Sociology Index


General use of the term crime seems to refer to intentional violations of criminal law or public law in general. Crime is human behavior that is designated by law as criminal and subject to a penal sanction.

Crime is the central focus of criminology and a major topic of the sociology of deviance, but there is no consensus on how to define the term crime. Many sociologists look at crime as a social construction, or a label, and look at crime being created through the passing of laws and the application of those laws.

The image of a ‘funnel’ refers to the much lower number of crimes detected and punished by the criminal justice system than the number actually committed. This model implies that crime is an objective occurrence, it is thought to exist in the qualities of certain acts without needing to be recognized, identified and officially responded to.

This is what is called a ‘realist’ assumption about crime. Symbolic interactionists and phenomenologists, however, see ‘crime’ as something created and defined by processes of social interaction and interpretation and reject both the ‘realist’ assumption and the concept of the crime funnel.

A model of the relationship between crime and the resources employed in its detection and punishment by the criminal justice system. In this model the agents of the criminal justice system (the law makers and law enforcers in particular) are thought to operate like fishers: they can use nets of varying dimensions or with varying sizes of mesh and the ‘net’ will determine how much crime is caught. This model tends to be favoured by critical criminologists as they are interested in understanding how the state can use the criminal justice system to support particular interest groups in society or to legitimize the political and economic arrangements of the society. Like the crime model it reflects realist assumptions about crime. Crime is assumed to exist objectively and the net simply determines what quantity of it will be revealed. Symbolic interactionists and ethnomethodologists would reject this model and insist that crimes are only those events which are recognized, identified or categorized as crime.

CRIME-CONTROL MODEL: An ideal type used to capture one side of a debate about the central values or practices of the criminal justice system: should the central value be the protection of the liberty of the individual citizen or should the central value be the maintenance of social order? This model gives emphasis to values and practices which would exert or enhance the system's capacity to control crime, and thus maintain social order, through police action, prosecution, conviction and punishment.

CRIMINAL IDENTITY: A social category, imposed by the community, that correctly or incorrectly defines an individual as a particular type of criminal. The identity will pervasively shape their social interactions with others. It is similar in concept to ‘master status’.

Classical Criminology is considered to be the first formal school of criminology,

Critical Criminology is a form of criminology (the study of crime) using a conflict perspective of some kind: Marxism, feminism, political economy theory or critical theory. In critical criminology, law and the definition and punishment of crime are then seen as connected to a system of social inequality and as tools for the reproduction of this inequality.