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Researching Criminal Mythology


Crime is a vice that is looked at from different perspectives by society. There are several myths that have been developed in view of the vice which has made societies have certain attitudes towards crime. Criminal mythology may differ from society to society depending on what is observed and considered as a crime (Sereny, 1999). There are also different levels and stages through which crime may pass through which are significant in determining the kind of sentences that can be pronounced against the criminals. In this paper, we are going to look at the different myths that surround crime and find out their role in society. The myths that we are going to focus on include:

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  • The present growth and scale of the crime is an extraordinary phenomenon
  • Criminals inflict considerable damage to the population.
  • The public regards crime as the most serious problem
  • Harsher punishments reduce the crime rate
  • Only dangerous criminals are put behind bars
  • Fighting crime
  • Organized crime

The present growth and scale of the crime is an extraordinary phenomenon

There is a general feeling that the trend at which crime is currently growing is very exorbitant. As the world goes through modernization, so is the crime rate increases. What is making people have such a feeling is because of improved technology that is making the criminals adapt more sophisticated strategies to engage in crime. The strategies that were being used by the police to investigate and arrest criminals have become exposed to society. This is hence making the criminals invent strategies that will ensure that they are not caught (Lombroso, 2006). The reason for the exorbitant growth in the rate of crime could be blamed on society, the police and the security policies that have been adapted to cab the same. Looking at the police, it has been identified that some of the security officials that are to assist in curbing crime are teaming up with the criminals to assist them in criminal offenses. Some of the policemen are underpaid and will hence run for any offers that may be given by the criminals to carry out the crime.

The governments may also be blamed for not upgrading some of the policies on security. It has become very obvious that criminology has become so sophisticated that it will only take sophisticated strategies to cab the same. The governments are however slow in coming up with policies that will ensure certain crimes have been minimized. As the criminals adapt new strategies to engage in crime, the government should also ensure that the security officers are well equipped to handle such issues. On the issue of society and crime, it is obvious that the people that engage in crime are among the people. Some of such criminals are well known by the people but there is no action that is being taken by them. The reason for this is that the people have lost confidence in the efforts of the government and the police to protect them. They are hence not sure if the necessary measures will be taken to protect them even as they desire to report such crimes. Some of the known criminals usually warn the people around them not to report or to be subject to certain consequences. They will hence choose to be quiet rather than face the consequences of reporting them.

Criminals inflict considerable damage to the population

Another criminal mythology that is at times taken for granted is the fact that criminals do not only affect their close family members but wider society. Most people may not care much about certain criminals with the reasoning that they will not affect them. They in fact become pitiful to their family members thinking that they are the ones to suffer. Whether we accept it or not, criminals will affect a bigger population if they are not handled with care. There are some criminals that have to serve life sentences due to the harm they are causing to society. The efforts of the criminal department to correct them and send them back have proved fruitless as they engage in similar crimes. Ex-convicts are usually feared by society as there is no assurance of their complete transformation (Schmid, 2005). This has also hindered the efforts of the police to send the transformed individuals back to society. Some of them that are released will be engaged in similar crimes to go back to jail simply because of the stigma from society.

The fear is mostly because the ex-convicts may decide to retaliate against the people who may have reported them (Hall, 1997). There is also an assumption among the people who feel that prisons harden the criminals rather than transforming them. They are likely to meet other prisoners who may even train them on other criminal strategies and hence come back with more knowledge in criminology than they went. It is also believed that the kind of treatment that they receive while in prison is so harsh that they get used to it (Jones, 2009). They hence engage in crime knowing that even if they are caught, they are already used to the crime life. Depending on the reason that made the criminals to engage in crime, they may find the society so unfriendly that they decide to engage in more crime to pay back. Such people may hence consider prisons to be better homes for them than society. Once a criminal has succeeded in a smaller society, they tend to upgrade their status and hence engage in bigger crimes that will affect wider society. There is hence no criminal that is limited to a particular set of population.

