While it may prove difficult to pin down the exact time for the origin of crime, it is true that crime has been in existence since man began to exist. The degree of the crime committed is what is what makes the documentation of crime difficult because one form of crime may decline in a particular period and another to increase in the same period hence leading to conflicting data. The methods used to fight crime normally vary according to the crime committed and the technology available in that time.
II. Strategies of curbing crime
Due to the increased number of crimes, the fight against crime has never been easy. It has led to use of some methods that have been deemed effective while others as ineffective going by the standards of the day.
III. Straight Scare: An effectiveness dilemma.
The issue of instilling fear to would-be criminals to refrain them from indulging in criminal practices-a phenomenon common in delinquents- has its pros and cons and thus arouses heated debates on its effectiveness. Does such a practice create fear or confidence in the delinquents? What really happens?
Not unless proper measures are taken to contain crime, security will remain a challenge to many states. This will only be possible by deploying strategies that leave no loopholes in the overall assessment.
In order to embark on a specific method of fighting crime, it is important to reflect on the foundations of the criminology field whose major focus is on crimes, their causes and the ways of combating them. The origin and causes of criminal behavior are as strange and frightening as the crime itself. Man, being a free creature has the freedom to choose what to do and what not-what he deems fit to him or what does not suit him. This may be taken as the underlying cause of crime in the society. However, (Pond, 1999) recognizes several theories that may be tied to the origin of crime and its causes. These are the labeling theory, the control theory, the conflict theory and biological positivism. All these theories justify the presence of crime in our society. For instance, the control theory postulates that indeed crime is natural and that it is non-criminal behavior that should be explained-not the crime (Pond, 1999).
Through ages, there have been schools of thought on the criminology issue. One of these is the classical school that views crime as being a result of possessing the freedom of choice- a free will. Another school, the positivism, claims that every human act and knowledge should be accompanied by facts. As such, criminal activities in the society should be studied in that scientific context. Whatever the school or theory may be, the reality is that crime is an unnecessary evil which, despite its justifications, ought to be fought by nook and crook.
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Strategies of curbing crime
The fight against crime is not a one-man battle. It requires commitment from all the stakeholders as well as strategies that are effective and efficient. However, before exploring these measures, it is important to understand the ingredients of a crime. (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990) point out that there are several factors that predispose one to a criminal act. These are elements such as opportunity, motivation or desire on the part of the offender and the means-tools and skills required to commit a crime (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). It is only after putting all these factors into consideration that an effective and effective war on crime can be waged.
As if to testify to how grave the issue on crime is, global bodies and organizations have had their say on how crime should be prevented citing a number of measures. The World Health Organization, through a series of its reports on security, recommends a number of measures to be implemented to lower the escalating levels of crime. Its key areas of address are on issues of gender and social equality, arms trade, international treaties, human rights and drug trafficking. World Report on Violence Health (2002) recommends “an integration of violence prevention into the social and educational policies and thus promote gender and social equality”. In addition, the 2003 World Health Assembly Resolution 56-24 advises governments to “find practical, internationally agreed responses to the global drugs and arms trade”.
Apart from the above specific guidelines by the WHO on the fight against crime, there exist other basic approaches to crime prevention alongside the already laid down procedures of responding to crime. These are cost-effective ways that surpass the efforts of maintenance of law and order and criminal justice. They emphasize on understanding the risk factors that lead to crime hence taking the necessary precautionary measures. As the New York State Police Division on Crime Prevention clearly puts it is cheaper, easier and healthier to prevent crime than to treat its victims whilst dealing with the perpetrators.
One of the key effective ways of fighting crime is by the establishment of crime prevention partnerships. This, according to (Ficher & Lab, 2010) in the Encyclopedia of Victomology and Crime Prevention (vol.1) is the link between community organizations and agencies of the government formed to reduce the social problems of the community or improving the conditions of the community (Qtd. in Roman, Moore, & Jenkins, 2002). A good example of such a partnership is in community policing whereby the community is responsible for informing the police of any crime or event that may lead to one.
Another way of curbing crime is by the use of crime prevention through environmental design policy. This strategy is based on the fact that there are exiting factors that make facilitate crime like time and space. Criminals tend to attack targets in areas that are without the vicinity of the public or the visibility is obscured. As such, measures such as the installation of CCTV cameras can be very handy in the war on crime. Similar measures like public property demarcation and blocking off the accessibility of crime targets by use of fences lockable gates and traffic barriers can also go far in the fight.
Though modern science and technology may be blamed by many as a catalyst in the increase in crime, the same can still be deployed to prevent it. This is possible in several ways. To begin with, it may aid in unveiling the mysteries crime itself. Secondly, technology can be used to prevent crime. For instance, the satellite technology can be used in surveillance. Modern technology can also be deployed to detect a crime especially a fingerprint technology and DNA tests in rape cases. These are enabled by forensic science (Ficher & Lab, 2010).
Scare Straight: A dilemma of ineffectiveness
Crime is a more psychological related than it is biologically. This is the reason its study, criminology, is related to disciplines like psychology. To effectively curb crime, it is important to understand the psychological part of it- the motive and gain behind it. Such knowledge is exploited by state agencies to prevent crime. One example of this application is in a preventive measure popularly known as scare straight. This measure was first introduced in the 1970s as a confrontational means of curbing juvenile delinquency in form of reality TV programs. Years of research on this method of crime prevention has revealed more criticism than expected.
