Tuesday, 21 August 2007

To what extent does the control of crime lie solely with the criminal justice system? By Christopher Rowe

The purpose of this paper is to explore the different dimensions of crime control, and to demonstrate the responsibilities of the Criminal Justice System describing how society works with the government in the united prevention of crime. The question is addressed by the review and analysis of secondary literature collected around the different theories of crime control and management and conclusions are drawn upon by the author. The paper briefly defines the Criminal Justice System that is in operation in the United Kingdom. The essay will also explore the management of retail security and the loss prevention schemes in operation, with reference to how private organisations also have a part to play in the control of crime.

Economical, psychological and sociologic theories are briefly explained to determine if an economical perspective on society can help prevent crime. Theories of environmental design and environmental management are discussed in respect of the layout of residential areas and the management of crime privately or as a community, also examined is youth contribution to crime and suggestions of how crime can be controlled by the proper schooling of children. The conclusion of the essay does support that the Criminal Justice System plays a large part in the control of crime but strongly indicates that each and every person contributes to crime prevention. This essay question is very significant in the fight against crime, issues such as this must be scrutinised in order to maximise efforts in crime control.

Criminal Justice Systems can vary and for the purpose of this essay the United Kingdom (UK) Criminal Justice System will be drawn upon, other legal traditions include the civil system, which is the oldest, and defined from Roman law, the socialist legal tradition built upon by Russian law and the Islamic tradition. The three systems mentioned all have their own culture and beliefs within them, therefore according to Reichel (2005) the differences between these systems can only be compared whilst considering certain cultural, substantive, and procedural components

It can be suggested that the main components of the UK criminal justice system are Police, Courts and Correction Procedures, these systems are in place to control crime in the UK. The responsibility of the Police is to prevent and detect crime and to maintain safety and order in a community. The responsibility for, and control of, the Police is shared between local and central Government (Cole et al 1987). Magistrates Courts and Crown Courts are responsible for the next phase of criminal proceedings, however it is stated by Cole et al (1987) that the sentencing power of magistrates is very limited, they cannot impose more than a 6 month imprisonment or in general a fine of more than £2,000. As well as fines and community service etc higher levels of crime or repetitive offences usually result in prison sentences. According to Cole et al (1987) there are prisons especially designed for those on remand, for those with psychiatric problems, for those deemed suitable for certain industrial condition and others. There are also systems such as parole in place for suitable safety of the community and the rehabilitation of the offenders. With the UK criminal justice system in place it is difficult to suggest the control of crime can rely elsewhere, however in a study by Cole et al (1987) it is stated that there is a dark figure of unreported crime revealing it to be far greater than even well kept official statistics disclosed. If a crime is not reported it cannot be dealt with accordingly by the Criminal Justice System thus spiralling into greater or more frequent crime. The truth is, crime control is all around us and is being conducted by every person at all times whether it is for personal protection or for the protection of the public every time a person alarms their car or house or padlocks their bicycle they are in a sense controlling and preventing crime from occurring. In a study by Tonglet, M et al (1997) it is suggested that crime is a major source of loss for many retailers. A problem as significant as this requires a range of different policies to combat it and whilst the police support the retail industry by giving advice and responding to calls for assistance Tonglet, M et al (1997) states that retailers spent nearly four hundred and fifty million pounds on security and crime prevention in 1995/6. The difficulty in tackling retail crime is that shops are very inviting and the dangers of being caught shoplifting are small with low penalties and as a result it is very difficult to deter from staff and customer theft. Tonglet, M et al (1997) suggests some approaches used by retailers in the prevention of customer and employee theft, burglary, robbery, fraud, arson, criminal damage and terrorism. Firstly the increased use and investment of integrated technology such as CCTV and security tags have had a varying response but are in some cases seen as a necessity. Secondly security management is becoming more popular throughout the industry and have to be capable of working with integrated technology systems effectively to make a contribution to the prevention of crime.

Fadaei-Tehrani, R et al (2002) states that most theories of crime are psychological, sociological and economic approaches, and has conducted further studies from an economic perspective with the main findings being that crime is a chosen way for people to spend their time e.g. a person may consider the benefits and costs of working legally and working illegally. Psychological and sociological explanations of criminal behaviour precede an examination of the economist view of the possible relationship between crime, property, public expenditures for education, poverty rate, gross domestic product and the unemployment rate (Fadaei-Tehrani, R et al 2002). Other findings of this study suggest that from an economic view certain factors could contribute to a fall in crime, such as a reduction of unemployment and better benefits given to the honest labourer. Also a reduction in the growth of population would reduce the amount of available candidates for jobs etc. Education and the changing of laws to the needs of the time were also suggested. A public and private effort in the implementation of the above statements could possibly have an effect in the control of crime for the UK, however such suggestions require large changes, for instance the control of birth in the UK would be a very controversial issue.

