Crime or criminal activities are intentional in most cases. However, accidental cases of crime have also occurred in the past where an individual has no express intention of committing a crime.
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When committed intentionally, varied reasons may be given by the defendant or their accomplices as what led to such an act. However, one common criterion that emerges from all cases of criminal activities is that their causes are the same: the need to satisfy a particular life’s desire.
Allow me to elucidate a case in point of criminal activity as far as law and personal observation are concerned. Sumit is a middle-aged man whose meager income cannot support his overall lifestyle. His family has been living in an agony of unsustainable income from his monthly salary.
Like any other normal human being, Sumit too has a personal desire as well as needs to satisfy. However, one major question emerges; to what extent should one go to satisfy his desires and preferred choices of life without being viewed negatively by society? In several attempts to make his life and that of his family better, he started engaging in all sorts of criminal activities, such as soliciting for bribes to accomplish certain deals in their offices.
As he continued with these minor criminal activities unnoticed, one time, his desires increased to have a posh life just like other well-to-do people. Due to his good records in place of work as a straightforward person, the manager had developed a tendency to send him to the bank to withdraw money for workers’ allowance, including his.
One of the days he was sent as usual, but instead of reaching the office with the money, his daring move made him steal the money he had withdrawn from the bank and made an escape from his home together with the family. With the withdrawn money stashed in a bag, Sumit relocated to a new place of residence far away from his previous home.
Unknown to him, the boss had become suspicious of his delay and in effect, sent someone to go and look for him at his place of residence.
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With much surprise to the boss, the person returned with the information that the home had remained vacant, and there was not even a single trace that Sumit and his family had lived there a few hours ago. On receiving the news, the boss raised a complaint with the head office and at the same time, informed the crime branch.
Armed with detailed information about the amount of money withdrawn and the time of withdrawal, the crime branch officials visited the bank branch where the money was withdrawn and got the serial numbers of the monies.
The serial numbers were sent to all state police stations all over the country and distributed to shops. In his spending spree, Sumit was caught using the money in one of the shops, where the shop owner alerted the police, and he was eventually arrested.
The Case of Opportunity and Risk
Though opportunities and situations are part of the root cause for criminal activities, it is just but one of those excuses that criminals would remorsefully give to escape punishment. It is noted that such criminal activities may lead to huge financial loss, emotional and psychological disturbances, and physical torture to individuals who commit them and to their families and friends.
How do crime commissions help investigate such cases of crime, such as money laundering and economic crime? The role of such a commission is to protect society from these unlawful activities. The important thing about such commissions is that they work within a certain code of ethics and are able to separate both juvenile and adult criminals.
The Legal Perspective of Law and Criminal Offense
The present sociological literature on white-collar crime reveals that the need to take the criminal’s attitude towards the crime committed is an important aspect of fair judgment (Downes & Rock, 2007). That is to say, if one is charged with the criminal activity is seen as more remorseful and requires another chance to live with people in the society, that remorsefulness should form part of the factors in the final judgment.
More often than not, an individual found to be factually guilty of committing a white-collar crime is never regarded to have committed an offense by the jurors. The modern legal sanctions, therefore, apply in cases where the public feels that their collective needs and desires are threatened by such an act (Walklate, 2007). In this dimension, the crime as an act is considered a problem only when it involves interpersonal conflict that perpetuates the offense.
But criminal law has characteristically reacted to this kind of deviance with a clear conscience of sanctions, with more cautious interpersonal conflict criteria and taking individual compliance to crime to precede everything (Downes & Rock, 2007). Moreover, white-collar crime is often treated with a light touch by the authority in charge of the prosecution.
Why does such a trend common with the higher authority that handles prosecution? Is it the belief of smaller theft, bigger punishment, and bigger theft smaller punishment? What makes someone who has stolen huge sums of money from the treasury attract lesser charges as compared to he who has just made away with a company property of little monetary value? According to the theory of crime causation, criminal activities are exclusively common problems with the low-income section of the society (Walklate, 2007).
