The Social Definition of Deviance and Crime
Because norms vary widely, deviance is relative.
People commit deviant acts only when they break a norm and cause others to react negatively.
From a sociological point of view, everyone is a deviant in one social context or another.
The Difference between Deviance and Crime
Deviance involves breaking a norm and evoking a negative reaction from others.
Crime is deviance that breaks a law, which is a norm stipulated and enforced by government bodies.
Disapprovals of deviance.
Informal punishment is a mild sanction imposed during face-to-face interaction, not by the judicial system.
Stigmatized - People who are negatively evaluated because of something that distinguishes them from others.
Formal punishment takes place when the judicial system penalizes someone for breaking a law.
Types of Deviance and Crime
Vary in terms of:
Severity of the social response.
Perceived harmfulness of the act.
Degree of public agreement about whether an act should be considered deviant.
Official crime statistics, such as those reported by the FBI, can be misleading for several reasons:
Assaults and rapes often go unreported.
Tougher enforcement of select laws can lead to inflated statistics.
Victimless crimes—violations of the law in which no victim steps forward—are excluded from the statistics.
Surveys in which respondents are asked to report their involvement in criminal activities
Nationwide survey of 80,000 people that is regularly conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice
Show approximately the same rate of serious crime as official statistics but two to three times the rate of less serious crime, such as assault
1960 – 1992
500 percent increase in rate* of violent crime
150 percent increase in rate of major property crimes
1991 – 2000
Murder and manslaughter rate fell 49 percent
Rate of forcible rate fell 32 percent
*Refers to the number of cases per 100,000 people in a year
Why Crime Rates Have Declined
Governments put more police on the streets and increased surveillance.
The proportion of young men, those most likely to commit street crime, in the population has declined.
Legalized abortion has led to a decrease in unwanted children, who are more prone to crime.
Improved economic conditions and lower unemployment rates lead to decreases in crime.
Criminal Profiles: Race
The disproportionately high arrest and incarceration rates of African American are a result of three factors:
Bias in statistical collection
Low class status of blacks in America
Discrimination in the criminal justice system
Street vs. White Collar Crime
Street crimes include arson, burglary and assault.
Disproportionate number committed by African Americans
Reported in official crime statistics
White-collar crimes are illegal acts such as embezzlement
Disproportionate number committed by White Americans
Not reported in official crime statistics
If you were in charge of the budget for the war on drugs, what proportion of the budget would you invest in:
Controlling the drug trade abroad?
Stopping drugs at the border?
Arresting drug traders and users?
Implementing drug prevention programs?
Implementing drug treatment programs?
Explaining Crime and Deviance
Theories used by sociologists to explain crime and deviance include:
Becoming a habitual deviant is a learning process that occurs in a social context
Deviants or criminals teach novices “tricks of the trade”
Social environment influences the type of deviant activity in which a person engages
A variation of symbolic interactionism, which holds that deviance results not so much from the actions of the deviant as from the response of others, who label the rule breaker a deviant.