It has been suggested in the past that concepts of environmental design and environmental management are considerable in the acts of crime. Environmental design requires operation at the planning stage and according to Newman, O (1973) residential areas should not be designed with opportunities for crime to occur with ease e.g. enclosed entrances where offenders can operate unseen etc he also suggests that appropriately designed environments, such as buildings that provide natural surveillance opportunities, and areas that give the impression that they are privately owned with a community safe image can contribute to a safer crime free location. The theory that informs the notion of environmental management proposes that the evidence that crime has been committed, if allowed to remain in place will lead to further offences being committed (Burke, R 2005). This relates to crimes such as graffiti, public drunkenness and environmental management is believed to help by using consistent solutions such as the restoration of areas subject to abuse. These theories can be contested simply by suggesting that community safe image schemes are largely unreported acts or that immediately restoring vandalism would encourage the crime to be repeated, nevertheless this does provide examples of crime control that is not necessarily carried out by the Criminal Justice System.

It has been stated by Muncie (2002) that people in their youth which for the purposes of this essay will be defined as below the age of eighteen are at the most criminogenic age, with under eighteen year olds committing around seven million offences per year. There are many contrasting criminologist theories that compare reasoning behind young people committing crime, but for the purpose of this argument assumptions will be made that youth crime is the result of circumstances in which the offender has no control e.g. young people of a lower class structure are more likely to engage in crime and young people with high educational and occupational aspirations are less likely to offend. This assumption shall be made because it is an area in which local authorities, parents, teachers, friends etc can help to prevent young people engaging in anti-social behaviour. Muncie (2002) declares that definitions and explanations of crime are inseparable from the various policies and practises that have been constructed for the ostensible reason of its control. This is in reference to the contribution of local safety councils in the prevention of youth offending. It is suggested by Muncie (2002) that social policy can be constructed around three competing discourses which consists of youth that causes trouble, youth in need of protection and youth in need of supervision and training. In further conclusion to the study by Muncie (2002) it is stated that anxieties concerning the youth are realised in a growing multitude of welfare, educational, crime prevention and policing programmes which serve to control and shape young peoples lives by lengthening the period of family dependency and moulding petty details of the domestic lives of their parents, in this way discipline is dispersed. As crimes committed by youth affect the community it is the shared responsibility of the community and the police to effectively maximise attempts to reduce youth crime, this properly engaged can, and has, helped prevent youth from choosing a life of crime and spiralling into more and more trouble.

The Criminal Justice System is responsible for the control of crime at a public scale and consists of police, courts and corrections, but crime prevention is all around and it is in the protection of individuals and personal property that this becomes clear, other scales of crime control can be seen privately within the protection of businesses, as discussed the retail industry has handsomely invested in crime prevention to protect their investment, customers and staff from the effect of criminal behaviour. Economical theories suggest that both private organisations and the government are responsible for crime control but also suggest theories that are difficult to conduct such as birth control and the constantly changing levels of unemployment. There is strong evidence that environmental design and environmental management have an effect on crime but this is circumstantial as some communities will work well together to prevent crime and others will not, the author firmly believes that the layout of residential areas can be a decisive impact in the amount of crime committed. The essay provides evidence that youth crime is highly influential, and simple steps such as welfare, educational, crime prevention and policing programmes utilised at an early stage can help prevent youth crime and future offences being committed.


Burke, R (2005) An Introduction to Criminological Theory Second Edition, Willan Publishing, USA

Cole, G, Frankowski, S, Gertz, M (1987) Major Criminal Justice Systems Second Edition, Sage Publications, USA

Muncie, J (2002) Youth and Crime A Critical Introduction, Sage Publications, London

Newman, O (1973) Defensible Space: People and Design in the Violent City, London, Architectural Press

Reichel, P (2005) Comparative Criminal Justice Systems 4th edition, Pearson, New Jersey

Fadaei-Tehrani, R, Green, M (2002) ‘International Journal of Social Economics’ Crime and Society, Vol 29, No, 10 pp 781-795
Tonglet M, Bamfield, J (1997) ‘International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management’ Controling Shop Crime in Britain: Costs and Trends, Vol 25, No 9, pp 293 - 300

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