Crime Social Crime and Crime Research Paper

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Similarly, Green (2000) cites the reclassification of rape as a crime against the person as a good example of changing social views about acceptable behaviors and the consequences of unacceptable behaviors that involve violence. According to Green:

For example, the fact that rape is now generally classified as a crime against the person rather than as a morals offense (as was once common) is indicative of the evolution in society's views of that crime. Similarly, the classification of robbery as a crime against property rather than a crime against the person tells us something significant (and perhaps surprising) about how our criminal justice system views the act of theft by force or violence. (2000, p. 1087)

Therefore, the definition of crime against the person has significant contextual aspects that must be considered at a given point in time in determining the criminality of an act. With respect to this type of crime, though, tracking statistical changes in incidence is enormously complicated because of these changing views and how they affect law enforcement and the general public's views about a given act at a given point in time. For example, some jurisdictions may not report a crime against the person committed by youthful offenders as such because by the time such cases are adjudicated, few minors are actually charged with a serious level of violent crime (Hagell & Jeyarajah-Dent, 2006). According to these authorities, in most cases involving juveniles and crimes against the person, "In a relatively small number of cases, youths are charged with a serious crime against the person. . . . A conviction may follow, but for a different, less serious crime of violence. This explains why in 2001 only 65 minors [in the U.S.] received unconditional youth detention because of a serious crime against the person" (Hagell & Jeyarajah-Dent, 2006, p. 94).

Further complicating the analysis of violent crimes against the person has been the inability of law enforcement authorities to develop an accurate profile of victims of violent crimes because the majority of victims resembled their attackers in so many ways. For instance, Cragg (1992) reports that the results of an urban victimization survey of violent crime victims over the course of a decade showed that "a typical victim of crime against the person is a young unmarried male, living alone, probably looking for work, or a student, and with an active life outside the home -- not very different from the profile we might draw of the typical offender" (p. 231).

To date, a majority of courts in the United States have adopted a similar position with respect to the definition of violent crime against the person. According to Travis, "The majority of circuits have defined the term 'non-violent offense' as any crime that does not have 'as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force....'" (1996, p. 530). The courts in these American circuits have largely concurred that the definition of "non-violent offense" represents the converse of the definition of "crime of violence" set forth in the United States Sentencing Guidelines, Sections 5K2.13. Consequently, Travis notes that, "Any crime defined as violent under Sections 4B1.2, including threats of violence, are not 'non-violent offenses'" (p. 531). Furthermore, Green (2000) points out that there are some distinguishing characteristics of crimes against the person that set them apart from crimes against property. For instance, according to Green:

Whether a crime is classified as an offense 'against the person' or an offense 'against property,' for example, can determine matters such as whether a police officer is authorized to shoot a fleeing felon, whether a defendant can be extradited, which evidentiary standard a prosecutor should follow in deciding whether to charge a suspect, and whether an attorney has an ethical obligation to disclose a confidence regarding the possible future commission of a crime. (2000, p. 1087)

Although at the personal level, this type of distinction may be less important that the outcome of the encounter, violent criminal acts must be reasonably considered to be the most violative of the social contract and therefore also the most demanding of criminal justice. Some authorities, though, have argued that some types of social crimes are even more violative. For example, following the Enron meltdown and subprime mortgage crisis and the Great Recession of 2008 that had global implications, some observers asked, "Cannot white-collar/financial crime of such disruptive magnitude be construed as a far greater offense against the social contract than any single crime against the person, up to and including homicide?" (Salerno, 2009, p. 35). Notwithstanding this impassioned plea for justice for the countless victims of these corporate shenanigans, though, these types of social crimes do not constitute capital offenses but many types of crimes against the person do carry this penalty (Salerno, 2009).


This paper provided a review of the relevant juried and scholarly literature concerning crime in general, social crimes and violent crimes against the person. An examination of the relevant research indicated that a crime is generally defined as an act that is violative of some legal proscription. Social crimes were shown to be criminal acts that were also violative of some legal proscription, but which also required some type of restitution to the community. Both crimes in general and social crimes in particular were shown to be highly contextual in nature, and are subject to interpretation. Violent crimes, though, were shown to be more clear-cut, with even threats of violence being grouped together in this category in many jurisdictions.


Black's law dictionary. (1999). St. Paul, MN: West Publishing Co.

Carrington, P.J. (1999). Has violent youth crime increased? Canadian Journal of Criminology,

37(1), 61-73.

Cragg, W. (1992). The practice of punishment: Towards a theory of restorative justice. New York: Routledge.

Green, S.P. (2000). Deceit and the classification of crimes: Federal Rule of Evidence 609(A)(2)

and the origins of the crimen falsi. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 90(4),

Hagell, A. & Jeyarajah-Dent, R. (2006). Children who commit acts of serious interpersonal violence: Messages for best practice. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.

Hughes, G. (1998). Understanding crime prevention: Social control, risk, and late modernity.

Philadelphia: Open University Press.

Lanier, M.M. & Henry, S. (1998). Essential criminology. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

McMullan, J.L. & Perrier, D.C. (2002). Lobster poaching and the ironies of law enforcement.

Law & Society…[continue]

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