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Crime Fighting in The United States

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Crime Fighting in The United States[edit | edit source]

Overview of The System[edit | edit source]

Crime Fighting is often seen as an important mission of law enforcement professionals. Professional Crime Fighting Science is often called Criminal Justice. Criminal Justice refers to the system that enforces or supports the criminal law. This includes the police, prosecutors, the courts and corrections. The police enforce the criminal law. The prosecutors officially charge individuals with violating the criminal law in court. The court oversees the processes within a criminal case that ultimately will determine whether the individual did in fact violate the criminal law. Finally corrections is responsible for carrying out the punishment or the sentence once an individual has been found to have violated the Criminal law.

The police enforce the criminal law by citing individuals who violate the criminal law. They do this by issuing summonses or citations directing the individual to appear in court on a certain day to answer for their violation of the law. They may instead arrest the person who broke the law forcibly taking them into custody against their even when they resist. The police are also tasked with preventing crime. They prevent crime by using numerous strategies to deter people from committing crime. The police also prevent crime by apprehending individuals who commit crime soon after the crime has been committed. Some tools used by law enforcement to prevent crime include positioning officers to patrol areas where crime is likely to occur such as near stores or shopping centers. Surveillance cameras and license plate readers are also designed to prevent crime.

When the police are not able to prevent crime they must investigate reports of crime. This requires them to interview witnesses, and canvas an area for video camera footage. Sometimes it may require interviewing the person suspected of committing the crime.

Once law enforcement determine that they have enough evidence to meet the standard for making arrest usually determined by law or by the courts, the police are then able to arrest the individual who they suspect committed the crime. Often times in the United States this means the police must have reasonable or probable cause to believe the person has committed a crime. Law enforcement may seek an arrest warrant from the court in order to arrest the individual suspected of committing the crime.

After an individual is arrested on suspicion of committing a crime a prosecutor determines what crimes the individual can be charged with and then files with the court an accusatory instrument or charging document. The prosecutor must determine the applicable law that the individual violated. Violations of the law are generally classified as a minor non criminal petty offense, a misdemeanor or a felony. These are determine by the maximum punishment an individual may receive for their violation of the law. Misdemeanors are generally less severe crimes and may be punished from zero days up to one year in jail. Felonies are more severe and may be punished from one year in prison up to life or even the death penalty in some states. Thus, prosecutors wield a lot of power in determining the amount of punishment an individual will face for violating the Criminal law.

Individuals charged with violating the criminal law are presented to the court once charges are formally filed. The court,is then called on to make a determination of whether the individual must pay monetary value to be released or whether they can be released on their own recognizance. This means that they will be released without having to pay any monetary value. Alternatively the court could set other conditions for the persons release. This includes ordering them to stay away from someone or requiring them to wear an ankle monitor.

The court thereafter is responsible for managing the case as it proceeds towards trial. This requires the court to make formal decisions on issues that arise. There are a variety of pretrial stages that a defendant may go through. This includes filing motions which is a request for the court to do a certain action like dismiss the case. The defendant may have a bench trial or a jury trial. They may participate in plea bargaining or simply plead guilty and receive their sentence.

The defendant then becomes part of the correctional system where he may receive probation, incarceration, or parole. There are a number of other alternate sentences that he may receive.

Paradigms[edit | edit source]

There are two basic models of the criminal justice system. The first, the Crime Control Model, reflects traditional conservative values. In this model the control of criminal behavior is the most important function of criminal justice.

The second, the Due Process Model, embodies traditional liberal values. In this model, the principal goal of criminal justice is at least as much to protect the innocent as it is to convict the guilty.

The Media[edit | edit source]

The media tends to portray crime and criminality in an often inaccurate fashion. Alarmist and extravagant stories tend to increase viewer ratings, while concise and accurate statistics tend to bore people to tears. One must remember that what the media shows is not always the truth, but it is certainly entertainment and information. The problem is, the media actually influences the way that the public views crime and the response to crime.

Criminal Justice as Institution of Social Control[edit | edit source]

The majority of Americans believe that criminal justice involves fighting crime and that law enforcement is the only institution with that responsibility. Identify as many institutions as you can that are involved in the societal effort of social control. Use your word processor to create a list of these institutions. Identify how each of these agencies helps to fight crime.

Once you have created a word processed document that lists out institutions of social control and how they help to fight against crime, you are ready to be exposed to some new concepts. Institutions of Social Control use various definitions to express their perception of and reaction to crime. From these definitions, we derive our definitions of crime. There are social definitions of crime and there are legal definition of crime.