In fact, white-collar offenders are never considered to have committed crime in many senses as they are seen as part of the higher class community who are never associated with crime. This kind of perception is rampant, especially among the jurors who wrongly believe that white-collar offenders are never criminals per se. Thus when it comes to judgment, their cases become lighter and attract relatively lesser charges.
The common perception is that crime depends on the societal social and economic strata, where those who belong to lower part of the strata are seen as synonymous with the crime while those in the upper echelon of society are characterized with white-collar offenses that do not affect individual persons directly (Watkins, 1997).
It, therefore, follows that juries are quite relaxed when it comes to convicting white-collar offenders even when there’s a clear show of evidence that the person has gone against the law.
The Sociological Understanding
It is more interesting when the case of Sumit was to be explained through sociological theories of crime. The unanimous agreement about these theories is that one can only be involved in criminal activity when circumstances force him or her to do so (Downes & Rock, 2007).
In other words, the need for survival can make one steal just like in the case of Sumit, although it is not acceptable by law. However, the behavior of a person will define the cause and at the same time, justify whether the person is a criminal or not. The desire to satisfy a certain need that has caused strain someone’s life may drive someone towards the act of committing the crime.
This kind of behavior is normally defined by the Strain Theory of Crime, which alludes to the fact that one individual involved in a criminal activity like theft of a state property such as finance may not come out from a wish to steal but is forced under the circumstances of poor income that cannot sustain him or her and the family (Barak, 2000). How this person behaves will determine whether the offense was committed willingly or under forced circumstances.
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The crime pattern theory also alludes to the belief that the behavioral nature of persons will determine what drove him or her into theft or any other criminal activity. It gives the reasons that lead to such a criminal activity hence a possibility of forced circumstances.
But how can forced circumstances be produced in the court as evidence, and does the law recognize it? In the case of Sumit, it may have been forced circumstances as crime pattern theory alludes. However, the fact that police investigations do not recognize forced circumstances, at least under the provisions of the law, is a clear indication of the difficulty in recognizing the claim. Moreover, convincing the court or providing evidence that Sumit will not commit another crime may not be possible with our court systems as it is not provided for under the law.
Public Perception of Crime
It is not a secret that the public or society loathes criminals for their activities. One person who has involved himself or herself in criminal activity is likely to get disapproval from other members of society. The criminal will be ashamed as everybody seems to be aware of his antisocial behavior. According to Barak (2000), the public character has defined how crime is treated in society.
It has also determined how the occurrence of crime and its identification is done, as well as the punishment criteria throughout the community. Basically, the public has a pattern of reaction where people respond to a particular antisocial behavior.
For instance, theft of public funds by a treasury official may cause public protest, forcing the government to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate the issue. However, if the public keeps silent over the matter, the crime commission may not be considered an important aspect by the government.
For the first time, criminal offenders, public trial, and conviction is a really humiliating experience. The involvement of the public in the process is meant to humiliate the offender; hence, the negative treatment of the offender is a show of disapproval by the community.
Similarly, it symbolizes those issues that the community will not stand for (Downes & Rock, 2007). For example, the public lynching of a petty offender is a clear show that the community cannot withstand the embarrassment of hosting a thief hence the need to isolate the case.
Utilitarianism, and Society and Its Moral Character
The concept of society is a complete contrast of what utilitarianism advocates. The latter is built on the belief that individuals assess their actions in terms of their efficacy; that is, the extent to which they are likely to acquire pleasure or avoid pain (Walklate, 2007).
Although it’s a fact that people normally concern themselves with such actions as satisfying their needs or looking for survival, they do not only concern themselves with questions of efficacy. The society members also prefer directing their opinions on whether an act is wrong or right or justified. In other words, society members are concerned with whether the behaviors of the societal members are moral in nature.
According to Durkheim (cited in Marion, 1994), the fact that members of the society have developed the social behavior of identifying right or wrong is a clear indicator of societal value for moral behavior.