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Its origin was in New Jersey at Rahway State Prison. This Juvenile Awareness Program was an idea developed by a group of prisoners who were serving a jail term of 25 years or more. Their initial motive was to dispel the stereotyped prison life in Holly Wood movies. The group, going by the name Lifers Group, endeavored to paint the true picture of prisoners as not being as immoral as had always been depicted, but as productive and worthwhile individuals (Mc Shank & William III, 2007). The idea of the Scared Straight Program as a crime preventive measure among the youth was born from the concern of the president of the Lifers Group, Richard Rowe, on his son who was twelve years then. Richard conceived of a program that would divert juvenile from being involved in crime.
They realized that college students were allowed to enter the prison on educational grounds. The group sought permission from the prison superintendent, then Robert S. Hartrak to allow juveniles to enter the prison on an effort to “deter or scare delinquency out of the kids” Mc Shank & Williams, 2007). September 1976 saw the first bunch of delinquents visit the prison and interact with the prisoners.
Juveniles engage in crime because of their uncertainty of the punishment the crimes they commit. They are not interested in the how quick they may be jailed or how harsh their punishment may be but in whether it will ever take place. The program thus wanted to give these young offenders a slice of what awaits them in the near future if they continue in crime. Rooted in the deterrence theory, which claims that the fear of punishment will prevent one from committing a crime, the awareness program wanted to show how real punishment is and hence inhibit them from involvement in delinquency.
According to Steele (Anniston Star, April 06, 2011), this “shock incarceration” program is made to instill fear in juveniles vulnerable to engagement in more serious offences. This program was tailor-made to “deter delinquents from a future life of crime” (Mackenzie, 2006). Life sentence inmates gave aggressive presentation to juveniles visiting the prison ran it. Adult prisoners described imprisonment negatively and exaggerated stories of rape and murder (Qtd in Finckenauer, 1982).
The program was in the limelight for several years and this made other countries like Australia, Norway, Germany, United Kingdom and Canada to adopt it. A resentment of the program was soon to follow. This was as a research contacted showed that the measure was ineffective. This was because many of the kids who were recipients of the program in the hope of being rehabilitated instead became worse. What caused this weird variation and a change of expectations?
Initially, the program adopted a less confrontational approach than it did later. An officer supervised the program. The youth were oriented to the prison and given the gist of the awareness program. Security was always beefed up during the course of the interaction between the delinquents and the hard-core prisoners. The juvenile were told of the dire reality of crimes such as rape, murder and robbery. In addition, the program was made popular by a film going by its name that received a number of awards owing to its popularity. It was also televised on the national television.
This approach saw some of the delinquents become transformed positively. As time went by, the prisoners realized, their efforts were not bearing much fruit, as it would have been expected. This prompted them to change their tactics and opted for the more confrontational approach associated with the program today. The latter version was characterized by use of harsh language and intimidation.
In addition, they would threaten them swear to physically abuse them. As if these were not enough, the prisoners also crossed borders and exaggerated the information they gave to the prisoners alongside manhandling them. This worked against their initial plan as the experiences seemed to harden the deviant youth and hence preparing them for advanced crimes. Although films showed that the initiative was somehow effective, an evaluation of the same a complete contradiction. Indeed a comparison of the delinquents who had been in to this program and a group that had not undertaken it strongly supported this new development on a measure thought to eradicate delinquency without having to subject the victims to harsh penalties. The results saw the former having no new or few cases of delinquency hence proving beyond reasonable doubt that this program was an ineffective way of curbing crime.
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Though there may be different ways of preventing or reducing juvenile crime and crime in general, it is important to put into the big picture which of them is more effective. There are varied approaches as one of them has been discussed above but careful consideration is needed. According to Murray (1921), cross-examination of the measures is key. For instance, will a hard-line approach like “scared straight” be effective in delinquents or long jail terms for repeat offenders? On the other hand, will soft-line strategies like probation, being forgiven or given another chance work or will they encourage new offenders in the hope of no stern measures against them?
Waller (2006) challenges “the uses of ways of law enforcement in the reaction to crime”. He champions for the adoption of policies that are less tough than the modern response to crime. Punishments may be deemed as an appropriate way of curbing crime but they are expensive. As a remedy, Waller proposes policies that are concerned with addressing the existing causes of crime. Such programs include investment in modes of parenting and schooling that are effective since most of the criminals begin as delinquents. This will root out any future criminals. Other recommendations that can go far in the fight against crime is the outlawing of handguns, investing in order and revealing the causes of crimes not what it cost to fight it. Community policing is also a major in push in the war on this menace.
This is because by involving the society, it feels that its efforts are recognized and therefore be ready to let go any information it may have on criminals. Since the root cause of many crimes is to satisfy a certain need that the criminal can within his or her means, provision of employment either directly or indirectly will also come in handy in curbing. In deed, the big mammoth challenge is in the method to adopt to maximize the efficacy in the fight against crime. It seems such a challenge is here to stay.