The public regards crime as the most serious problem

When it comes to crime, the public is very alert and they will be so quick to condemn the government for such reports. Despite the other issues that may be faced within society, crime is considered to be the biggest. There are frequent complaints from society that the government should do much more than it is doing to cab crime (Schmid, 2005). The main reason for this is that crime affects the security and well-being of the people. It makes them live in fear and hence not being to be as productive as they would have been. For instance, some people would wish to work up to late hours to increase their earnings. However, the thought of them going home late and probably encountering hijackers and other criminals make them cut their routines. They do not have confidence in the patrol police some of whom are believed to help criminals in their crimes. They will hence live below what they would have, had the security level been better.

As the standards of living become higher with the days, so is there a rising need for people to adapt survival tactics. Others are finding a crime to be the easiest way that they can add an extra coin to their pockets. As this is happening, those that are diligently working hard for their income become more insecure about it as they feel that it will be taken away. Due to such fear, people are currently taking unimaginable security measures just in case they are found in such demanding situations (Kennedy, 1993). Some of the measures taken are to acquire weapons like pistols and guns for self-defense, parameter walls are also seen in almost every homestead and estate, people that feel have created a substantial amount of wealth are hiring bodyguards and personal security officers to guard them. All this is happening despite the number of police that has been dispatched to various areas. The public has lost that much confidence in the police that they are looking for personal protection measures.

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Harsher punishments reduce the crime rate

There has also been a belief that the harsher the punishment, the slimmer the chances of one engaging in a crime (Walkowitz, 1992). This has been a strategy that has for long been applied by the criminal department to reduce the level of crime. This myth is however being disapproved by prevailing circumstances. Prisoners that are being subjected to even harsher punishment are becoming hardened and hence giving them more chances and avenues to engage in crime. Prison life is considered to be the harshest and toughest, the people that have hence gone through prison life and concurred can live any kind of life without fear (Young, 1996). The tougher the punishment they receive, the more they get used to it and hence engage more in crime. Once the criminals are released out of prison and still find the outside life unbearable, they will engage in even tougher crimes because they are no longer afraid of the prisons. They will in fact engage in crimes openly and tell the victims that even if they report them, it will not change anything as they are already used to being in prison.

This myth has gone a long way in making the criminal department rethink the kind of punishment that they extend to the criminals. There has hence been a transformation in the prison department. Before a prisoner is punished for the offense committed, they are first taken through medical and psychiatric checkups to determine if the crime was genuine or not. This has been due to a number of reported cases whereby ex-criminals are sentenced several times for engaging in their past crimes. Despite the long and tough jail sentences that they are given, they are still found engaging in the same crime (Jewkes, 2004). This was mostly reported among convicts of sexual crime, it was identified that some of them suffer from psychological problems that can not be solved by tougher jail terms. It was realized that apart from being rehabilitated, they also needed some medical attention which should be accompanied by psychological counseling to assist them out of the situation. This is the main reason why prisoners are currently finding prisons friendlier than they were before.

Only dangerous criminals are put behind bars

Criminals are usually put under different categories depending on the kind of crimes that they are engaged in. there are criminals that are categorized as dangerous due to the magnitude of their crime (Barthes, 1993). Dangerous criminals are those that have served numerous jail sentences or have engaged in crimes of complex nature. They are hence to be put in prisons where there is maximum security so that they don’t escape. When in jail, criminals may engage in different activities which are aimed at improving their character or rather serving the community. There is a certain kind of attitude that is held by people who have served jail terms (Warner, 2000). Society believes that for a person to have been put behind bars, they must have been engaged in a very serious and dangerous crime. This hence makes them be feared and subsequently denied acceptance back into the society. There is a fear among the people that they may go back to their old habits and hence posing a threat to them.

The fact however is that some people are put behind bars when the nature of their case is still pending. They are reprimanded to give room for more investigations that will determine whether they will be vindicated or not. Some people are in fact put behind bars by false accusations. They may have lacked a competent lawyer to defend them through the case or lacked witnesses that would prove to the court their innocence (Heidensohn, 1996). They are hence put in prison before sufficient evidence is obtained to prove that they are innocent. Obtaining such evidence may take a longer time and hence making them stay behind bars. When they are released, it becomes difficult for them to prove that they were actually innocent due to the attitudes that society is already holding against them. They are feared by people who look at them as dangerous criminals based on the fact that they have been behind bars (Holmes, 1998). This may also be due to a lack of awareness among the people of the society who will feel that every person that has been behind bars is a dangerous criminal that should be avoided at all costs.

