Criminal Decision Making: The Elements of the Culture of the Street and Party Life and Their Relation to Criminal Decision-Making
Understanding offenders' lifestyles and the process by which they choose to commit criminal acts is critical particularly because it has important implications for crime control. Very often, certain elements of the street and party life influence the offender's assessment of the risks and rewards of crime. According to Shover and Honaker (1992), commitment to drugs and partying, as well as street culture, leads to alienation of offenders from mainstream society and pushes them away from a conventional life. Over time, they adopt a socially bounded rationality and become accustomed to a criminal lifestyle to a point where they break the law as a result of addiction, rather that free will. It is, therefore, imperative to understand the role played by these lifestyles in shaping the motivation for crime because it will help determine effective methods that should be taken to reduce property crime such as auto theft and burglary, homicides, murders, and many other forms of violent crimes. Hotchstetler (2001) also states that it is essential to focus on mental processes, interactions and actions that link offenders backgrounds to criminal choices and immediate environments, because it will provide insight on preventive measures that may help reduce crime. This text evaluates the elements of street culture and a party lifestyle and how they relate to criminal decisions making. It also takes a detailed look at the implications these elements might have on crime control.
Some offenders become accustomed to a 'party' lifestyle, where they attend parties daily, consume numerous forms of drugs, and thrive in the company of like-minded carefree acquaintances. Party pursuits are characterized by values of spontaneity, independence, and autonomy, where they live in the moment and allow pleasures to develop in an unconstrained fashion. More specifically, their social world puts great emphasis on living on the fast lane and the need to support this lifestyle makes criminal behavior seem more rewarding.
Shover and Honaker (1992) explain that this lifestyle makes offenders become increasingly dependent on chemical substances and drug using routines common in these parties, which impairs their judgment and makes them commit crimes without the fear of repercussions. One of the subject interviewed attributed his ability to ignore thoughts of arrest or death after committing a crime to a state of drug altered consciousness and intoxication. Addiction to these substances also helps them maintain a sense of normality as they commit crimes to avoid drawing attention, which may lead to arrests.
Party pursuits erode financial resources because individuals cannot be sustained by legitimate awareness, and they are often unwilling to balance work schedules and party attendance. In fact, the hours they should be at work are those they consider the best times of day for committing property crime (Shover and Honaker, 1992). As demonstrated in the video on Alex Cheesequay's descent into homicide, the lifestyle requires a continuous supply of money with no method of generating an income. One subject claimed that they would make as much as $3,000, all of which would go to cocaine or would be spent in one or two days. The lack of non-criminal sources of income, therefore, reinforces the need to commit crimes to sustain their party lifestyles. Alternatives such as support from family members eventually fail to work as most of the money borrowed is never paid back, and it is used for drugs and other unhelpful commitments. Furthermore, they become accustomed to luxury and ostentatious enjoyment that would not be attainable with the earnings of regular employment, and they turn to violent crime to maintain this status.
Party pursuits attract offenders because the peer influences enhance the pleasure and permit a display of independence that makes them feel accepted (Shover and Honaker, 1992). The peer influence and desire to fit in facilitates criminal acts because they feel a sense of belonging and accomplishment once they succeed without getting caught. Moreover, when party pursuits fail to go as planned, offenders are plagued with feelings of drug abuse, and acts of crime increase because they cannot be held accountable.
The street culture
According to Hochstetler (2001), street offenders in the United States commit acts of crime when in the presence of co-offenders. What this implies is that participation of the street culture will eventually interfere with an individual's subjective view of the risks and rewards of crime. Some common patterns of interpersonal dynamics prevalent in street activities also contribute to the creation of criminal opportunities.
Offenders usually make criminal decisions according to the norms and beliefs associated with street life activities. Just like the party lifestyle, the main element in street life is the pursuit of status and pleasure through conspicuous consumption and leisure without any concern for commitments and obligations. Offenders share this lifestyle with others that live similarly, which makes them resort to criminal acts to sustain their lifestyles. As one offender explained, continuous and mobile partying enabled him to maintain drug habits through sharing and the lifestyle made locating criminal opportunities effortless (Hochstetler, 2001). Enjoyment becomes defined by effective management of criminal events.
Street life offers solace from economic crises, family problems, and personal problems that offenders might be facing. In fact, many offenders explained to investigators that it reached a point where they gave up on conventional lives and committed themselves to street living. Overindulgence in drugs once on the street makes them paranoid and edgy and from their point-of-view, it becomes more sensible to commit crimes to have something to worry about instead of constantly watching out for the police. Hochstetler (2001) also explains that during street activities, offenders also encounter many admirers of their fearlessness and risk taking particularly because it provides much needed resources to the groups. Thus, criminal activities become the perfect opportunity to display this courage and at the same time provide money and drugs.
As offenders meet new people, the composition of street gangs change and they reorganize themselves to commit more daring crimes. Car theft, for example, is a common street crime that requires more specialized knowledge than other crimes and it relies on social networks on the streets to acquire and disseminate criminal information (Mullins and Charbonneau, 2010). Hochstetler (2001) states that they often build each other's confidence by using optimistic conversations to encourage each other before committing a criminal act. As offenders adapt to the street culture, they become accustomed to what the author refers to as 'target convenience', where street groups make criminal decisions when the offenders mutually and instantaneously spot an appealing target. In such instances, communication is limited to nods and gestures, and robberies and burglaries are committed in the form of dares and games (Hochstetler, 2001; Wright and Decker, 2009).
Implications for crime control
The elements of street culture and party life provide useful insight on the thought processes of offenders who abandon their normal lives for these lifestyles. Investigators get to understand the types of criminal activities these groups are likely to engage in and what their motivations are. Interviews with offenders who are caught may help law enforcement officers track potential crime members and avert planned crimes before they are committed. Hostetler (2001) states that geographical and social proximity to crime and situations that lead to crime can also be identified to point out risky areas that need constant monitoring.
Reducing accessibility to targets may reduce target convenience and increase awareness among citizens, in general, of certain activities they engage in that encourage crime. These include flashing money, provoking offenders, leaving property unattended or shouting confidential information while on phone (Wright and Decker, 2009). Understanding that groups that have successfully committed minor crimes have the potential of committing even bigger crimes may also help improve private security and defense in dangerous neighborhoods.
Quantitative and qualitative studies of the influence of street and party lifestyles will support theories applied by the criminal justice department and it will also improve the specifications of the established models to facilitate more effective decision making in relation to crime. For example, it will be easier to determine the most efficient methods of rehabilitation to avoid peer pressure and recidivism once offenders get back to the community. Overall, a thorough comprehension of elements of street culture and party lifestyles allow for a better understanding of criminal behavior and will lead to more effective crime control policies.
The decision making process of an offender is influenced by their lifestyle and the social context that leads to that lifestyle. Party lifestyles make offenders increasingly dependent on drug and substance abuse, which interferes with their sense of right and wrong - leading to criminal activities. It also depletes financial resources while at the same time making them adopt an expensive lifestyle, promotes autonomy and independence, and reduces personal…
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