime as a means for living. Not being able to earn and sustain themselves leaves people so frustrated that they resort to illegal means to sustain themselves and their families. According to the data collected by National Crime Records Bureau, theft is one of the most common crimes in India. All in all, the wealth inequality and insufficient means to acquire a living in an honest way is driving the poor in India towards a life of crime.
It is an established fact that peer pressure plays a significant role in the lives of all teenagers and young adults. That is a phase of life where people tend to look up to their friends and believe what they do is the right or rather ‘hip and happening’ thing to do. So, peer pressure compels them to join the bandwagon. The lack of wisdom and experience these people have just added fuel to the fire. As a result, many individuals in their youth subconsciously get drawn to vices like alcohol consumption and smoking just by looking at their peers. The problem goes out of hand when this peer pressure does not stay restricted to alcohol and cigarettes but extends to other illegal activities involving drugs that have the potential to become an addiction and subsequently ruin their lives.
Crime and drug abuse are closely related. A person under the influence tends to indulge in criminal activities that they may have not indulged in otherwise. The main problem arises when they get addicted to the drugs and believe they require it to sustain themselves. In such a situation, drug addicts are ready to go to any extent to procure these illegal substances. According to the data collected by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which is a wing under the National Institute of Health in the United States of America, over 70,000 people succumbed to drug overdoses in America, in the year 2019 alone. These figures are alarming. Under the influence of drugs, people feel the urge to do things that are not only illegal but also have the potential to ruin and at times even end their lives.
The interrelation between politics and crime is overlooked many times. This is problematic as many people have engaged in criminal activities while dealing with political issues. There are umpteen politicians with a criminal record. Additionally, there have been quite a few politicians in developing countries who have also been associated with violent crimes and murders. So many youth members of parties are often given weapons and instructed to handle matters violently during conflicts. Any political dispute, however insignificant, usually leads to rampant violence involving mobs. This not only exposes youth to criminal activities but also puts the lives of various citizens at risk. So, an unstable political situation in a country leads to an exponential increase in the crimes that take place there.
Even today, unfortunately, various divides and issues of society can be attributed to religion. Despite it being a basic human right, many people are deprived of practising their own religion. This leads to a feeling of resentment in the minds of believers. Moreover, there have been an awful lot of cases involving crimes over different schools of thought too. Innocent lives have been lost in this war over ideological concepts that have existed since time immemorial. This is an extremely sad state of affairs considering that it is already the 21st century and human beings have progressed so much in other areas. There are a huge number of crimes committed by religious fanatics while they try to further their cause by propagating their religion or at times try to establish their religious superiority over other faiths by resorting to destruction and vandalism.
Oftentimes the background and family conditions of a criminal can be attributed to the reason behind their crimes. When people believe that they are responsible to provide for their family and they are unable to do so owing to lack of opportunities, lack of education or other such issues that handicap them, they resort to crime. This is a sad state of affairs as in such situations it is highly likely that the criminal would have refrained from engaging in criminal activities had there been sufficient means for them to sustain themselves and provide for their family. This issue does not lead to crimes such as theft alone but also motivates people to commit gruesome acts that put their freedom and lives at risk just so they can make a good amount of money through bribes or ransoms that can be used for their family’s sustenance.
In today’s times, money is one of the most important aspects of everyone’s life. The meaning of money is not restricted to the amount of wealth in a person’s bank account but is instead also attributed to their societal status, worth, and even values. As a result of this, people value money more than their relationships and happiness. What other people think of a person is more important to them than how they feel. Even schools and universities do not teach children how to be happy and satisfied in life but instead teach them how to make more money, which indirectly attributes wealth to worth. A case in point would be people in awe of students who study and take up professions in the fields of science as opposed to art as conventionally, they have chances of earning more. As a result, people earning less feel unworthy and are compelled to indulge in a life of crime so as to make more money and feel more worthy.