Marion (1994) explains further that while we do have ‘instrumental’ purpose as defined with our moral bindings and we do have ‘utilitarian’ concerns as defined in the needs and desire, we don’t have purely instrumental and purely utilitarian concerns (p.94).
What matters most is the need to augment the two facts and develop a more and acceptable means of dealing with criminal offenders who go against society while trying to achieve their utilitarian needs.
For example, hunger is a very unpleasant occurrence, a very painful experience from the perspective of a utilitarian view, and is to be avoided at all costs. From a strictly instrumental view of societal morals, one is supposed to be concerned strictly with the alleviation of discomfort that comes with hunger by acquiring basic nutrients. These basic nutrients would serve the basic needs of the body.
While this argument may have some concrete reason for our daily life, it reaches a point in life when they need to be secured in the future comes in. The case for Sumit is a clear example of one who desired a better life more than the basic concept of life. I can, therefore, consider him as one who has, on many occasions, believed in the utilitarian view of life, at least considering what he eventually did.
While the moral dimension would not allow this view to be entrenched in society, its implementation is what has led to the theft committed by Sumit. Again, members of the society, including Sumit, may find it immoral to steal, the point remains clear that the offender’s utilitarian needs did precede the moral conscience.
So what can act as the intermediary, when the moral aspects are what determines the law and its contents, the utilitarian human needs define his or her actions? According to my view, this is where the crime commission comes in. It is important to note that the fact crime commission is able to augment the moral view and the utilitarian view of the people is what makes it a necessity.
Crime Control Policy and the Role of Government
The government is known to implement policies that are expected to solve a problem. When the legislature passes a policy on crime to be implemented by the government, it normally follows a certain guideline so as it can systematically reduce the crime rate or lessens criminal activities.
To effectively implement these policies, there’s a need for a body tasked with systematic handling of specific cases as they are presented within the government’s jurisdiction. The operation of such a commission is expected to “solve or at least cope with major social and economic problems” (Reuter, 2008, p.463).
It must be acknowledged that governments all over the world have been faced with various economic and social crimes at one time or the other. The assumptions among the populations of various countries are that governments should enact policies that solve these social and economic problems.
However, observations and literature show that without proper structures to implement these policies, many governments have failed to implement these resolutions as stipulated in the policy. The short term commissions formed to investigate ends up with findings that, in many cases, don’t get implemented.
It’s like the government’s mandate to eliminate crime is not accomplished; not even reduced crimes are visible. These policies historically do not eliminate crime, but they are used as initiatives to reduce criminal behaviors through a particular body in the commission. In this sense, the Crime Commission is being mandated with the task to monitor the progress of societal safety.
Being regulated by government and legislation regularly, the crime committed is expected to change with time, depending on the situation as presented by societal changes. The government, therefore, accomplishes the role of setting up the commission, in an attempt to consolidate its fragmented policies on crime control.
These policies are symbolic, in that legislators can use them to manipulate the needed changes as dictated by society. Once the government is able to set up a commission and enhances its operations through financing from the treasury, the public would feel safe as far as their confidence is concerned.
Role of Crime Commission on International Crime Control
Everybody is aware that drugs have formed a major concern to the world due to its trans-boundary nature. Many governments have made it a priority to control drug trafficking. In the United States, Reagan emerged as one of the most successful world leaders to have pronounced drug trafficking as a serious criminal offense (Marion, 1994). Since that time, many leaders all over the world have managed to speak openly about their concern on the sporadic spread of drug use in their respective nations.
The international aspect of drug trafficking has played an important role in the formation of crime commissions. The anti-drug efforts made by governments have mainly targeted international drug traffickers. It is noted that over the last three decades, Britain’s drug problem has risen to an unprecedented level.
This has happened despite the efforts by the government to implement several policy approaches and execution of criminal justice. The most astonishing trend is the knowledge that there is a strong link between hardcore drug use and property crime in the UK. In fact, it has bee established that international drug dealers own prime property in the UK and other nations all over the world (Reuter, 2008).
