crime

A crime is held to be an offence which goes beyond the personal and into the public sphere, breaking prohibitory rules or laws, to which legitimate punishments or sanctions are attached, and which requires the intervention of a public authority (the state or a local body). Ideally, the latter administers a formal system for dealing with crime, and employs representative officers (for example a police-force) to act on its behalf. In terms of law and jurisprudence, being guilty of the committing of a criminal act usually involves evil intent or conscious recklessness, although there are some exceptions in law. Where such conscious intent can be shown to be missing (as, for example, in the cases of children or the insane) then the offence is not a crime and will not attract the usual punishment (although some form of detention or therapeutic treatment may follow).
For crime to be known as such it must come to the notice of, and be processed through, an administrative system or enforcement agency. It must be reported and recorded by the police (or other investigator); it may then become part of the criminal statistics ; may or may not be investigated; and may or may not result in a court case. Thus, recorded crime-rates are socially constructed, and also leave out hidden crime. The latter can include, for example, unreported instances of domestic violence, of attacks on ethnic minorities, indecent assault, and rape. Self-report studies of those involved in delinquency and criminality have confirmed that a large proportion of such behaviour is not officially recorded. A more recent wave of studies of victims of crime has also supported the view that the hidden crime figure is very large. One could also include here various forms of economic crime, from workplace theft to large-scale fraud, industrial pollution, and contravention of health and safety legislation, all of which may not be officially recorded as crime but, according to some criminologists, contribute significantly to the hidden crime that affects society. What some have termed victimless crimes or crimes without victims (for example those involving drugs, prostitution, and illegal gambling) may break laws but go unreported because those involved enter into a form of agreement and support the transaction (see, Crimes Without Victims, 1965).
A legal definition of crime may therefore not be sufficient. What a society defines as crime is socially constructed and highly relative. Its definition and accepted aetiology (or cause) can be influenced by ideas of morality (in relation to responsibility), and by religious faith (the sinful nature of crime), as well as competing scientific claims as to its origins.
The perpetration of crime can be an individual act or be talked of in organizational terms (see, The Organization of Crime, 1975). The concept can also be loosely applied to actions which offend against a set of principles but which do not necessarily involve the breaking of a law-such as, for example, crimes of the powerful and crimes of the state. States can, of course, use the category crime and the criminal law for their own political purposes: exceptions to and expansions of the law can quickly be introduced in times of national emergency or in the interests of the state. The example of Nazi Germany provides a clear illustration of this process. Some anthropological and sociological studies would suggest that adopting a definition of crime derived from law, legitimated by the state , and administered by a bureaucracy , is ethnocentric and narrow, and that a wider consideration of the breaking of norms and the exercise of social control in simpler societies without formal law is illuminating. See also broken windows thesis ; corporate crime ; index crime ; white-collar crime.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Synonyms:
, , (especially against human law), / , , , , , , (of a violent or high-handed nature)


Look at other dictionaries:

  • crime — [ krim ] n. m. • 1160; lat. crimen « accusation » 1 ♦ Sens large Manquement très grave à la morale, à la loi. ⇒ attentat, 1. délit, faute, 1. forfait , infraction, 3. mal, péché. Crime contre nature. « L intérêt que l on accuse de tous nos crimes …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • crime — / krīm/ n [Middle French, from Latin crimen fault, accusation, crime] 1: conduct that is prohibited and has a specific punishment (as incarceration or fine) prescribed by public law compare delict, tort 2: an offense against public law …   Law dictionary

  • crime — W2S2 [kraım] n [Date: 1200 1300; : Latin; Origin: crimen judgment, accusation, crime ] 1.) [U] illegal activities in general ▪ We moved here ten years ago because there was very little crime. ▪ Women commit far less crime than men. ▪ Police… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • crime — CRIME. s. m. Mauvaise action que les lois punissent. Crime capital. Grand crime. Crime atroce, détestable. Crime énorme. Crime inouï, noir, irrémissible. Commettre, faire un crime. Punir un crime. Pardonner un crime. Abolir un crime. L abolition… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie Française 1798

  • crime — CRIME. s. m. Action meschante & punissable par les loix. Crime capital. grand crime. crime atroce, detestable. crime enorme. crime inoüi, noir, irremissible. commettre, faire un crime. faire un crime à quelqu un de quelque chose, pour dire,… …   Dictionnaire de l'Académie française

  • crime — [ kraım ] noun *** 1. ) count an illegal activity or action: commit a crime (=do something illegal): She was unaware that she had committed a crime. the scene of a crime (=where it happened): There were no apparent clues at the scene of the crime …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • crime — [kraɪm] noun LAW 1. [countable] a dishonest or immoral action that can be punished by law: • Insider trading is a crime here and in the U.S. 2. [uncountable] illegal activities in general: • We moved here ten years ago because there was very… …   Financial and business terms

  • Crime — (kr[imac]m), n. [F. crime, fr. L. crimen judicial decision, that which is subjected to such a decision, charge, fault, crime, fr. the root of cernere to decide judicially. See {Certain}.] 1. Any violation of law, either divine or human; an… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Crime — 〈[kraım] m. 6 oder n. 15〉 I 〈zählb.〉 Verbrechen, Gewalttat II 〈unz.; Sammelbez. für〉 Kriminalität; →a. Sex and Crime [engl.] * * * Crime [kra̮im ], das; s [engl. crime < afrz. crime < lat. crimen = Verbrechen]: engl. Bez. für: Verbrechen,… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • crime — Crime, et cas qu on a commis, Crimen. Un crime pour lequel y a peine de mort, ou d infamie, Capitale facinus, vel crimen. Crime de lese majesté, Perduellio. Pour certain crime ou cas, Certo nomine maleficij. Commettre un crime, ou faire une faute …   Thresor de la langue françoyse

  • crime — mid 13c., sinfulness, from O.Fr. crimne (12c., Mod.Fr. crime), from L. crimen (gen. criminis) charge, indictment, accusation; crime, fault, offense, perhaps from cernere to decide, to sift (see CRISIS (Cf. crisis)). But Klein (citing Brugmann)… …   Etymology dictionary

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