The view that society is both fearful of, and fascinated by, crime
This essay will attempt to outline the view that our society is both fearful of, and fascinated by crime. We will briefly look at the definition of crime, the possible reasoning’s behind crime, from that this essay will lead onto who in large commits crime and how that is represented in the media but most concurringly how the media reflects on both our fear and fascination with crime in the UK. What is crime?
There are many definitions of crime however crime is ultimately an act which breaks a law currently being policed which is known as the legal definition or an act that breaks a set of common norms or moral codes which is known as the normative definition. Someone, somewhere at sometime decided what a law would be and possibly based this on their own ideas and preferences. Crime whether legal or normative is based on society’s assumptions and or perceptions and is therefore a social construction.
Why do we commit crime? There are many answers and determining factors to this question. Sarnof Mednick among others believed that the explanation lay in the biological make up of our DNA (Mooney et al. , 2004 p. 30). David Farrington argued that criminal offending was part of a larger syndrome of anti-social behaviour and through his long term studies known as longitudinal studies: found that there was a strong relationship between offenders and family experiences (Mooney et al. , 2004 p. 31).
The Chicago School of sociology looked at cultures and through participant observation where the researchers spent time within cultures and sub-cultures found that the majority of offenders where from inner city areas that suffered physical deterioration and deprivation they often had weak community values leading to the formation of gangs and their own set of norms and moral codes. (Mooney et al. , 2004 p32-33). But then we come to the rational choice theory also researched by the Chicago School of sociology, most criminals are normal reasoning people.
They see the criminal act as a means to an end and depending on the individual and their preferences a criminally minded person would make a decision and in their eyes rationally so (Mooney et al. , 2004 p. 33-34). Offenders can ultimately come from all walks of life but if we look at the statistics the majority of offenders are males in their teens through to their early thirties (Mooney et al. , 2004 figure 7, p. 20). So why are we so fearful of crime?
Looking at statistics from the British Crime Survey (BCS) carried out in 1982 7% of males aged 61+ felt ‘unsafe’ compared to 4% of males aged 31-60 and 1% of males aged 16-30. Only 16% of women aged 16-30 felt ‘unsafe’ compared to 35% of females aged 31-60 and 37% of females aged 61+ (Mooney et al. , 2004 p. 21). Drawing on these statistics it appears that the ‘older generation’ are most in fear. This could then lead back to the common sense story that the UK post World War II is suffering from rising crime and a lack of moral standards.
In conclusion the media plays a very big part in both our fear and fascination with crime. On the one hand we have news programs reporting a rise in crime based on the release of official statistics (which cannot always be taken at face value) but also reporting on individual cases of crime. We have newspapers full of stories of criminal activities but can be quite deceiving depending on the angle the editorial is taking.
Seeing these reports day in and day out makes us socially aware of the crime around us regardless as to if we have been a victim. We begin to fear crime and become fearful of it happening to us. Now on the other hand television plays a very big role with our fascination with crime, it now has several programs and not to mention dedicated channels relating to crime or criminal activities, some from personal accounts, some fly on the wall documentaries most of which are recorded from several different perspectives i. e. he victim, the offender, the observer etc.
The ratings that these programs are receiving go to show just how fascinated we are with crime but why we are fascinated? Another question that bears many answers, it could be as said by Jack Katz (1996) ‘Watch vandals and amateur shoplifters as the duck into alleys… and you will be moved by their delight in deviance… Watch the strutting street display [of gang members] and you will be struck by the awesome fascination that symbols of evil hold… ‘ (Mooney et al. , 2004 p. 14).