Crime and criminalization are dependent on social inequality Social inequality there are four major forms of inequality, class gender race and age, all of which influence crime. In looking at social classes and relationship to crime, studies have shown that citizens of the lower class are more likely to commit crimes of property and violence than upper-class citizens: who generally commit political and economic crimes. In 2007 the National Crime Victimization Survey showed that families with an income of $15000 or less had a greater chance of being victimized; recalling that lower classes commit a majority of those crimes. We can conclude that crime generally happens within classes.
Property Crime can be defined as the unauthorized taking or damaging of an individual’s personal belongings. This is not limited to robbery of any kind, fraud, or even arson, but all of these crimes have several coinciding traits that group them under this term. While property crimes are meant to take something that is not ours and use it for our own advantage, violent crimes are used to harm or even kill another rather than using for ones self. This includes hate crimes, murder, rape, and abuse.
Hate Crimes are unique because they usually target someone who’s different than the race or sex of that individual committing the offense whereas murder and assault are not always gender or race defined. Therefore, property and violent crimes are influenced by social inequalities that are caused by gender, race, income and age; thus why the legal definition of crime cannot cover all possible scenarios without taking each individual case and studying social behaviors in these of why or what was the cause of the crime committed. Criminalization occurs when laws are enacted to inhibit certain social behaviors, deeming actions that were not previously illegal to become punishable. An example of criminalization would be the acceptance of marijuana in the early 1900’s until the legislators decided that it would be deemed an illegal substance; thus making the act a crime and those who partake criminals. This is just one example of how a behavior is transformed into a crime and therefore monitored and regulated by forces such as the authorities.
Within the criminal justice system, the lawmakers and authorities have now taken criminalization to the next level by monitoring those who could be susceptible to committing crimes, watching certain neighborhoods and those who fit into the behaviors before the crime even committed. The criminal justice system takes into consideration the social stats of these people and decides who is ultimately going to commit the next crime based on the social inequalities found in our society. Social inequalities are the difference between one family having insurance and living in the suburbs, while others are in low-income housing and on welfare. Criminalization and Social Inequality are connected by the opportunities that could arise if the “playing fields” were completely unbiased and fair to all. This is not the case in America or anywhere for that matter, because not everyone has the same chances due to not having enough money to afford insurance, own a house, or to even provide for their family.
Is it a crime for a man to steal food if he is stealing so his family does not starve?Gender and gender identity also have an influence on crime. One form of criminalization in Maine is having a law that prohibits homosexual couples from wedding; however it is not a crime to be homosexual in Maine. Gender is also unique in that crimes can occur against individuals who are perceived to be “different” from the norm; crimes that often result in physical humiliation or death for the victim. On the other side of gender we can look at the frequency between which genders are more likely to commit specific crimes; for instance, most rapes are committed by a male offender. Females also commit rape but at a significantly less percentage than males; and the rape of a male will almost always be by another male, often in prison systems. Age also has an impact on crime.
Certain age groups are more likely to commit specific crimes; a prime example is teenage years. Teen are affected by peer pressure that can influence them to do things out of the ordinary. As many teenagers do not have a regular source of income, they can be tempted to shoplift to acquire clothes, cds, or other objects to fit in. Studies have found that this declines after high school when individuals must get a job to support themselves.
Age can also be an indicator of what ages are most likely to be the victims of specific crimes. A 2008 study by the Department of Justice found that most victims of violent crimes were between the ages of sixteen to nineteen and declined slowly after that. From this the Department of Justice was able to conclude that violent crimes are less likely to happen to individuals sixty-five and older. Race is the fourth major influence on crime.
Race is one of the most controversial influences, like gender, is often a force behind hate crimes. One blatant example of crimes against race is the Holocaust in which Hitler declared the extermination of the Jewish race and slaughtered millions of others deemed to be inferior to the “master race”. The “master race” is often the motive behind supremacist groups; like the Third Reich, the Ku Klux Klan considers whites to be the master race, and during the 1900s lynched countless African-Americans and homosexuals. However, by dividing social inequalities into, criminologist are able to determine which races are liable to commit property crimes or violent crimes.
Considering data from race, age, gender, and class allow criminologist and statistician to form a more complete profile of a crime. This data also allows them to be able to calculate which individuals will be most likely to commit a crime as well as what areas with a higher concentration of individuals. Police can be dispatched more efficiently to patrol these areas with higher frequencies of crimes. All the videos exemplified criminalization at one level or another. Mos Def in particular hit the nail on the head.
Specifically at the beginning at the video Bill Maher says “You have to admit that there are people who do want to kill Americans”, to which Mos Def replies: “Yeah some of them are called the police”. What Mos Def illustrates in his response is that discrimination can take the form of criminalization. He points out that although police can generally be seen as a force of good, they can be affected by biases such as race; this in effect makes them no different than other groups who seem others as inferior. This is best exemplified by the actions that occurred against the MOVE organization. On May 13th, 1985 Philadelphia police began to throw tear gas into the residence of the MOVE Organizations, when the residents failed to evacuate, police claimed to be fired upon and proceeded to shoot over 10,000 rounds at the house over the next two hours. As a final stand, a five-pound brick of C4 plastic explosive was dropped onto the roof of the MOVE residence, which when detonated caused the house to catch fire.
In total, there were eleven casualties, five children, 5 adults, and John Africa. The only survivor, Ramona Africa, maintains MOVE’s innocence and that none of the members fired upon police forces. Despite the controversy of May 13th, it exemplifies criminalization. The authorities felt threatened by a particular group, in this case MOVE, an organization predominantly African-American with radical political notions.
Although race may not have been affected the motives of the group it is possible that they affected the actions taken against them. Keep in mind that although African-Americans had equal rights in the 1970s and 1980s, they were still a minority and heavily discriminated against. Crime and criminalization can be ambiguous; crime is only crime until certain authorities deem the actions illegal. However, social inequalities can lead to increased crime rates, notions such as gender, age, race, and class influence crime and provide criminologist with the date to determine who is most likely to commit a crime and where.