Definition of criminology
criminology (countable and uncountable; plural criminologies)
- The study of crime and criminals, especially their behaviour.
Criminology (from Latin crīmen, "accusation"; and Greek -λογία, -logia) is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in society. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field in the behavioral sciences, drawing especially upon the research of sociologists (particularly in the sociology of deviance), psychologists and psychiatrists, social anthropologists as well as on writings in law.
Areas of research in criminology include the incidence, forms, causes and consequences of crime, as well as social and governmental regulations and reaction to crime. For studying the distribution and causes of crime, criminology mainly relies upon quantitative methods. The term criminology was coined in 1885 by Italian law professor Raffaele Garofalo as criminologia. Around the same time, but later, French anthropologist Paul Topinard used the analogous French term criminologie.
Types and definitions of crime
Both the Positivist and Classical Schools take a consensus view of crime - that a crime is an act that violates the basic values and beliefs of society. Those values and beliefs are manifested as laws that society agrees upon. However, there are two types of laws:
- Natural laws are rooted in core values shared by many cultures. Natural laws protect against harm to persons (e.g. murder, rape, assault) or property (theft, larceny, robbery), and form the basis of common law systems.
- Statutes are enacted by legislatures and reflect current cultural mores, albeit that some laws may be controversial, e.g. laws that prohibit cannabis use and gambling. Marxist criminology, Conflict criminology and Critical Criminology claim that most relationships between state and citizen are non-consensual and, as such, criminal law is not necessarily representative of public beliefs and wishes: it is exercised in the interests of the ruling or dominant class. The more right wing criminologies tend to posit that there is a consensual social contract between State and citizen.
Therefore, definitions of crimes will vary from place to place, in accordance to the cultural norms and mores, but may be broadly classified as blue-collar crime, corporate crime, organized crime, political crime, public order crime, state crime, state-corporate crime, and white-collar crime. However, there have been moves in contemporary criminological theory to move away from liberal pluralism, culturalism and postmodernism by introducing the universal term 'harm' into the criminological debate as a replacement for the legal term 'crime'.
Causes and correlates of crime
Many different causes and correlates of crime have been proposed with varying degree of empirical support.
Areas of study in criminology include:
- Comparative criminology, which is the study of the social phenomenon of crime across cultures, to identify differences and similarities in crime patterns.
- Crime prevention
- Crime statistics
- Criminal behavior
- Criminal careers and desistance
- Domestic violence
- Deviant behavior
- Evaluation of criminal justice agencies
- Fear of crime
- The International Crime Victims Survey
- Juvenile delinquency
- Sociology of law
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