An example social definition of crime is behavior that violates the norms of society—or, more simply, antisocial behavior. It is not the behavior that defines the crime; it is society's reaction toward that behavior that defines it as a crime. The legal definition of crime is established by official action from a legislative group such as Congress, a state Legislature, or a Municipal Council. The legal definition of crime can be summed up as the intentional violation of the criminal law or penal code, committed without defense or excuse and penalized by the state. A more comprehensive definition of crime can be found in the Core Vocabulary For Criminal Justice Professionals (Core Vocabulary For Criminal Justice Professionals, Stough, 2005).

Crime Is An Elementary Issue[edit | edit source]

Now that the definitions of crime have been discussed, the essential elements of a crime come to hand. What are the elements of a crime? How are they defined? For a crime to have occurred the following seven essential elements must be present:

*Actus Reus
*Mens Rea

In more advanced Crime Fighting Science courses, such as CRIJ 1310 [Fundamentals of Criminal Law], I present other elements, until you have learned all twelve. For now, though, these seven elements will suffice.

Getting Out From Under It All[edit | edit source]

Having informed the you of the seven essential elements of a crime, this conversation now turns to a discussion of Legal defenses for criminal responsibility. Legal defenses for criminal culpability include age, insanity, mental defect, irresistible-impulse, entrapment, necessity, and others. In some cases, criminal behavior is defined in terms such as mala in sel, and mala prohibita. That is, they are evil acts in and of themselves, or they are behavior that society simply does not wish to experience.

Measuring Up... And Down[edit | edit source]

Going hand in hand with this discussion of what crime is and how one can defend against criminal culpability, is the issue of the amount of crime that is actually occurring. The measurement of crime is always crucial for the criminal justice professional. Let us take a moment to consider crime statistics. Statistics are numbers. They are a way to simply complex observations into clear, numeric and graphic representations that can be easily interpreted by an audience. Crime Statistics are numeric and graphical representations of the amounts and types of crimes that have, are, and will in the future probably occur. There are many official agencies, bureaus, and organizations who spend their days and nights constructing huge data sets, statistical reports, and publications that are based on those reports, all for the express purpose of informing us about crime and its characteristics in our society. Unfortunately, however, not all crimes are accounted for in those statistical reports. Why is that?

Dark Shadows And The Crime That Hide In Them[edit | edit source]

The "Dark Figure of Crime" explains this problem. The Dark Figure of Crime is the amount of criminal behavior that goes unreported or undetected by Society, the Criminal Justice System, and those who are responsible for collecting and analyzing crime statistics. The collection, use, and reporting of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report's [UCR] crime data demonstrates the United States' attempt to resolve the issue of The Dark Figure. Incentives, Fines, Penalties, and the use of specially trained Crime Statisticians encourage compliance with the rules and regulations of the Uniform Crime Reporting System as outlined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting System Handbook. Crime Rates are defined with some easily understood examples. The National Incident-based Reporting System (NIBRS) provides the methodology and methods for recording and reporting crime data to the Government of The United States. The NIBRS is a part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Can you explain how crime statistics are gathered and used? Why is it important for you to learn how to gather and use crime statistics? The answers to these questions often point to future career success in criminal justice.

Casting Light Into The Shadows[edit | edit source]

Crime happens every day 50% of people live and die. One important tool that is used in filling in the gaps made by the Dark Figure of Crime is the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). This is a source of crime statistics based on interviews in which respondents are asked whether they have been victims of any of the FBI’s Index Offenses or other crimes during the past six months. The NCVS is a great way to fill the blank spots caused by the Dark Figure of Crime because it provides citizens with a way to report crimes which they would not otherwise have reported. Self-reporting surveys useful alternatives methods of filling the Dark Figure's void, augmenting the Official Reporting Systems used by Crime Fighting Agencies across America.

Concluding With Fear[edit | edit source]

Well, I am going to bring this particular chapter to an end with a discussion of the cost of crime from a little bit different perspective. Fear of crime and the characteristics of the victims of crime are weighed heavier in this discussion. The general concept is that more than money is at issue when one is examining the concept of Costs of Crime.

Being victimized by crime leaves people feeling vulnerable, invaded, and at a loss for words fit to describe the hurt caused by such a violent taking of something from them. Victims seldom feel safe in their homes after being victimized. For that matter, they do not feel safe out of their homes either. Stereos and cars and refrigerators can be replaced. However, virginity, sense of self worth, and ability to trust are almost always impossible to replace. That is where the real cost of crime is measured. Or at least, that is how I see things.

What do you think? What should be included in a discussion of the costs of crime? Write down a list of the items that you would use to measure the costs of crime. Use your word processor to develop this list, so that you can send me a copy when you are finished with it.

Meanwhile, I am finished with this particular lecture. I hope that you have gained something from reading this material. It is my goal to help you to learn about Crime Fighting from the perspective that you are the one who does the fighting. Let me know how I am doing.