Crime and Punishment

I can’t get too excited about victimless crimes, that is to say crimes in which the only victim is the person committing it. Those who want to self-destruct – provided the consequences are not shouldered by others – have the right to do it. Everyone has the moral responsibility for their own person.

Crimes against others is another matter. Nobody has the right to inflict physical harm on another. Nor does anyone have the right to harm us emotionally or economically. There are degrees of damage, obviously. Defamation does not bring the harm that torture, rape or murder does. In a just world, the punishment must fit the crime.

Perfect justice must begin with absolute proof of guilt. Such is often not the case as evidenced by the numerous prisoners exonerated by DNA testing. Punishment meted out unfairly is one of the cruelest forms of torture. The desire to give innocence every chance to emerge is perhaps in large measure the reason our criminal justice system often bogs down with technicalities and loopholes.

If a person is guilty of violent crime what do we do then? The first step in a rational approach is to decide whether we want violent criminals to be free to roam our streets. We could be “kind and understanding” and let them go after a little counseling. But the evidence does not demonstrate that works. To be safe we’d all have to arm ourselves as increasing numbers of violent criminals roamed the streets.

If we are to protect ourselves from such criminals, there are two logical choices:

1. We lock them away in a box six feet under ground after executing them. The most just way to do the killing is exactly the way they did it to their victim. That is a permanent solution, sure and just but it makes me uneasy since there is almost always the question of true guilt.

2. We lock them away in some type of secure institution. Since I am trying to come up with a logical solution, that institution would not be our present prison system.

The second option leaves room for the possibility of exoneration with new exculpatory evidence. But if not prison, what? Criminals should be put on secure restitution work farms instead. There they will toil producing useful labor or goods for society commensurate with the damage they have done. The victim’s medical bills, lost work and incapacities must be paid for by the offender. Moreover, all the costs to society for investigations, trials and room and board while incarcerated must be paid. (A great motivation for those guilty to admit it and reduce the legal costs.) The time it takes for economic restitution would by and large dictate the length of the term. For example, if you attack another, incapacitating them, then you get to spend whatever time is necessary earning the money to take care of them. Those who take another’s life must substitute their own life with a lifetime of productive work to repay society and the victim’s family.

Isn’t this an obvious solution? Mere imprisonment with society picking up the tab for the police and legal work and the maintenance of the criminal is nuts. Why should the victim and society pay for the evils of the wrongdoer?

How do you force someone in prison to work off his or her debt? Give them a choice. Either do it or go without food and shelter. That is the law that works throughout nature so why not apply it to humans? How do you maintain discipline on the farm? Well, a hard day’s work will leave little energy for much more than rest. As it is now, prisoners sitting in cells all day have nothing other to do with their energy than scheme more wrongdoing. With my idea those who are a problem get penalized with an extension of their stay and longer work shifts.

This is a fair and just way to deter crime and offset the damage created by it. It does not have the potential of unjustly taking the life of another since time would be provided for proof of innocence. And I’m not talking chain gang here, but rather passable work and living conditions with the product of labor going where it should, to the victims and society. U.S. companies are always looking for a cheaper labor force. Well here it is, right on our own shores numbering in the tens of thousands.
There is nothing better to sober someone up and drain them of the energy to think up nefarious deeds than a hard day’s work. For minor offenders who have a stint in these restitution farms and are then released, they will know what work is, actually improve their resume, spread the word on the street that crime means hard work and be motivated not to return. If they repeat offend, then society will not be the one to suffer. Criminals should be self-maintaining, even a profit center rather than an economic sinkhole.

Our present penal system does not work. It is a huge and unjust cost to society. To many it neither serves as punishment nor deterrent. About three quarters of all U.S. prison space has been built in the last decade. Just in California the chances that a person either lives or works in a prison is 1 in 200.

It’s a crazy state of affairs. I wish I could be warden of the world tomorrow and fix it all.

Violence and Violent Crime – The Gender Consideration

Women and men both commit, and are victims of, crimes but are their perspectives, understandings and interpretations of crime (either as victim or perpetrator likely to be different)? How and why – or even if – is a matter of debate; theorising on these matters is difficult depending on the perspective of the researcher.