The lack of employment opportunities is an issue faced by developing and developed countries alike. A huge portion of the youth of today are unemployed and as per a report by the Confederation of Indian Industry, the youth employment rate is ever-increasing. According to the data recorded by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate in our country is ever increasing. Naturally, this leaves the youth frustrated as despite spending a lot of time and money on their education they still find it tough to get a good job. This leads to a feeling of resentment towards the system in the minds of many youngsters who then rebel and resort to crimes early on in their lives.
Deprivation is another significant contributor to the increasing crime rates. People resort to notorious activities when they are deprived of their basic rights since that impedes their means to obtain a livelihood in a conventional and honest way. They have limited options and are already at a disadvantaged position in society that they choose to make money and sustain themselves through hook or crook. This usually involves them engaging in criminal activities.
Unfair justice system
The flawed justice system is another major contributor to crimes. When people believe that they are not given their due and are unfairly treated by the system itself, they harbour feelings of resentment towards it and start to rebel. This involves them engaging in criminal activities and doing the opposite of what is expected of them. People try to get justice for themselves when they feel like the state is not going to do the same and tend to commit various acts of crime in their journey to avenge themselves and get what they believe they deserve. Many innocent people resort to crimes when they are wrongly proven to be guilty in the Courts owing to a lack of trust in the system.
Different types of crimes
Any act that is in violation of the law is a crime. There are various types of crimes. Though not exhaustive, criminologists group crimes into a few categories mentioned below.
Personal crimes or crimes against persons refer to those crimes that are perpetrated against an individual. They include murder, homicide, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, and other such violent acts.
Property crimes refer to crimes that include theft but do not involve bodily harm. Some examples include arson, larceny, burglary, theft, etc. Here, the victim is not physically affected but is indirectly affected by harm or loss to their property.
These refer to crimes against an individual which are fuelled by prejudices against the said individual’s race, gender, religion, caste, creed, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and other such distinguishing factors usually associated with one’s heritage.
Victimless crimes or crimes against morality refer to illegal acts which are not aimed at a specific individual. Here, there are no complainants. Victimless crimes include gambling, administering illegal drugs, prostitution, and the like which are immoral but do not harm any individual per se. Such crimes are also known as consensual crimes as the violators here willingly engage in illegal acts knowing it is against the law. The word consensual crime is preferred by most over victimless crime as the offenders are said to be victims in these cases as their acts harm themselves.
Crimes committed by people who have a respectable position in society and are economically and socially well placed in the course of their occupation are called white-collar crimes. Some examples would be embezzling, tax evasion, insider trading, violating tax laws, and the like. Such crimes, though not gruesome, are still extremely detrimental to society and have a great potential to cause economic consequences like a recession in no time.
Organized crimes refer to crimes that involve the sale of goods and services which are unlawful by a structured group like a mafia. This would include drug cartels, smuggling of weapons, prostitution, and even money laundering. Needless to say, organized crime has various negative impacts on both society and the economy.
Theories of causation of crime
The different types of crimes and the various reasons attributed to their occurrence are not exhaustive. Crime is caused due to a multiplicity of factors that are ever-changing. That said, there are certain theories that have risen which attempt to ascertain the causation of crime. They include biological, economic, psychological, political, and sociological theories.
The interaction of various biological factors can be attributed to the occurrence of criminal matters. These biological factors refer to neurological, psychological, hereditary, and even biochemical elements that lead to crime. Conventionally, crime is always regarded as an outcome rising from various social aspects. However, in the past decade, there has been ample proof suggesting that genetic and biological factors contribute significantly to criminal behaviour.
Given the assumption that all human beings engage in rational behaviour, it is mind-boggling to see the crime rates in industrialized economies go through the roof. Many social researchers were of the opinion that crime is heavily influenced by economic factors like employment, education, financial conditions, and the like. It is one of the most common side effects of social exclusion. Criminals with the background of industrial employees engaging in manual work choose that way of life due to the lack of both education and jobs in the market. Crime is heavily influenced by wages and the employment status of the people in question. Economists were of the opinion that educational programmes are the efficient way to combat the issue of rising crime in a world full of depleting jobs and wages. All economic models of crime focus on deterring effects and the interrelation between work and crime. They conclude that the main reason for a crime could be attributed to rampant unemployment.
