For the purposes of data collection and comparison, crime data is usually divided into two broad categories: personal crimes and property crimes. Personal crimes include crimes of violence such as murder as well as any other criminal offenses that involve direct contact between a perpetrator and a victim, such as rape, aggravated assault, and battery. Property crimes are those in which personal property is the object of the offense and there is no force or threat of force used against the person to whom the property rightfully belongs. Examples of property crimes include larceny-theft, burglary, motor-vehicle theft, and arson. Property crimes occur with far greater frequency than personal crimes, making up between 85 and 90 percent of all crimes reported to U.S. law-enforcement agencies. Expressed differently, according to official data, every 23.1 seconds in the United States a crime of violence is committed, and every 3.1 seconds a property crime is committed.

Types of Crime

  • Campus Crime
  • Child Abuse
  • Cybercrime
  • Domestic Violence
  • Elder Abuse
  • Environmental Crime
  • Hate Crime
  • Homicide
  • Human Trafficking
  • Identity Theft
  • Juvenile Delinquency
  • Organizational Crime
  • Prostitution
  • Robbery
  • Sex Offenses
  • School Violence
  • Terrorism
  • Theft and Shoplifting
  • White-Collar Crime
  • Wildlife Crime

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Contrary to the efforts of hard-line positivist criminologists who seek to identify biological traits that predispose people to criminal behavior, and rational-choice theorists who suggest people commit crimes of their own free will, the consensus among most criminologists is that sociological factors play a significant role in producing criminal behavior. Criminological research has shown that there is no one socioeconomic factor that has proved an accurate predictor of criminal behavior. However, there are some variables that seem to affect the likelihood, volume, and type of crimes that occur in particular countries, regions, and communities. For traditional street crimes, socioeconomic variables such as median income, educational attainment and access to education, religion, family conditions (e.g., divorce and overall family cohesion), and job availability have been correlated with criminal behavior. Population density and the degree of urbanization, the concentration of youth in a community, community stability (e.g., population turnover rates and commuting patterns), alcohol and drug use, the strength of law enforcement agencies in a particular area, community attitudes toward law enforcement, and even climate and weather have all been shown to affect the number of and types of crime that occur.

Of all of these links, the correlation between alcohol and drug use and crime receives the greatest attention from both academicians and policymakers. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 35 to 40 percent of all convicted offenders under the jurisdiction of U.S. corrections agencies were estimated to have been under the influence of alcohol when they offended. Alcohol use is widespread among those convicted of public-order crimes, the most common type of offense among those in jail or on probation. Among violent offenders, about 40 percent of probationers, local jail inmates, and state prisoners, as well as 20 percent of federal prison inmates, were estimated to have been drinking when they committed the crime for which they were sentenced. Comparatively, in a recent survey of jail inmates nearly 30 percent reported drug use at the time they committed their offense, and an estimated 16 percent of convicted jail inmates committed their offenses to get money for drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 40 percent of adults who were on parole, probation, or some other form of supervised release from jail were classified as drug dependents or drug abusers, compared to 9 percent of the general U.S. population (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2005).

In the United States, if recent incarceration rates remain unchanged, an estimated one of every fifteen persons will serve time in a prison during his or her lifetime. However, the lifetime chances of a person being sentenced to a prison term differ based on race, ethnicity, and gender. Men stand an 11.3 percent chance of going to prison, compared to a 1.8 percent chance for women. This dramatic difference remains in spite of the significant increases in rates of female criminality since the 1970s. Of even greater concern to criminologists are the differences that exist along racial and ethnic lines. In 2001, approximately 65 percent of U.S. state prison inmates belong to a racial or ethnic minority. African Americans have an 18.6 percent chance of going to prison, Hispanics have a 10 percent chance, and whites have a 3.4 percent of serving time in a prison. Based on current rates of first incarceration, an estimated 32 percent of black males will enter state or federal prison during their lifetime, compared to 17 percent of Hispanic males and 5.9 percent of white males (Bureau of Justice Statistics).

Correlates of Crime

  • Age and Crime
  • Aggression and Crime
  • Citizenship and Crime
  • Education and Crime
  • Unemployment and Crime
  • Family and Crime
  • Gender and Crime
  • Gun Crime
  • Immigration and Crime
  • Intelligence and Crime
  • Mental Illness and Crime
  • Neighborhoods and Crime
  • Peer Pressure and Crime
  • Race and Crime
  • Religion and Crime
  • Social Class and Crime
  • Crime Victimization
  • Weather and Crime

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