Men and women also commit violence but their motivations are likely to be different; men may do so to assert their dominance over a situation, a territory, or person; to ensure that their masculinity is not in doubt. Women may do so in defence of their children, themselves, family, friends and perhaps even their property. However, if women are becoming as violent as men for the same reasons as men, does this mean we are moving in a direction which is irreversible? Would such a trend, if it truly existed, necessarily be a perilous one? More importantly, why does the notion of women becoming violent (or becoming more violent) cause such consternation in society whilst violence by, and towards, men is accepted as part of their masculinity?

Women are statistically less likely to commit crimes, particularly crimes of violence; however, numbers of women being arrested, cautioned and imprisoned for violent offences are rising. Media reports and government statistics all appear to show that women are increasingly involved in crime, particularly violent crime. In England and Wales, the number of females in custody was 4,445 (24 November 2006) with the highest number being attributed to drugs offences whilst violence was second. In Scotland, the figure was 326 (24 November 2006), though ambiguous as it does not specify the gender of (i) ‘lifers’ who have been recalled (ii) those convicted but awaiting sentence/deportation (iii) those under sixteen years of age. Williams states that, in a nine year period, there was a rise of 140% for female offenders incarcerated (1993-2001) despite the fact that offending rates remained relatively stable. In the United States, figures show that although incarceration rates were rising, violent offences by women were going in the opposite direction; women’s involvement in violent offences showed a minimal rise (from 10.8% to 12.3%). This may, however, be reflective of changes in recording, prosecuting and incarcerating female offenders rather than any actual increase in the rate of female offending itself.

Violence is often fuelled by substance abuse, via alcohol or drugs or both and this is the case both for men and women. Males perpetrate the highest numbers of crimes, violent or otherwise, and they also account for the highest number of victims of violent assaults; women, however, as perpetrators of violent crimes in particular are on the however women are apparently working hard to catch up. Certainly, the media portrays young women as being ‘as bad as boys’ when it comes to violence, particularly when fuelled by alcohol; city centres across the UK have a large problem with violence but this is possibly due to an increasing culture of binge-drinking. Indeed, as recently as December 2006, reports of violence fuelled by alcohol were in the news again; this time, however, the focus was not the violence as such, but that the perpetrators of the violence were female.

A BBC article quotes Dr Jon Cole of Liverpool University who believes that, whilst it does not cause aggression, alcohol stops sensible choices being made “You make the easiest choice, which is often aggression”. The same article refers to a study by The Glasgow Centre for the Study of Violence which showed that women were involved in almost half of all the pub fights observed. Further, medical research shows that testosterone levels in women rise by fifty percent in females, but is lower in males when they become drunk.

Violence however is a term which can be interpreted in many ways: one particular study shows females’ understanding and interpretation of violence is unusual (see Burman below). There are accepted definitions of violence or aggression: crime is “an action which constitutes a serious offence against an individual or…state…”; violence: “behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill; strength of emotion or of a destructive natural force”. Aggression: “hostile or violent behaviour or attitudes; the act of attacking without provocation…”.

In the study undertaken by Burman et al, verbal abuse and the spreading of rumours was seen as ‘violent’ or more aggressive than physical violence (such as being punched). If verbal, rather than physical, violence causes more concern girls, should we take this as an indication that girls consider violence to be a psychological rather than physical problem? Why do some girls have a greater fear of violence which is spoken whilst most people, and particularly boys, are more inclined to class violence as a physical assault?

Fear of violence is often more potent as it is the ‘unknown’; the precise time and place of being the recipient of violence is unknown with domestic violence victims, but they are kept on alert because they know it is going to occur at some point. However, from a legal point of view, violence and violent crime, is where physical injury is inflicted and only in recent years was psychological trauma accepted as a ‘violent offence’ (see Protection from Harassment Act 1997).

Given the low numbers of women who offend, both historically and in recent times, it is unsurprising that studies into female criminality were either ignored or undertaken in relation to their interaction with, and response to, male violence and criminality. It is also unsurprising that female criminologists found the need to fill this gap. In the past, women were classified into two types: mad or bad. Most female offenders convicted of violent crimes were seen as women who fought back against domestic violence or who protected their children; others were considered ‘evil’ and historically, were considered witches or concubines of the devil. We may now have a better understanding of criminality, but this has not stopped the ‘bad’ or ‘mad’ viewpoint from being represented by the media, the public and in some quarters of the criminal justice system when females are involved.

