Nature And Extent Of A Crime

By definition, crime is any undertaking that in one way or the other violates a moral or political standard. In a bid to control crime, authorities charged with the maintenance of law and order have formalized social control systems as well as introduced informal sanctions and this has gone a long way to keep instances of antisocial behavior in check. In this text, I discuss the nature as well as extent of a crime.

The nature and extent of a crime

According to Hagan (2007), two perspectives can be used to explain the nature of a crime from a definitive angle. These two perspectives include the normative perspective and the legal perspective. From a legal perspective, crime can be taken as an action (or lack of it thereof) that is prohibited by law or culpable and can hence attract punishment or sanctions from the state. Hence in this regard, a crime is a crime because it is defined as so under the law. However, when it comes to the normative perspective, a crime is taken to be a violation of norms that are prevailing at a given time by the commission or omission of a proscribed behavior.

Hence in this regard, the behavior of humans is proscribed by cultural standards. According to Hagan (2007), when exploring the nature as well as extent of crime, criminologists tend to concern themselves mainly with either the criminal or the crime he commits rather than the role of the society in relation to criminal behavior. Hagan (2007) is of the opinion that as far as the commission of a crime is concerned, the society too is to blame. The reasoning here is that the commission of a crime is motivated by a myriad of social conditions. When it comes to the extent of crime in the society, there are various approaches which can be utilized to chart the same.

However, the three main approaches in this case include the figures which are reported and known by the law enforcement agencies, the figures derived from the members of the public at the time victim surveys are being carried out and lastly, the offender’s self-report studies. However, the extent of crime in the society can also be gleaned from the data of a number of other organizations including but not in any way limited to shelter houses, hospitals etc. Over time, several methods have been formulated when it comes to the measurement of crime. Though there are other methods of crime measurement, the most common include official data, victim data as well as self-report data.

When it comes to the official statistics, it is important to note that they are in most cases compiled by the various law enforcement agencies including but not limited to the police. Reported crimes form the basis of uniform crime reports and the population basis in this case is in most cases 100,000 individuals. In this case, the rate per 100,000 is given by the report crimes number divided by the total population multiplied by 100,000. Uniform crime reports have two representative divisions namely the indexed crimes and the non-indexed crimes. However, as far as the uniformed crime reports are concerned, there are several issues with accuracy.

Indexed crimes include but are not in any way limited to arson, burglary, robbery as well as rape (forcible), theft of motor vehicles, assault (aggravated), theft and criminal homicide. Non indexed crimes on the other hand include all those crimes not included in the indexed crimes categorization. According to Yablonsky & Haskell (1990) there a number of inherent problems when it comes to uniform crime reports. This includes (as stated above) their inability to avail accurate data as a result of a constellation of factors including methodological problems as well as reporting practices. When it comes to crime victim surveys, the most common technique used is the sampling technique.

However, there are also a number of potential problems which are inherent in this case. This includes errors when it comes to sampling as well as instances of over reporting and underreporting. On the other hand, self-reported crime includes the revealed accounts of law violations by participants. One of the inherent benefits of self-reported crime is the assistance in the derivation of “the dark figure of crime.” The dark figure of crime can be described as the crime volume which is not captured in criminal statistics. It is important to note that Adolphe Quetelet was the statistician who first coined the phrase “the dark figure of crime” back in the year 1830.

It is also equally important to note that the dark figure exists regardless of the statistical collection method used. One of the most popular analogies used to describe the dark figure of clime is the iceberg analogy. In this analogy, an example of an iceberg is given with the tip on top of the water representing the reported crime while the massive underwater portion of the iceberg that is largely unseen represents the dark figure of crime. The actual size of the dark figure is unknown but according to Hagan (2007), it is in most instances up to four times larger that the reported figure. When it comes to explaining crime trends, a number of factors have been utilizes over time.

These critical factors include the performance of some sectors of the economy, the media reports, activities of gangs, drug availability and use, social malaise etc. Over time, crime has been linked to a number of issues including social class, age and gender. In regard to social class and crime, two categorizations can be made. That is, instrumental crime and expressive crime. Instrumental crime is usually brought about by the need to acquire needs and wants through ways that are conventional. Instrumental crime hence avails the resources for the same.

Expressive crime on the other hand is brought out as a vent the anger of an individual. Examples of crimes in this category include rape and murder. On the other hand, when it comes to age and crime, trends show that younger people are more inclined to commit crime that their older counterparts. When it comes to gender and crime, male crime rates have historically surpassed female crime rates by far. This has been explained by a number of criminologists through the use of such approaches as chivalry hypothesis, masculinity hypothesis etc.


In conclusion, it is important to note that the nature as well as extent of crime shall be understood more through research going forward. The nature of crime currently is largely dependent on a number of things including but not limited to the taken theoretical stance.


Hagan, F.E. (2007). Introduction to Criminology: Theories, Methods, and Criminal Behavior. Sage Publications

Yablonsky, L. & Haskell, M. R. (1990). Criminology: crime and criminality. Harper & Row


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