Crime is an unavoidable occurrence in today's society. According to (Lexico Dictionaries | English, 2020), a crime is ‘an action or omission which constitutes an offence and is punishable by law’.
Prior to 1967, in England, to practice homosexuality was illegal amongst men. During that era in history it was considered criminal, deviant, immoral and worthy punishment, based on the values and norms of society at that time. In today's Britain, it would be illegal to discriminate against an individual because of their sexual orientation with it now being legal to get married to someone of the same sex and the ability to cohabit with a person of the same sex both things that were illegal in the years preceding 1967. What was considered criminal back then, is certainly not the case now. This reflects how ‘crime’ is a social construct that will invariably adapt with the times.
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Despite the fact, our criminal justice system is doing their best to deter people from committing a crime the amount of crime is still rising, with prisons overcrowded with record numbers in our prisons. In an attempt to reverse the ever-increasing amount of crime actions are being taken to understand the factors that can lead to a life of crime.
Social class and crime are connected that is according to senior met chief Patricia Gallan who believes that inequality leads people to feel like they ‘do not have a stake in society’. As of 2017/18 11.1 million people in the UK were in relative low-income poverty before housing costs with 14 million in relative poverty after housing costs (McGuinness, 2018) she explains that police chiefs have in private talked about how the effects of poverty have a direct link to why people commit crime (Vikram Dodd, 2018)
The main piece of research that has examined the connection between the police and what social class an offender comes from was by sociologist Aaron Cicourel whose ‘Power and The Negotiation of Justice’ found that officers stereotyped a typical offender meaning that they were focussing on certain individuals who were mainly from a working-class background and this, in turn, led to officer’s actively patrol working-class areas more frequently. The study highlighted the fact that justice is negotiable due to the fact how different classes are treated if a middle-class woman was caught smoking cannabis she is unlikely to be charged on the other hand if a working-class male was caught in an identical position he would be arrested and charged with possession
Although the government do not collect statistics about social class we can see that working-class areas suffer from higher levels of street crime in November 2019 the working-class area of Brixton Hill recorded 206 crimes (Police.uk, 2019) but in the middle-class area of Chelsea Riverside only 103 crimes were recorded (Police.uk, 2019)
This can leave no doubt that that the majority of crime is committed by people from a working-class or underclass background, and the crimes are of the ‘street crime’ variety
Wealthier people are much less likely to be tried and convicted of any type of crime, but when they are it is likely to be ‘white-collar’ crime such as insider trading, bribery and embezzlement. These types of crimes are out of the public eye and are not included in official statistics.
All classes of society will all mutually that crimes such as murder and rape are heinous and need to be severely punished. It is a commonly misbelieved misconception that ‘white-collar ‘crimes are ‘victimless’ and therefore do not deserve to be punished.
White-collar crime is often never caught and when it is it is treated more leniently than other crimes. Paul Manafort former campaign chairman to Donald Trump was recently sentenced to 47 months in prison for defrauding native Americans of roughly 26 million pounds, Duncan Levin an expert in financial crimes described the sentence as “shockingly low” claiming he was “puzzled by the sentence” (Pierpoint, 2019)
Marxists agree with this claiming that the crimes of the rich and powerful pile a massive amount of pressure on the economy compared to that of a typical street criminal yet nothing is being done to clamp down on this. More alarmingly it is estimated that in Britain it is estimated that corporate bailout costs taxpayers £40,000 (Chapman, 2009)
To further put into context, the devastating effects of white-collar crime and corporate crime is the case of Bernie Madoff who was sentenced to 150 years’ n prison after mastering 38 billion pounds in fraud which wrecked the lives of thousands of investors who lost life savings. (Graeme Wearden, 2009)
According to (Department for Work and Pensions, 2019) there are currently 20 million people in the UK claiming benefits with more generous welfare benefits on offer allowing some people to claim more money than could be obtained working a minimum wage job this has encouraged people to take advantage by claiming money they are not entitled to. Jayne Kitching falsely claimed £88,000 in income support, disability living allowance and carers allowance after she didn’t inform the authorities she had moved to Spain meaning she was not entitled to claim any of the £88,000 and was given a one year suspended sentence and had to attend a 20-day rehabilitation course. (Naylor, 2019) Right realists agree that increasingly generous welfare benefits have led to massive numbers feeling they can be financially dependent on the state they also go on to argue that young boys who grew up without a positive role model and any example of employment would lead to a criminal underclass of dysfunctional people.
Statistics reveal that a fifth of all homeless people have purposely committed a crime to get off the streets furthermore 28 percent of rough sleeping women and 1 in 7 men have taken an unwanted sexual partner to find shelter with a fifth of women turning to prostitution to avoid sleeping on the streets even if it was only for one night there are many possible explanations for this. People in poverty are struggling to get by and may resort to property crime to try and make money to feed themselves many of these people will be homeless and believe that this is there only way of surviving. (Ramesh, 2017)
Marxist argue that countries under capitalist regimes cause crime as it exploits the very poor pushing them deeper and deeper into poverty creating and increasing homelessness whilst improving the wealth for those at the very top, in essence, Marxists believe that the wealthy look after themselves. Karl Marx’s conflict theory explains that the people at the top see poor and homeless as lazy as they want other people to care of them whether that be through welfare benefits and tax payer’s money who believe they should keep more of their money.
Robert Merton’s strain theory could explain why so many criminals come from deprived backgrounds he argued that crime increases when there was a gap between achieving material wealth and being able to achieve this via legitimate means. Due to the fact, there was fewer opportunities to achieve material wealth they turn to criminal means such as burglary or drug dealing to narrow the gap between themselves and the middle class. They are willing to take the risk of going to prison, as they see their lives are meaningless and feel that this is their way towards a better life.
Overall, it is difficult to form a solid connection between whether social class actually does have an affect on crime. A lot of work has been done on street crimes and the published statistics display a clear assessment that the working class are more criminal but statistics are social constructs they only show crimes recorded by the police and therefore should be treated cautiously as the crimes of the wealthy are hidden away from the public as they are not included in any official statistics and is therefore impossible to compare to street crime therefore the relationship between social class and crime may never been known.
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Chapman, J. (2009). Bank bailouts cost each family £40,000. [online] This is Money. Available at: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/news/article-1685021/Bank-bailouts-cost-each-family-40000.html [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].
Department for Work and Pensions (2019). DWP Benefits statistics: February 2019. [online] GOV.UK. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/dwp-benefits-statistics-february-2019.
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Naylor, M. (2019). Area’s Worst Benefit Cheats Who Falsely Claimed £250k. [online] Grimsbytelegraph. Available at: https://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/news/grimsby-news/benefit-cheat-fraud-fiddled-taxpayers-3308640 [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].
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Police.uk. (2019b). Chelsea Riverside, Metropolitan Police Service - Police.uk. [online] Available at: https://www.police.uk/metropolitan/E05009391/ [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].
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Ramesh, R. (2017). A Fifth of All Homeless People Have Committed a Crime to Get off the Streets. [online] The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/dec/23/homeless-committing-crimes-for-shelter [Accessed 7 Jan. 2020].
Vikram Dodd (2018). Rising crime is symptom of inequality, says senior Met chief. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/jun/14/rising-is-symptom-of-inequality-says-senior-met-chief [Accessed 8 Jan. 2020].
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