Women are viewed as more deviant than their male counterparts as they have not only offended against the criminal code but also against social convention. Whereas social rules and convention have changed over time, women are still considered to be mothers, wives, lovers and workers but not offenders; rarely do we expect women to commit violent offences. Those who do are vilified for years possibly serving longer terms than male counterparts, particularly when they offend against those they are supposed to protect.

Myra Hindley and Beverley Allit both murdered children; Allit did so as a nurse so could be again seen as doubly deviant as her occupation – as well as her gendered role – was one of carer.
It is difficult of course to do a proper comparative analysis without knowing the details of the ‘violence against the person’ offences committed by both men and women. There are a number of ‘assaults’ committed by women which may well not have been prosecuted had they been committed by men; it is impossible to say without knowing more about both the offence and the offender (regardless of gender). Obtaining goods for sale (to provide money to pay bills/food) or obtaining goods – such as shoplifting food/clothing is more common among female offenders than males. Analysis of current statistics shows that the highest number of female offenders committed ‘drugs offences’ with the second highest being for ‘violence against the person’ followed by ‘theft and handling’. For many, women who commit violence do so mainly in self-defence or protection of a child; females are not seen as inherently violent. But is this perception false or misleading?

Most studies of the culture and phenomenon of gangs tend to focus on males (though some do mention ‘girl gangs’ or girls in gangs as a peripheral but distinctly intricate part of a predominantly male gang). However, a problem arises which is twofold: firstly and perhaps obviously, not all female offenders – violent or otherwise – are in gangs. Secondly, there is a danger that the study will produce results more likely to provide an insight into gang culture rather than any comparative study of female and male criminality.
Current statistics show the highest number of female offenders committed ‘drugs offences’ with the second highest for ‘violence against the person’ followed by ‘theft and handling’. For many, women who commit violence do so mainly in self-defence or protection of a child; females are not seen as inherently violent. But is this perception false?

One of the possible reasons behind women committing fewer ‘serious’ offences could be their role as mother/carer. Given that a large proportion of children are either brought up by single mothers or by mothers due to fathers working longer hours (or being the sole breadwinner) women generally have the main, if not sole, responsibility for child rearing. Therefore, the ability for women commit crimes – unless they left their children elsewhere, or were childless – was severely restricted. The risk of being caught and sent to prison – and violent offences generally attract higher tariffs – meant that any benefit of committing a crime seemed unattractive. Of course, this assumes that women who commit offences chose to do so for pragmatic/rational reasons; classicists will be jumping for joy!

In terms of victimisation, women are largely accountable for rape or other sexual assaults but even here the amount of disproportionate statistical analysis is difficult given that male rape and male sexual assault is under-reported and (in some countries) legally ignored. Stigma attached to victims of sexual assault is horrendous for female victims but this is more so when victims are male. This is largely due to men being perceived as (i) the aggressors or (ii) physically able to fight off an assault.

In England and Wales, legislation is quite specific in terms of the crime of rape in that a penis must be inserted into either a vagina or the anal passage (or mouth); so whilst a victim may be either male or female, the perpetrator must be male. In Scots law, the act of rape can only be committed by a man on a woman; male on male sexual assault is just that – sexual/indecent assault but not rape. Where victim and perpetrator are one and the same (e.g. an abused wife retaliates against her husband) there are inconsistencies between the genders. According to CEDAW, women are more likely to ‘to be killed than to kill’ but the legal system discriminates; women who kill their [often abusive] husbands are convicted of murder whilst men who kill their wives are convicted of manslaughter. Thus, if convicted of murder which women are, the only sentence available is life; even when convicted of murder, men and women are still treated differently with tariffs higher for women than men.

Male perpetrators may be more selfish in their approach to crimes; committing offences which are directly of benefit and which give an immediate sense of gain. In violence, men use violence as a first, rather than last resort, as it on two levels it gets them what they want: the first is the object of their attention, the second is status and self-belief in their own ability. Violence for many men seems to be a way to [re]assert their masculinity. Violence committed by women – on the whole – appears to be a last resort; there was no other way to get either in or out of a situation and thus violence was used.
Of course, there are criminal couples: men and women who work together – though not necessarily in harmony – to make financial and other gains. Prostitutes have for many years used (and been used by) male pimps. The men offer protection, security from harassment whether this is from other working women, volatile clients and other pimps who want to ‘muscle in’ on the money earned by the prostitute.

