Analyzing the Crime Problem

America is not the only country with crime, nor the only one concerned about crime. Every country in the world has crime. They always have and, perhaps, always will. But because of the pervasive problem of crime in all societies, every society has had to develop some kind of system to deal with and manage crime. The history of mankind demonstrates that when people live together in societies and communities, there is a need for rules and laws. And those are needed because inevitably there will be those individuals who will violate the rules, laws, and norms of society. Because there will always be violators of the established norms of a community, there must be a system in place to deal with these offenders.

We know, for instance, that criminal justice systems were in place several thousand years ago. In the time of Hammurabi, the ruler of Mesopotamia, in what is modern-day Iraq, about 2100 BC, Hammurabi enacted a set of laws. This set of laws was called the Code of Hammurabi, and the laws were carved in rock columns and preserved in a temple. Hammurabi’s code indicated what behaviors were violations of laws and the corresponding punishment for breaking those laws (Oliver and Hilgenberg, 2006).

A few hundred years later, Athenian law in Athens, Greece, developed the concept that a “private harm” could also be a harm against all society (Gargarin, 2002). In the sixth century BC, the Athenians created a system of “popular courts” in order to ensure that every citizen was granted certain rights and had the ability to appeal decisions (Shelden, 2001). Then, in 452 AD, the Romans codified their laws when the Roman Tribune requested that the laws of Rome be codified and written into 10 tables. Later, two additional tables were added and these became known as the Roman Twelve Tables. These tables spell out various types of crimes, such as murder, bribery, sorcery, and theft. These particular crimes were all punishable by execution, which could be by crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive, or impaling (Farrington, 2000).

Since these early attempts to codify laws, there have been attempts to inform citizens of the laws and to bring about fair and impartial punishments. Of course, when we look back at the criminal justice systems of European countries from the Middle Ages until the middle of the nineteenth century, we would have to conclude that their systems were rather crude. For example, England did not have any police until watchmen, and later on constables, were employed, beginning around the reign of King Edward I in the twelfth century AD. However, aside from watchmen and constables, who patrolled the streets and watched for fires, England had no police department until Sir Robert Peel organized the London Metropolitan Police in 1829.

Most countries today, including the United States, have an evolved criminal justice system that is multilayered and sophisticated compared with the justice systems in Europe—and other continents— prior to the nineteenth century.

Having laws and criminal justice systems meant that leaders, like Hammurabi, and governments, like the Athenian government, the Roman Tribune, and the English government, thought about the problem and came up with approaches to deal with the crime problem. In effect, each society had to analyze the crime problem and develop a theory that would lead to the implementation of laws or policies that would attempt to contain or decrease the crime problem. For example, by English law, in the early 1700s there were more than 200 crimes that were punishable by hanging (Friedman, 1993). The theory, then, that backed up this approach to trying to stop crime was that if the punishment was severe enough, people would desist from committing crimes.

Cesare Beccaria, who is known as the founder of classical criminology, was an Italian nobleman and jurist who was born in 1738. Dissatisfied with the Italian justice system in the eighteenth century, he developed his own theories about why people committed crimes. He even wrote a book, entitled On Crimes and Punishment, in which he explained his theory. Beccaria explained in his book that people are rational and they do things that bring them pleasure and avoid doing things which bring them pain. As a result of this analysis of criminal behavior, Beccaria advanced the idea that certain and swift punishment of appropriate duration and intensity would deter people from committing crime.

In contrast to Beccaria are the more contemporary opinions of Dr. Samuel Yochelson, who, along with clinical psychologist Stanton Samenow, studied more than 250 male criminals and concluded that

“the criminal can, and does, choose his way of life freely in his quest for power, control and excitement” (Barger, 1978, p. 1).

Therefore, if you were to subscribe to Yochelson and Samenow’s theory, then fear of any form of repercussions would play no part in the decision-making process of why an individual chooses to commit crime. The probability of being caught and punished is a nonfactor, as Mel Barger contends in his article “Crime: The Unsolved Problem” when he writes, “The Criminal, at the time of his lawlessness, is one of the few happy or contented men to be found among us” (Barger, 1978, p. 1).

When comparing the differing opinions of theorists from Beccaria to Yochelson and Samenow, and even more recent crime theorists, it can be argued that when examining what motivates a person to carry out a criminal act, a pattern of behavior can also be identified. Pattern recognition is a critical skill set needed by crime and intelligence analysts in order to be successful when connecting a modus operandi (a method of operation) to crimes of a similar nature.

As we will discuss in upcoming chapters, the critical thinking and the investigative skill sets of the crime analyst compared with those of the typical law enforcement professional may differ somewhat in approach, but both are based on a theory of what causes people to commit crimes. For law enforcement, the investigative mindset often is built upon various criminological theories that focus heavily on examining the motivations of the offender. The crime and intelligence analyst, on the other hand, takes the approach of examining the offenders’ behavior. This analytical approach is based partly on the criminal event perspective—a nontraditional theory as to why people commit crime, proposed by Vincent Sacco and Leslie Kennedy (2002). These authors contend that the criminal event perspective is “not a theory of criminality, but rather a road map to understanding crime” (Sacco and Kennedy, 2010, p. 799). This perspective will be discussed in more detail in later chapters.

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