Psychological theories of crime are extremely complex in nature. They focus on the personal relations of the criminal. These theories try to demonstrate the evolution of offending from when the offender was a child to when they become an adult. Psychologists are of the opinion that offensive behaviour is akin to unfriendly behavior. A case in point would be reckless driving, administering drugs, intoxication, and the like. So, they use theories and systems evolving from observations of unfriendly behavior to analyze and study crime. To deal with criminal tendencies they resort to motivational approaches that induce thoughtfulness and good decision-making. Since psychology entails a scientific study of human behavior based on data, various factors that influence crime were said to be bad upbringing, broken families, parents indulging in crime themselves, and personality disorders.
All methods of crime are said to be in accordance with one political philosophy or the other. So, all orientations of crime are the consequence of some political theory. Social disputes and governmental relations are important constituents of crime. People with different and sometimes conflicting political theories tend to associate crime with different factors. For instance, radical extremists may be of the opinion that crime is an act of resistance to oppression whereas liberals are of the opinion that criminals are misguided [people reacting poorly to faulty social institutions.
Sociological theories can be further divided into three theories namely strain theory, social learning theory, and control theory.
The strain theory suggests that people resort to crime as a reaction to excess negativity in them owing to stress or strain. They are so overwhelmed with cynical emotions that they use crime to reduce their burden. A case in point would be criminals stealing to improve their financial stability, a criminal causing injury to others as a result of being raised in an abusive household, consuming illegal drugs to numb side effects of mental illnesses caused by stress, and the like. Crime may also be an impulsive act aimed at avenging oneself.
Social learning theory
This theory suggests that criminals learn to engage in criminal activities through people in their social circles like friends, family, acquaintances, etc. So the basic idea here is that one does not resort to crime independently but crime is a consequence of their association with others. Peers have a huge influence on people and hence indirectly lead them down the wrong path.
Crime is taken for granted in this theory. All criminals are said to have certain desires that they can accomplish much more easily by resorting to crime as compared to any other legally acceptable method. An example would be stealing money as opposed to working. People would prefer to steal as that would give them the same amount of money but minus the effort. So, control theorists believe that there is no specific reason for crime and it only occurs because it is the most convenient way for some people to get what they want.
Measures that can be taken to curb criminal activities
Given that in today’s world crime isn’t restricted to something poverty-stricken people engage in but is something people of all backgrounds do, it is important to formulate techniques and curb crime altogether before it gets out of hand. The government plays a significant role here. They ought to execute effective and efficient crime prevention techniques in their capacity as a leader of the people so as to ensure there is harmony in society. Despite there being stringent legislation like the Indian Penal Code (1860) and other such enactments formulated to curb crime, the number of crimes reported in India is increasing every year as per the data collected by the National Crime Records Bureau. Though it seems effective, by these figures one can ascertain that stringent punishments alone aren’t sufficient to create fear in the minds of criminals and deter them from engaging in criminal activities. So, a reevaluation of the government’s efforts to curb crime is the need of the hour. Some measures that can be taken to curb criminal activities are mentioned below.
Speedy justice system
Justice delayed is justice denied. Though not specifically provided for in the Indian Constitution, the right to speedy justice is implicit under Article 21 of the Constitution which provides for the protection of the life and personal liberty of the citizens of India. It is high time that the Indian justice system is evaluated. The excessive backlog of cases and inevitable delay of justice to the victims has led to people losing faith in the system. Even a ghastly case like the Nirbhaya case (2017) took about 8 years to punish the culprits and bring justice to the victim despite being fast-tracked. One of the foremost reasons for this delay is the principle the legal system is based on- “innocent until proven guilty”. This gives criminals the opportunity to get away with their crimes and if convicted, even then appeal for a review and further prolong the process. This unfortunate situation not only encourages criminals to engage in crime but also worsens the blow for victims of crime.
