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Understanding Criminology! Definition and Scope of Crime and Criminology



How is crime? What amount of crime is there, and what are the patterns and trends in the crime rate? How many people fall victim to crime, and who is probably going to end up crime victim? How did our system of criminal law develop, and what are the fundamental components of crime? These are the questions with which criminology is basically concerned.

What is Criminology?

Criminology is the scientific way to study criminal behaviour. In their definition, eminent criminologists Edwin Sutherland and Donald Cressey state:

Criminology is the body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomenon. It includes within its scope the processes of making laws, of breaking laws, and of reacting toward the breaking of laws. . .  The objective of criminology is the development of a body of general and verified principles and of other types of knowledge regarding this process of law, crime, and treatment.

Scope and Extent of Criminology:

Sutherland and Cressey’s definition incorporates probably the most critical areas important to criminologists:

  • Crime as a social phenomenon: Albeit a few criminologists trust that individual qualities and attributes may assume some part in the reason for criminal’s anti-social behaviour, most trust that social components are at the underlying driver of crime. Indeed, even the most disturbed individuals are affected by their surroundings and their social interactions and personal relationships.
  • The processes of making laws: Sutherland and Cressey’s definition perceives the relationship amongst crime and the criminal law and shows how the law characterizes crime. How and why laws are made and why some are reinforced and others eliminated is of great interest to criminologists.
  • Breaking laws and reacting toward the breaking of laws: At its center, the motivation behind criminology is to comprehend both the beginning of crime and the effective methods for its elimination. For what reason do individuals perpetrate unlawful acts, and what should be done to persuade them—and other people who are thinking about crime— and others who are contemplating crime—that it is in their best interests to turn their back on criminality? it is difficult to adequately control crime unless we comprehend its underlying cause.
  • Development of a body of general and verified principles: Sutherland and Cressey perceive that criminology is a social science and criminologists must utilize the scientific approach when conducting research. Criminologists are required to utilize substantial and solid test outlines and refined information investigation strategies or else lose standing in the academic circle

Defining a Crime:

Crime is an infringement of societal tenets of “proper conduct” as provided in a criminal legal code made by individuals holding social and political power. People who disregard these tenets are liable to sanctions by state authority, social stigma, and loss of status.

Elements of Crime:

Today, in all countries, the lawful meaning of a crime includes the components of the criminal acts that must be proved in a courtroom if the accused is to be found guilty. Generally, basic criminal acts have both mental and physical components, both of which must be present in the act to be regarded as crime. In order for a crime to occur, the state must show that the accused committed the guilty act, or actus reus, and had the mens rea, or criminal intent, to commit the act.

Actus Reus:

To satisfy the requirements of actus reus, guilty actions must be voluntary. Despite the fact that an act may cause mischief or harm, it isn’t viewed as a crime if it was result of an accident. For instance, it would not be a crime if a driver complying with all the traffic laws hit a child who suddenly appears before him. However, if a similar driver was under the influence of intoxicant or over speeding, at that point his activity would be viewed as a crime, since it was a result of negligence or want of proper care.

Mens Rea:

In most situations, for an act to constitute a crime, it must be done with criminal intent, or mens rea. Intent, in the legal sense, can mean carrying out an act intentionally, knowingly, and willingly. However, the definition also encompasses situations in which recklessness or negligence establishes the required criminal intent.

Criminology and Criminal Justice:

Criminology investigates the etiology (origin), extent and nature of crime in society. Criminologists are concerned about distinguishing the nature, extent, and reason for crime, while Criminal justice alludes to the agencies of social control that handle criminals. Criminal justice researchers take part in depicting, dissecting, and clarifying operations of the agencies of justice, particularly the police stations, courts, and remedial offices. They seek more effective methods of crime control and offender rehabilitation.


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