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What Is Crime?

There are many perceptions of what defines crime. The definitions appear to change throughout history and are still changing today (Henry, S. and Lanier, M. M., 2001 ,p.139). For example, in the past marital rape was not considered a crime as it was thought that women were believed to be “sexual property” of the male and, therefore it couldn’t be classed as rape (Brownmiller, 1975, cited by Bergen, R.K., 1996, p.3). However, in the United States in 1978 a man was convicted of rape on his wife (Russell, 1990, cited by Bergen, R.K., 1996, p.4). This shows how it is hard to define crime due to the changes in views over time. Different cultures also have different perceptions of what is, or is not considered to be a crime. For example, all states in the U.S. consider the possession, or use of marijuana a crime (Boire, R.G., 1996, p.21). However, in contrast, others view it in a positive light as, unlike smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol, marijuana has supposedly can be put to medical use. For example, the source argues that it can be used in medical situations to reduce symptoms of pain, such as AIDS (Geringer,D., Mikunya,T., M.D.,and Rosenthal, E., 1997, p.3). Situations such as these make it hard to pin point the exact definition of crime. However, different sources do attempt to define crime. For example, one definition of crime is that it is ‘an action for which you can be punished by law’ (Collins Gem English School Dictionary, 1995, p.177). A further, more specific definition is that crime is ‘an act or omission constituting an offence against an individual or the State and punishable by law’ (The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 1993, p.549) . Both definitions state that it is due to the ability of one being punished by law. The second definition notes that it may be an offence against the State therefore suggesting that different countries may have different laws which affect their concept of ‘what is crime’. This essay will attempt to grasp the concept of ‘What Is Crime’ using sources available from various locations, such as books and journals.

Hollin, C. ( 1989, pp.4-8) explains that “crime cannot be explained solely by psychological theory” and therefore goes on to state three main approaches which attempts to explain what crime is. He also notes that there are of course more explanations than those given therefore again suggesting there is no one definition of ‘What is Crime’. One idea which Hollin states is the “consensus view”. This idea suggests that crime is defined differently in different societies due to what is the social norm. Crime is then defined within this view as an action which the majority disapprove of.



ISBN (eBook)
435 KB
Institution / Hochschule
University of Portsmouth
what crime



Titel: What Is Crime?