The first step to be taken so as to speed the justice system should be the appointment of a sufficient number of judges. The inadequacy of judges in India is the foremost reason behind the pending cases in Courts. This was also noted by the bench of judges in the case of Ramachandra Rao vs State of Karnataka (2002). Additionally, Fast Track Courts have to be set up at the earliest. This was one of the recommendations mentioned in the Report of the Eleventh Finance Commission which was released in the year 1998. Apart from plugging the vacancies of the judges, the working days and annual vacations of judges in all Courts have to be reviewed too.
Creation of job opportunities
As already mentioned before, unemployment and criminal tendencies are correlated. Criminals often engage in unlawful acts because their economical means to survive otherwise are insufficient. In studies assessing the correlation between crime and unemployment, it was established that unemployment leads to a rise in property crime and not violent crimes. From this, one can ascertain that the criminals here indulge in criminal activities as a means to survive. So, creating job opportunities would work as an efficient deterrent to crime in such scenarios.
Overcoming economical inequalities
It is an established fact that the divide between the rich and the poor is ever increasing. The rich seem to be enjoying luxurious lives that are constantly improving while the poor still find it hard to get access to basic necessities and amenities they require for their survival like clean water, food, shelter, and the like. Given that studies have indicated that the poor then resort to petty criminal offenses so as to survive, the government ought to step in and reduce such economical inequalities through initiatives. Bridging the gap between the rich and the poor would not only reduce the negatives classism brings with it but would also ensure that all citizens have a means of survival and do not have to resort to any unlawful activities for the same.
Formulating provisions for cybercrimes
Post the coming of the internet, everything has shifted online. Though there are umpteen perks to this, it also means that cyberspace is now a new, easy and accessible domain for criminal activities. So, virtual violence is on the rise. It is high time the government formulates effective provisions to protect citizens in the virtual space too. For this, dysfunctional cyber security cells aren’t sufficient and there need to be legitimate legislative provisions formulated.
Raising awareness among the people
The people should be made aware of their rights and remedies. Alongside this, all the youth should be educated not only on how to be good citizens but also on how to steer clear from online offenses and avoid being victims of crimes. Furthermore, the faith of the people in the justice system should be restored by improving the system and also educating people on the approach they should take when faced with a crime so they can report it the right way and ensure they get justice. Criminals will also be deterred from engaging in criminal activities if the people they target are well equipped to handle the situation.
Promoting harmony among religions
India is a secular country in which all religions are equal in all aspects. Despite this, there are numerous instances of prejudice against certain religions and ethnic groups. The government has failed to address this and take the necessary action. This could lead to various problems in the upcoming years. To do away with that, the government ought to be neutral while enacting laws and ensure that the rights of all citizens are safeguarded irrespective of the religion or ethnic group they belong to. A society in which all the citizens live in harmony will most certainly have reduced crime rates.
Penalising white-collar criminals
White-collar crimes refer to non-violent crimes committed by individuals, businesses or even the government which are financially motivated. Corruption is a cognate form of white-collar crime. It is still rampant in India despite the enactment of the Prevention of Corruption Act (1988) which was later amended to the Prevention of Corruption Act (2018). Corruption, in simple terms, refers to the misuse of power by government officials so as to facilitate their illegitimate private gain. It has various detrimental effects on the whole country. For starters, it stunts the growth of the economy by discouraging investment and modifying the composition of government spending to the disadvantage of the public. Unfortunately, corruption and other white-collar crimes aren’t given as much importance by the government as compared to other crimes. This is problematic as it sets a dangerous precedent and may lead to increasing cases of money laundering, bank thefts, and the like. Despite the enactment of the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (2018), little has been done to penalise offenders like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. The government ought to be more enterprising in this regard and take charge by penalising all the white-collar criminals at the earliest.
Crimes in India, be it property crimes, violent crimes, or even cybercrimes, are on the rise in India. They have various causes that range from biological factors to even political and sociological factors. The government plays an important role in curbing crime. Two important things that would help in crime prevention are education and instilling morals in people from their childhood.
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