The pimp will use violence as a means of asserting his status has being in control of both the woman and the environment within which they work. Of course, the prostitute herself is committing a criminal offence in soliciting on the street and may herself use violence against her client and other working women. The implied consent that women give to men who pimp them is that violence is acceptable: they will not want nor like the violence used against them but most accept it as part of their lives and also want the volatility of the pimp to be known to others as a way of protecting themselves from other females and clients.

Theorising about the motivations which drive offenders, male and female, tends to mean that we encapsulate whole groups of people by defining them on the basis of individual psycho-social profiles. This may be applicable for instances where groups commit crimes on a large scale, over periods of time, such as ethnic cleansing (which often entails the mass slaughter of males and systematic rape and impregnation of females – as seen in Bosnia for example).

Of course, systematic rape of females – and occasionally males – is a form of violence often used by groups of individuals sanctioned by the state (as seen in war situations) and also individuals in a domestic setting (the husband who forces his wife, girlfriend, etc.) and sexual violence is almost unique in that women – particularly in Scots’ Law – are not convicted of rape. There are cases where accomplice of facilitation of rape is conducted by a female against another female but these tend to be rare. One example would be the sexual abuse of young women by Fred West who raped and abused women with his wife; even here, however, the case showed that Fred West has systematically abused his wife and thus she may have complied and committed these acts to reduce her own victimisation.

Crime in general, whether violent or otherwise, may be more easily identifiable as a male characteristic in society rather than female simply because of historical social conventions. Women had to care for their homes and families; opportunities for women to offend were minimal in that they had limited access to places which would allow them to commit crimes. Men, on the other hand, were often the workers, the drinkers, the socialisers (women entertained their friends, but this was often in homes rather than public houses, etc.) and thus opportunity was greater for them. If nothing else, in historical times, the clothing a woman wore would make burglary (e.g. entering a house via a window and then removing goods) quite difficult though perhaps not impossible! Even in more recent times, women were seen to steal for ‘good’ rather than ‘bad’ reasons: they stole food from supermarkets rather than goods to be sold for hard cash.

Those who were caught may cry and reduce themselves to the ‘helpless desperate female’ and an invariably male security guard or store manager, may find himself torn between chivalry or sympathy towards the woman and his job. If a man was caught in the same act of theft, it is possible that (if denial did not work) then aggression would result in a negative reaction from staff and thus prosecutions of males were more likely.

Given that males generally appear to be more confrontational – and this may be anthropological in origin – whereas woman appear to take the path of least resistance, it is possible that perpetrators of crimes (particularly non-violent crimes) are likely to find that their gender reflects their culpability in the eyes of the law and any enforcement officers.

Over the last few years, and in particular in relation to younger offenders, females are less likely to be able to use their gender to escape punishment (though there may be some instances were this still applies, for instance speeding in cars). Whereas historically women might have been viewed as immoral, but not necessarily criminal, recent years have seen a shift so that they are not only immoral but most definitely criminal and thus should be treated equally by the criminal justice system. Inevitably, however, the public will view the criminal female as more criminal or more deviant than her male counterpart.

Women may also have a more pragmatic approach to criminal activity, violent or otherwise. It might be that they are more careful about exposing themselves to temptation for certain crimes (such as theft, fraud, etc.) or are so careful that they may go undetected. Men may well approach crime with a more arrogant attitude and feel their ability to escape detection is greater than male or female counterparts.
What theories therefore can be applied, if any whether partially or wholly, to violence and the men and the women who use it? It is difficult to state which ‘criminological theory’ can actually be applied completely to criminality without being considered either aligned to one discourse or another even if the intention is to avoid this. It may be impossible to apply the same theories of criminality for men and women given that attempts thus far have failed to provide any conclusive answer into the causation of criminality in female or male crimes.

The problem with analysing the comparison between male and female offenders is that whilst their motives might appear different, this is not necessarily the case. Influences such as biology, psychology, economic and education as well as society in general will have an impact on each individual’s behaviour and their understanding of what is acceptable. Violence is so often used as a means for dispute resolution – particularly in the younger generation – that we may be on an irreversible path.

As seems common within criminology, in order to explain criminality, attempts are made to encompass causation with one particular ideal or theory; it is due to this attempt to treat theories as mutually exclusive which results in failure.

