Definition and Description
An action is qualified as a crime if it “offends the strong, well-defined states (sentiments) of the collective consciousness” (DiCristina, 2016 p.318). A felony is a deliberate act of omission or commission of actions that contravene morals or the states of collective consciousness (DiCristina, 2016). Robbery is an excellent example of a criminal act. Robbery is any theft achieved by the use of force, threats, or violence against a person or their property. There are four distinguishing elements of a robbery: (i) the deprivation of property, (ii) the deprivation is permanent, (iii) the use of intimidation and/or violence, and (iv) the presence of the property owner or somebody else. For instance, when a hooded gunman enters a store points a gun at the cashier, and demands the cashier to empty the cash box into a bag before making away with the loot is a robbery. Robbers occur in three tiers – beginners, professionals, and desperation (opportunist) robbers (Kroese & Staring, 1994). For beginners and professionals, robbery is a rational lifelong choice, often beginning from petty crimes whereas, for opportunists, robbery is an avenue to satisfy discontentment (Kroese & Staring, 1994). Beginners and professionals take robbery as a lifelong activity while desperation robbers view it as a one-time event to solve their discontentment. Nonetheless, the motivation behind the robbery commission varies amongst the three groups.
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The anomie-depravation-action (ADA) theory would be an appropriate framework to explain the criminal behavior of robbers. The assumption of human nature made in constructing the ADA model is that deprivation drives people to act to eliminate the demands it creates. Whether the perpetrator is a beginner, professional, or opportunist, what they have in common is that they have suffered deprivation. A second assumption is that deprivation arises from anomie only. Despite some literature showing proof of biological factors such as psychophysiology, brain, and genetics (Ling, Umbach, & Raine, 2019), ADA uses deprivation to elucidate the incentive to rob. It is rational, therefore, to assume the deprivation comes from the offender’s environment – the anomie. In his work, “The Division of Labor”, Durkheim postulated anomie as an “abnormal [anomic] form of the division of labor” as cited in DiCristina (2016) p.312. When there is no adequate regulation on the relationships between the components of society, there exists an anomic division of labor. The well-defined states of collective consciousness represent the criminal laws that govern the relationships between society members (DiCristina, 2016). The underregulated interactions in society create the opportunity to commit the felony of robbery.
ADA avoids the argument in differential association theory that crime is a learned behavior instead of a biological precipitate (Maloku, 2020). ADA disregards whether the robber learned their behavior or was born one. The core of ADA is that criminal behavior has a motivation. The motivation here is the reward gained as the perpetrator seeks to eliminate a deprivation created by anomie in a society that is inadequately governed through collective consciousness because of the anomie’s existence. The action of the offender completes the framework because if the depraved individual does not act, then there is no crime.
Implications for Public Policy
In terms of policy, what matters is not the efficacy of punishment, rehabilitation, longer prison terms, or more police officers in the streets to correct criminal behavior. As the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2018) posit, the best cure for crime is proactive policing, the main tool of which is predictive policing. This tool uses geospatial prediction with software-generated maps and analytics to predict the time, location, and even the nature of a crime likely to occur. Provided that the anomie and deprivation are present in society, individuals will be driven to acts of crime. Proactive policing is better than active one because it does not only resolve past crimes it also uses previous criminal data, trends, and activities to predict the probability of crime incidences. Embracing proactive policies emphasizes more on preventing criminal activity than on how well to punish a wrongdoer.
- DiCristina, B. (2016). Durkheim’s theory of anomie and crime: A clarification and elaboration. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 49(3), 311-331. doi: 10.1177/0004865815585391
- Kroese, G., & Staring, R. (1994). Commercial robbers and decision making (Dutch Penal Law and Policy Notes 10). The Hague, Netherlands: WODC.
- Ling, S., Umbach, R., & Raine, A. (2019). Biological explanations of criminal behavior. Psychology, Crime & Law, 25(6), 626-640. doi: 10.1080/1068316x.2019.1572753
- Maloku, A. (2020). Theory of differential association. Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 9(1), 170. Web.
- National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). Proactive policing: Effects on crime and communities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Web.