PERSPECTIVE: Some quick lessons from Criminology 101

We may feel from TV shows and the news that we know a lot about crime — and yet, crime and criminology can be a highly complex topic that requires years of study for a full understanding. It’s such an important topic that it’s worth a quick look at the types of crime, a few things you can do to prevent them, along with some good news about the actual reduction in crime here in the United States during the last 25-30 years.

Criminals are those people who step outside of the boundaries of the law, knowingly or unknowingly. There are many types of crimes and reasons why a crime might be committed. Here are a few of them:

Crime of necessity. This is where someone who is hungry might shoplift some food to eat. As a society, we are often the most lenient on these types of criminals.

Crime of passion. Anger or a deep emotion can result in a crime. One example would be a wife who kills a cheating husband. These types of crimes can be either premeditated or spontaneous.

Crime of hate. This is often associated with racism or bigotry. The crime happens when someone suggests that a group of people is inferior to another group of people because of a religious, economic, ethnic or lifestyle difference. Members of the "inferior" group are attacked or harassed in some way.

Crime of boredom. These are generally considered to be the most senseless of all crimes, such as knocking down tombstones in a cemetery. Teenagers will often commit these crimes for no other reason than to simply entertain themselves.

Crime of opportunity. This is where someone was not planning to commit a crime, but the opportunity came up unexpectedly. One example would be where a person walks past an unlocked car and notices that there is a wallet on the dashboard.

White-collar crime. This type of crime usually involves fraud by top-level employees or management. It is usually committed as some form of embezzlement. This kind of crime is often difficult to detect, and it has the potential to put a company out of business.

Organized crime. This is often associated with the mafia, and is typically any crime in which a large number of people are involved through a crime family or other organization. This can be violent or non-violent, and it is often difficult to prosecute everyone involved.

To help prevent crime in your neighborhood, follow the recommendations of the Dayton police, such as keeping mail from piling up while you are on vacation. You could also support your local block club or neighborhood association with their crime-watch programs.

The good news, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, is that the national crime rate is about half of what it was at its height in 1991. Violent crime has fallen by 51 percent since 1991, and property crime by 43 percent. In 2013 the violent crime rate was the lowest since 1970. According to their analysis, the greatest contributing factors in the crime drop were aging population, changes in income and decreased alcohol consumption.

In Dayton, the crime statistics report an overall downward trend, according to Data from the last 14 years indicates that violent crime and property crime are both decreasing. Based on this trend, the crime rate in Dayton for 2017 is expected to be lower than it was in 2012.

Although crime is a difficult topic to talk about for many people, an awareness of the causes and the types of crime can help to keep these trend lines going in the downward direction.

Rick Sheridan, one of our regular contributors, is a retired professor who does consulting on communications-related topics.

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