Women are different in terms of their responses to crime and in particular violence, their use of violence against others and their understanding of violence and crime in general. Women have been dominated for so long and now they choose to fight back, they are regarded as more dangerous. They are altering perceptions held over a long period of time; that is not to say women will turn into Amazonian women ready to dominate the world and make men submissive creatures! However, if we – as women – want equality, it seems we have to fight twice as hard (even if that fight turns physical).

The criminal justice system now deals with far more women offenders than previous decades, but this is also likely to be in part attributable to the medicalisation of female offenders in the past. Now that this is no longer the case, women are identified as criminal not [mentally] ill and thus greater numbers are being included in criminal offending statistics. Greater reporting to the police, due to insurance requirements among other things, means that whereas those offences which may have been overlooked for being petty no longer are treated as inconsequential.

Whether one looks at the lack of implementation of equality for women, or whether men’s masculinity is eroded by women’s empowerment, whether abuse victims abuse others so they can gain control and power over another, many individuals commit crimes for reasons understood only by them – and perhaps not even then. Theories of crime, causation and criminality will be at ever increasing odds as elements of classicism, positivism, strain theory or a ‘pick-and-mix’ approach to all three are rejuvenated depending on the year or decade.

Advances in sciences (natural and social) may also play a part in the future of how criminality is considered; genetic or even social predisposition for criminality is not something which is seen on the movie screen, it is a reality which will be hitting us very soon if indeed it has not already done so.
Indeed, September 2006 saw the Labour Government publish their plans to improve families’ potential for achievement by the possible local or even governmental intervention for ‘problem families’. Critics were reported as fearing that the Government was entering the dangerous field of eugenics (so fatally but effectively seen during the Holocaust) or by creating ASBOs for children who were yet to be born on the basis of their parents’ socio-economic status.

Where does this leave the field of criminology? Governments may look to criminologists and other social scientists to address the question of crime and criminality and causes thereof but they may give limited terms of reference for research projects.

Criminology seeks to provide a definitive, exact answer to an inexact and (at times) inexplicable question: why do people (whether male or female) commit crime? Perhaps this is its failure and why, despite a growth of writers on the matter, nobody has arrived at an answer (which I argue is not possible in any event). Sociological, economical, psychological and biological factors all have to be considered and taken into account when dealing with any offender, male or female. Many treat criminal causation theories as mutually exclusive.

Criminological theory – even when considering all the elements therein – seeks to find a definitive answer where it is likely that none exist. Lack of a definitive answer, however, does not necessarily mean criminology has failed; it needs to evolve again. Perhaps for criminological theory, answers to questions are as fluid as the times in which they are considered. Evolution of criminology and the theories therein mean criminologists will have to choose the most logical and pragmatic elements, and discard elements which are obviously flawed (whether in whole or in part). This may be the way forward.

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Bibliography
“Textbook on Criminology” Fifth Edition. Williams, K: Published by Oxford University Press: 2004
“Race, Gender & Class in Criminology: The Intersections”. Edited by Milovanovic D & Schwartz M D Published by Garland Publishing in 1996. Chapter 7: “Sentencing Women to Prison” by Chesney-Lind, M

Concise Oxford English Dictionary: 11th Ed. Revised. Oxford University Press (2006).
“‘Taking It To Heart’: Girls and the meanings of violence.’ The Meanings of Violence” Burman, M, Brown, J & Batchelor, S. Published by Routledge in 2003.

England & Wales Official Prison Statistics: HM Prison Service: October 2006 Official Population Figures
Sexual Offences Act 1956; Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994; Sexual Offences Act 2003. Produced by HMSO.

“Violence Against Women in the UK” Kelly, L; Humphreys C; Sen, P & Womankind Worldwide. CEDAW Thematic Shadow Report. Published in 2003.

BBC News Website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5312928.stm dated 5th September 2006
BBC News Online Magazine: ‘On The Lash’ by Megan Lane & Tomiko Newson (see link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/6213686.stm) dated 8th September 2006.