This connection makes it quite challenging to solve drug problems with a single approach of administering justice through law courts. Historically, the growing network of drug traffickers in Europe and America over the last three decades has made it relatively difficult for the government to control crime through justice administration through courts and police crackdowns.
For example, one of the most common approaches used by the government has been to “increase enforcement against drug markets. However, this strategy has not worked since between 1995 and 2005 alone, the number of people sentenced for drug trafficking has tripled, causing massive strain on the economy of the UK. This trend has made many people question the use of jail sentences in meting justice for criminals.
According to the statistical findings, class, drug traffickers have increased by 6% since 2000, and subsequent increases in the number of treatment and rehabilitation of drug users (Reuter, 2008).
Economically, this has presented a challenge to the government since they have to divert resources meant for other projects to solving drug cases. In the social dimension, people have faced the wrath of developing generations of drug addicts who come to various antisocial crimes like rape.
Considering the structure and role of the crime commission, the effect of drug use can b reduced only through sorting out the problem of trafficking. To control drug trafficking, there is a need for an international intervention mechanism that encompasses every international stakeholder.
The government must use a particular body with a clear structure to corporate with other governments and the international community so as to ensure an integrated approach is employed in controlling such criminal activities.
The authority to Study Crime Component
In the 1990 Congress session of the Virginia Legislature, Delegate Robert Tata sponsored a motion to propose an investigation by Virginia State Commission to “study certain cult practices” and to “focus its study on those cults in Virginia that emphasize or promote their members’ participation in dangerous, antisocial or criminal activities as part of their practices” (Marion, 1994, p.98).
This was part of a wider scheme to develop a mechanism that would reduce the crime rate in the state. In this case, it is observable that the commission had been in existence and was being delegated duties as the need arose. The most important issue here is the existence of structure to do the investigation and provide findings that would go in line with the societal needs.
Because crime is part of our society, its execution may not be predicted and, therefore, the need to have a continuously functioning commission. This would present a good opportunity to curb the crime rate. In other words, the need to develop a properly functioning crime commission will help reveal issues that not only relate to criminal justice criteria but will also unravel societal misunderstandings in religious and cultural activities.
Irrespective of the societal misgivings of crime and criminal activities, it has various dimensions that need to be looked at with a more strategic approach than ordinarily seen. The legal perspective is very one-sided in that it ignores the other dimensions, e.g., the utilitarian perspective, and concentrates on the ethical issues as proscribed by law.
I wish not to be misunderstood to the proponent of criminal activities, but the reality is society is a complex environment with complex people and needs. The government also has a role in curbing crime. Generally, the societal expectations demand that crime goes down, irrespective of the means used.
Crime commission is, therefore, a very critical body that helps to integrate all dimensions of the society in the administration of justice. The complexity of societal problems is based on economic, social, cultural, and legal issues that need to be adequately addressed before one is rendered unacceptable in society. The role of the crime committed is, therefore, to establish a dichotomy between these issues related to crime.
Barak, G. (2000). Crime and Crime Control: A Global View. London. Greenwood Publishers.
Downes, D., & Rock, P. (2007). Understanding Deviance: a Guide to the Sociology of Crime and Rule- Breaking. Oxford. Oxford University Press.
Marion, N. (1994). A History of Federal Crime Control Initiatives, 1960- 1993. London. Greenwood Publishers.
Reuter, P. (2008) Assessing UK drug policy from a crime control perspective. Criminology & Criminal Justice, Vol. 8, No.4, No. 4, pp, 461-482.
Walklate, S. (2007). Understanding Criminology: Current Theoretical Debates(Crime and Justice). New York. Sage Publishers.
Watkins, J. (1997) White-collar crime, Legal sanctions, and social control. Crime & Delinquency, Vol. 23, No. 3, pp. 290- 303.