Criminality Development in the Documentary A Life of Crime


The paper introduces the conception of getting involved in criminal activities as well as estimates the social influences on criminology development, in America. The analysis refers to the first part of the documentary A Life of Crime, which embraces the description of criminal stories of three men. The action takes place in 1989, in the USA and summarizes the tendencies of American community life, which stimulated criminal behavior. Mainly, the author of the film represents the history of three friends, Rob, Fred, and Mike, in retrospective by shooting separate episodes from their lives, which constitute a picture of criminality, in America, in the overviewed period. In this study, both the psychological pictures of the involved figures as well as social and political conditions, which imposed its impact on the formation of criminality tendencies, are discussed. Conclusively, the central argument, which is made in the study, relates to the idea, according to which, criminal behavior does not rely on inborn features or genetic peculiarities but is rather an outcome of a complex correlation between social and political influences.

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Criminality in the 1990’s America: Implications and Concerns

One of the starting points, which define the criminal behavior of the film characters, is shoplifting. Thus, stealing, in the documentary, is represented as the main occupation of Fred, Mike, and Rob. Indeed, the problem of shoplifting shaped the criminality picture, in the America, in the 1980s, and remained one of the most drastic community crises, which simulated the rise of homicides and assault cases. According to the statistics, in 1981, every one of three businesses was destroyed because of shoplifting, which caused enormous monetary losses to the country corporations. For instance, it is claimed that the general cost of shoplifting crisis, in 1981, embraced $16 billion, in the USA. Conclusively, the problem gave birth to substantial economy downfalls and inflation. The level of life reached its critical point by the end of 1980s. At this time, the prices for American production increased to 10 %, which decreased life standards for the US community (Segrave 102). The reasons for the low prevention control of shoplifting embrace different factors.

Primary, the problem stemmed from insufficient technology development. Thus, until 1991, it was uncommon for the US stores to use surveillance cameras and the devices, which provide signals when the stolen things are carried out of a store building (Eisen par. 8). Indeed, if one analyzes the reasons for the documentary characters choosing their ‘careers,’ it might be noticed that their choice was motivated by the fact that shoplifting was quite safe and could bring a good profit quickly and efficiently. In the film episodes, it is depicted how easily the criminals could steal huge boxes with clothes, silver, and equipment from a store, to carry the things out, through the main door, and remain unnoticed. Consequently, accessibility of shoplifting turned it into a mass business, which yielded immediate results. Additionally, the documentary dwells on the high spreading of the so-called black markets, which offered the opportunities for selling the stolen materials. The characters of the film accomplished the operations of shoplifting and disposing of the materials in several hours, which certifies the efficiency of black markets’ functioning.

The second critical implication of the American community life, which imposed its impact on criminality, in the 1980s-1990s, relates to the inefficiency of law control and police work. Thus, the studies of the US law system reveal that the analyzed time period is characterized by the consistent shortage of police resources, the lack of gun control policies, and, finally, the high level of scheming, which existed in the prosecution system (Levitt 164). In the described documentary, the case, in which one of the characters manages to avoid responsibility for committing a homicide, serves as the bright example of the tendency. Thus, one may conclude that technological decadence and law crisis created favorable conditions for the development of criminality, in the 1980s-1990s.

Socialization and Environmental Influence on Criminology

The formation of criminal behavior relies on both macro-society conditions and social environment. In the documentary, the conducts of three characters are, to the certain extend, preconditioned by the influence of their surrounding as well as the features of upbringing. In other words, the psychology of the figures, which are depicted, in the episodes, is shaped in the connection with the social platforms that relate to them. Primarily, one has to take into consideration the concept of indifference, which propels criminal practices. For instance, it may be traced that one of the cases, which is depicted in the movie, involves the characters stealing a huge box from the clothing store, in front of five passersby, who act as if they have not noticed the crime realization. This type of feedback to shoplifting developed a favorable ground for criminality flourishing and relied on such factors as the politics of fear, the feeling of being unprotected, and a low level of trust to the system of law, in America.

Thus, people were too scared to report on the cases of crime commitment, in the 1980s-1990s, according to the insufficiency of a legal system. Secondly, the behavior of three characters is dependent on their family connections. For example, in the documentary, Rob demonstrates a direct repugnance to his father, who, according to the criminal, leads a miserable life by earning only $80 per week. Such interrelations are promoted by the fact that Rob’s father served as an example of negative behavior for the boy since childhood, for he never participated in Rob’s upbringing and was addicted to alcohol. As a result, Rob adopted unrespectable behavior towards his wife and father when he grew up. The example certifies that education and social surrounding impose a critical impact on personality development and may promote criminality.

Conclusion: Criminal Behavior as the Intersection of Upbringing and Social Order

The analysis of the logical connections between the documentary stories and the reality of American social life, in the 1980s, provided a consistent explanation for the criminality development tendencies. Specifically, according to the study, the actions of three characters were evoked by the crisis of law system, which functioned in the USA, in the analyzed period. The lack of control and the opportunities for punishment avoidance created a good space for turning to such small crimes as shoplifting, which offered a profitable monetary reward as a stable income. The second factor, which contributed to the promotion of criminality, in America, related to social influences and educational decadence. Mainly, the work recounts lack of positive socialization and upbringing crisis as the driving force of involving in crimes. Therefore, according to the final conclusion of the study, the stimulation of criminality, in America, was formulated under the influence of macro- and micro-level social factors.

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Works Cited

Eisen, Lauren-Brooke. America’s Faulty Perception of Crime Rates.2015. Web.

Levitt, Steven. “Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six That Do not.” Journal of Economic Perspectives 18.1 (2004): 163-190. Print.

Segrave, Kerry. Shoplifting: A Social History, California: McFarland, 2001. Print.

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