Tennessee Sex Crimes

Sex crimes in the state of Tennessee are codified in Title 39, Chapter 13 of the Tennessee Code Annotated. These crimes can include rape, aggravated rape, sexual battery, statutory rape, solicitation of a minor, and patronizing prostitution. Perhaps the most serious consequence of being convicted of a Tennessee Sex Crime is having to go on the sex offender registry list. Under Tennessee law, anyone classified as either a “sex offender” or “violent sex offender” must register. The difference between the two is in the type of crime. A sex offender can be anyone who has committed crimes such as sexual battery, certain types of statutory rape, aggravated prostitution, sexual exploitation of a minor, and others. Violent sex offenders, as the name implies, are for more violent crimes such as aggravated rape, rape, and aggravated sexual battery.

Both violent and non-violent sex offenders must register upon being convicted of a Tennessee sex crime. Registration is usually done at a local law enforcement office. Violent offenders must report in person during the months of March, June, September and December. Non-violent sexual offenders must report in person annually between seven days before and seven days after their birthday. All offenders must report in person within 48 hours of changing their residence, job, or school.

Violent offenders must remain on the registry for life. Non-violent offenders may petition for removal after ten years from the end of their sentence, whether the sentence was probation or prison time. If the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation determines that the applicant has not been convicted of any additional sex offenses and has substantially complied with the requirements of registration, it will remove the offender from the registry.

One exception to the ten-year rule is where the offender is placed on judicial diversion. Diversion is the process of having a criminal charged dismissed and removed from the defendant’s record upon completing probation. Diversion is a special procedure and is not available to all defendants or for all charges. However, certain sex offenses in Tennessee are diversion eligible, and for those offenses the offender may be immediately removed from the registry upon expungement of the charge. For instance, both sexual battery and statutory rape are diversion eligible sex crimes in Tennessee. Both are Class E felonies punishable from one to six years. If the defendant is sentenced to one year and is granted diversion, at the end of the year they may have the charge removed from their criminal record and also may request to be taken off the sex offender registry.

This is not the case with most sex crimes in Tennessee, however. Most sex crimes cannot be removed from the individual’s record through diversion, and will require either lifetime or at least ten-year registration.

Offenders may find it hard to get a job or even a place to live. Under the law in Tennessee, registrants whose victim was a minor cannot live, work or undergo sex offender treatment within 1000 feet of a school, day care center, public park, recreation center or athletic field. All offenders, whether violent or non-violent and regardless of the victim’s age, must stay off school property, day care centers, public parks and recreation facilities when the offender has reason to believe children under 18 are present. In other words sex offenders can’t even go to the park.

Because of the serious and lasting consequences of a sex crime, individuals charged with one of these offenses should consult a Tennessee sex crimes lawyer to review the case.

How Effective are CCTV Security Systems at Reducing Crime?

Since the July 7th London bombings, CCTV security systems (closed circuit TV) across the world have been examined with greater scrutiny and with greater expectations for reducing crime. Although not a panacea for preventing crime, many CCTV surveillance systems have been successful at reducing some types of crimes like property crime, for acting as a deterrent in car parks or in other public places, and for making citizens feel safer. However, the results are mixed when addressing violent crimes and when the crimes involve alcohol.

In the UK, where an average person may be watched 300 times a day by the prevalent closed circuit television systems, numerous case studies paired with crime statistics have been used by Britain’s Home Office to determine the effectiveness of these CCTV systems and to see how well CCTV saves time and money for their police force. In fact, from 1999 to 2001, the British government spent £170 million (approximately $250 million) for closed circuit television security schemes in town and in city centers, car parks, crime hot spots and in residential areas.

Keys to evaluating CCTV systems

According to Coretta Philips of the Home Office Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, CCTV systems are evaluated using these identifiers which help police pinpoint where and when the CCTV security camera systems are most beneficial.

o Caught in the act — When potential offenders fear being recorded by the CCTV cameras for courtroom purposes, they usually abandon any idea of conducting a crime.

o Publicity — If the CCTV camera schemes are public knowledge, then the would-be offenders may leave the target area, but may head to another area. Home Office data found that in the days leading up to the CCTV system activation, crime went down due to the increased publicity. However, if the publicity of the CCTV system is private, then offenders may be more likely to be deterred because they may think that CCTV security cameras may monitor other areas as well.

o Effective deployment of law enforcement officers — CCTV systems increase the response time of police officers to the incident scene before a member of public has to call the police. According to data compiled in 2004 by the Home Office, CCTV operators can determine how many officers to send to the scene and the CCTV surveillance cameras can indicate what the offenders are doing at the scene before the police arrive.

o Time for crime — If the offenders think that they can complete their crime before the CCTV systems can record it, then the police will have less chance at capturing the offenders. For example, if car thieves know that the security camera’s angle, range and speed are limited, they might determine how to best avoid the CCTV security cameras. However, the Home Office CCTV data has shown a reduction in car thefts in car parks, revealing that some offenders may still be captured on camera despite the speed of the crime.