Fighting crime

Crime is a vice that has to be fought, not only by the police and the government but also by society (Halttunen, 1998). Criminology will mostly affect society even though it is considered to be the responsibility of the police and the government. Whenever a crime has occurred, fingers will always be pointed at the police for not doing enough to protect individuals or the poor security policies that have been implemented by the government. When people refer to the crime being fought, they mainly think of arming the police and recruiting more to counter the rising cases (Kennedy, 1993). They actually fail to realize that it is everyone’s responsibility to fight crime. As much as the police have the responsibility of investigating and arresting criminals, and the government has the responsibility of ensuring that security officials are located in all parts of the country, the citizens have the responsibility of reporting any criminal cases that they may encounter. They may not have the expertise to investigate and arrest them, but at least they have the ability to report the criminals.

Ordinary citizens are more acquainted with the criminals in their surroundings than the police. This is due to the fact that some of these criminals are not only their neighbors but also their relatives. They may be afraid of reporting them because they have been given stern warnings by them. As they keep such information to themselves, they will watch others suffer when they know very well that they can offer the solution. Ironically, these are the same people that will complain that the government and the police are not doing enough to fight crime. Some people may also assist the criminal in carrying out crime by providing information concerning a certain target place (Jewkes, 2004). Even after doing so, they may have the chance of reporting the same to the officers concerned but choose to hold back due to the stern warnings that they received. They will in turn live in fear as they hope that the police will get hold of the criminals and punish them accordingly. They fail to realize that that they are the solution that society is waiting for so that justice may prevail.

Organized crime

The final and most common criminal mythology is about organized crime. Organized crime is a criminal attack that has been staged and organized prior to its happening (Kidd-Hewitt & Osborne, 1995). Criminal shave to strategize their attack so that they know what to do and when so that they succeed without being caught. This is usually done by the criminals carrying out a study of their targeted area of attack and if there will be any hindrances to their activities. They will study the security condition of the area and suggest measures that they can take to guarantee their success. They will also calculate how much they are likely to gain from carrying out such activities to ensure that their labor is not in vain. Some such attacks are planned by involving the residences of the area or even collaborating with the security officers of the place. The attacks are mostly non-violent as the people are obliged to corporate with them (Morrissey, 2003). They may only turn out violent if one of the victims fails to corporate with them. Most organized crimes will turn out to be a success as the criminals will obtain what they wanted and leave without anybody understanding where they took off from.

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Due to the circumstances and situations that surround such kinds of crimes, it is usually assumed that the police have an upper hand in them. Some of the investigations into such kinds of crimes are usually given up as the efforts to track the criminals become fruitless. People will draw assumptions and say that because the police were involved in staging the crimes, they will easily give up on them considering the benefits they usually receive (Sereny, 1995). Even though the blame will immediately go to the police, some of such crimes are organized within the neighborhoods. If the criminals are from outside, then there is a high possibility that they collaborated with the watchmen and other individuals rather than the police. Some of the people that may have helped the criminals to penetrate could be the first ones to blame it on the police. This could be a strategy that is being used by them to prevent any suspicion on their side.

Reference list

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Halttunen, K. (1998). Murder most foul: the killer and the American Gothic Imagination. Cambridge, Mass. London: Harvard University Press.

Heidensohn, F. (1996). Women and crime with the assistance of Marisa Silves (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Holmes, R. M. and S.T. (1998). Serial murder (2nd ed.). London: SAGE.

Jewkes, Y. (2004). Media and crime. London: SAGE.

Jones, A. (2009).1937- Women who kill. New York: Feminist Press.

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Kennedy, H. (1993). Eve was framed: women and British justice. London: Vintage.

Kidd-Hewitt, D. & Osborne, R. (Eds.). (1995) Crime and the media: the post-modern spectacle. London: Pluto Press.

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Morrissey, B. (2003). When women kill: questions of agency and subjectivity. London: Routledge.

Schmid, D. (2005). Natural born celebrities: serial killers in American culture.- Chicago, Ill. University of Chicago Press; Bristol: University Presses Ma.

Sereny, G. (1995). The case of Mary Bell: a portrait of a child who was murdered with a new preface and appendix by the author. London: Pimlico.

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Young, A. (1996) Imagining crime: textual outlaws and criminal conversations. London: Sage.

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