Where CCTV systems scored well and where they missed

Although CCTV systems seem to reduce and deter property crime in public areas, such as car parks or shopping malls, CCTV systems aren’t as effective at stopping or preventing violent crimes. Although the CCTV systems do help at deploying police officers quickly to these violent crimes sites, the offenders may avoid the security cameras, since the security cameras are mounted in public zones, where violent crimes don’t take place. In this case, better street lighting may help to prevent such violent crimes from occurring. In addition, when alcohol is involved, the offenders don’t consider the consequences of their actions, making the CCTV systems ineffective as a deterrent amongst the intoxicated offenders.

On a positive note, the CCTV systems do reduce the public’s fear of crime and they do ensure the quick deployment of officers to the incident scene which gives less time for the offenders to act more violently. To truly verify if the CCTV system is effective, the law enforcement body needs to conduct video surveillance evaluations over a long period of time to weed out any inconsistencies in the crime data. Also, if the CCTV operators are well-trained and know the fastest way to deploy the police officers, then the CCTV system will be more effective. CCTV systems are the future for preventing crime, and as the CCTV security cameras become more sophisticated, more offenders will be caught and more crimes will be prevented.

Copyright © 2005-2006 Evaluseek Publishing.

Is the Crime Rate Actually Dropping?

The FBI now has a report out on 2009’s crime rate compared to 2008. According to this report, violent crime is dropping in the 4 main categories:

1. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter, which is the willful killing of one person by another dropped 7.2%

2. Forcible rape decreased 3.1%

3. Robbery dropped 8.1%

4. Aggravated assault declined 4.2%

The larger cities in the United States seemed to have the largest percentage of decline in murders, whereas the smaller cities actually had a slight rise. There was also a slight rise in forced rapes in non-metropolitan areas, but in the larger cities and in all other categories there was a decline compared to 2008.

Now for the big question: What is causing the decline? As much as I would like to, I can’t bring myself to believe that criminal behavior is changing, that criminals are having a change of heart and becoming honest citizens.

I do believe, however, that more citizens are fighting back and doing more to protect themselves and their private property.

  • There are more neighborhood watches, making people suspicious of strangers in their neighborhoods and keeping an eye on each other’s homes.
  • More families are installing security devices in their homes to ward off intruders.
  • Kids are being taught self-defense and carrying cell phones and personal alarms to attract attention if they are being harassed by a stranger.
  • Women are carrying pepper spray and stun guns to decrease their chances of being attacked.
  • Surveillance cameras are in most businesses so robbers are aware they will be caught on tape.
  • Hidden cameras can now be set up in homes if a babysitter is suspected of stealing or abusing a child, stopping the situation before it gets out of control.
  • Dogs are becoming more a part of the family, protecting the home and property when the family is away.
  • Cell phones give witnesses a quick line to authorities if they observe a crime in progress so criminals are easier to catch in the act.
  • Vehicles are being made more difficult to break into.
  • Advances in forensic technology helps catch and convict more criminals.

I think criminals know that law abiding citizens are getting fed up and are more willing to fight back than in the past. It is not unusual for late night store employees to have some kind of protection device such as pepper spray, a stun gun or even a lethal firearm close by if needed, plus camera surveillance.

It is unfortunate that we have to be so alert, so aware of our safety in every situation, looking over our shoulders or out of the corners of our eyes for anything suspicious. But it may be what is working to bring down violent crime.

However, in spite of the fact that violent crime seems to be decreasing slightly, it isn’t that there are fewer criminals out there. I think it is just that they are meeting with resistance that was not present several years ago. They are running into technology and angry home owners, kids who know not to talk to strangers and who know what to do if approached by a stranger, women who know self-defense and carry self-defense weapons.

It’s getting tougher for the criminals. Maybe some are having second thoughts. Maybe some are actually realizing it isn’t worth the risk of getting caught and are turning their lives around for the better. Unfortunately they will never go away completely. However, we can continue our fight against them, continue to stay one step ahead of them and hope the occurrences of violent crime continue to decline.