Criminology For Dummies®

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Table of Contents

About This Book
Conventions Used in This Book
What You’re Not to Read
Foolish Assumptions
How This Book Is Organized
Part I: Defining and Measuring Crime
Part II: Identifying Types of Crime
Part III: Figuring Out Who Commits Crimes and Why
Part IV: Fighting Crime
Part V: Prosecuting and Punishing Crime
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: Defining and Measuring Crime
Chapter 1: Entering the World of Crime
Defining the Terms: What Crime Is and How You Measure It
Identifying elements of criminal behavior
Gathering crime statistics
Recognizing the Various Costs of Crime
Noting the financial impact
Respecting the price a victim pays
Considering Categories of Crime
Studying individual crimes
Focusing on organized crime
Spotlighting terrorism
Figuring Out What Makes Someone Commit a Crime
Making a rational decision
Pointing the finger at society
Blaming mental and physical defects
Waging a War against Crime
Policing the streets
Getting the feds involved
Working together in task forces
Bringing Criminals to Justice
Prosecuting crime
Determining punishment
Giving juveniles special attention
Chapter 2: What Is Crime?
Understanding the Two Categories of Criminal Activity
Violating natural laws: Acts that are inherently bad
Violating manmade laws: Acts that aren’t inherently bad
Identifying Elements of a Criminal Law
Distinguishing civil from criminal law
Defining felonies and misdemeanors
Requiring a physical act
Having a guilty mind
Linking Criminal Behavior to Cultural Mores
Understanding that crimes change over time
Recognizing the impact of location
Realizing that politics play a role
Chapter 3: How Crime Is Measured and Why It Matters
Gathering Crime Stats: How Much Crime Is There?
Relying on crime reports
Tallying the number of arrests
Spotlighting unreported crime: Victimization surveys
Accepting the shortcomings of crime statistics
Putting Crime Stats to Use
Considering the Costs of Crime
Funding the justice system
Measuring the costs to society and victims
Chapter 4: Helping Those in the Wake of Crime: Victims
Looking at the Historical Treatment of Victims
Identifying the Impact of Crime on Victims
Physical scars
Emotional effects
Economic loss
Pinpointing Who Is Likely to Be Victimized
Expanding Victim Services in the 21st Century
Crime victim compensation
Support of victim advocates
Direct help from private, nonprofit groups
Observing the Laws That Protect Victims’ Rights
Invoking victims’ rights
Enforcing victims’ rights
Part II: Identifying Types of Crime
Chapter 5: Getting Violent: Crimes of Force
Identifying Types of Violent Crimes
Defining Homicide
Negligent homicide
Assisting a suicide
Attacking or Threatening Someone: Assault and Battery
Vehicular assault
Spousal assault
Child abuse
Forcing Sexual Contact: Rape, Sodomy, and Child Molestation
Rape and sodomy
Child molestation
Taking Property under the Threat of Violence: Robbery
Pinpointing Causes of Violence
Struggling with drugs and alcohol
Feeling the lasting effects of family troubles
Suffering from mental problems
Being influenced by society
Making a personal choice
Chapter 6: Hitting You in the Pocketbook: Property Crimes
Categorizing Types of Theft
Scamming people out of their money
Taking personal and credit card information: Identity theft
Stealing autos
Breaking and entering: Burglary
Committing outdoor property theft
Defining Property Damage
Committing arson
Vandalizing property
Looking at the Causes of Property Crime
Wrestling with drug addiction
Making a career choice
Being drawn to bright and shiny objects
Battling kleptomania
Chapter 7: Dressing Sharp and Stealing Big: White-Collar Crimes
Identifying Types of White-Collar Crime
Stealing from the boss: Embezzlement
Evading taxes
Selling phony investments: Securities fraud
Dumping waste and endangering employees: Environmental crime
Cheating business and service clients
Cheating consumers: False advertising and price fixing
Mixing politics and crime
The Challenges of Investigating White-Collar Crime
Measuring the costs (in time and money)
Facing a dearth of financial investigators
Prosecuting and Punishing White-Collar Crime
Equating good suits with good verdicts
Testing the limits of corporate liability
Making punishments fit the crimes
Chapter 8: A Group Effort: Organized Crime and Gangs
Grasping the Basics of Organized Crime
Obsessing over the Italian Mafia
Tracing the growth and decline of the Sicilian mob
Recognizing the Mafia’s impact on public policy
Identifying Other Ethnic-Based Organized Crime Groups
Looking at What Organized Crime Groups Do
Selling narcotics
Marketing counterfeit and pirated products
Committing fraud
Loan sharking
Extorting money
Committing violence to support the “business”
Laundering money
Fighting Organized Crime
Using criminal intelligence
Overcoming jurisdictional boundaries: Task forces
Proving conspiracy
Setting up wiretaps
Relying on informants
Going undercover
Taking back the money: Forfeiture
Getting an Inside Scoop on Criminal Gangs
Youth and street gangs
Motorcycle gangs
Prison gangs
Chapter 9: Tackling a Worldwide Problem: The Narcotics Trade
The Global Workings of Dealing Drugs
Making drugs illegal
Growing plants for the drug trade
Mixing chemicals for the drug trade
Moving dope to your neighborhood
Treating Drug Users
Examining types of treatment
Using drug courts
Shifting treatment goals
Preventing Drug Use
Educating the public
Testing for drugs
Chapter 10: Front-Page News: Terrorism
Recognizing Types of Terrorist Threats
Striking as an organization
Acting alone
Choosing a weapon
Facing International Terrorist Threats
Al Qaeda
Dealing with Domestic Antigovernment Groups
Identifying violent threats
Using paper crimes
Focusing on Single-Issue Terrorists
Committing crimes to save animals
Fighting for the environment
Targeting abortion
Acting out of hate
Fighting Back against Terrorism
Eliminating terrorist motivation
Eliminating operational capability: Law enforcement’s role
Part III: Figuring Out Who Commits Crimes and Why
Chapter 11: What Factors Lead to Crime?
Noting Personal Characteristics That Many Criminals Share
Age: Seeing crime as a young person’s game
Gender: Men take first place in crime
Income: Does less money in your pocket lead to more crime?
Race: Does skin color influence criminality, or is racism to blame?
Education: Higher degrees equal lower crime rates
Religious affiliation: The benefits of practicing a faith
Looking at the Impact of Societal Conditions on Crime
Pop culture: Inspiring violence through entertainment
A bad economy: Does recession lead to crime?
Your zip code: Identifying regional differences in crime rates
Studying the Impact of Atmospheric Changes
Chapter 12: Regarding Crime as a Rational Decision: Rational Choice Theory
Taking a Quick Tour through Classical Theory
Calculating the Benefits and Drawbacks of Crime
Analyzing risks and rewards
Choosing the type and place of crime
Factoring in personality and skills
Meeting the offender’s needs
Creating Rational Deterrents to Crime
Running the risk of being caught (and punished)
Increasing the severity of punishment
Aiming for speedy punishment
Preventing the rewards
Examining the Limits of Rational Choice Theory
Considering humans who behave irrationally
Seeing how crime often pays
Dealing with the values gap
Chapter 13: Looking at Society’s Role in Crime
Introducing Social Disorganization Theory
Studying Strain Theory
Anomie theory
General strain theory
Institutional anomie theory
Subculture theories
Considering Social Learning Theories
Differential association theory
Techniques of neutralization theory
Delving into Social Control Theories
Containment theory
Social bond theory
Chapter 14: Can Your Mind or Body Make You a Criminal?
Biological Positivism: Trying to Link Appearance to Crime
Wrestling with the Influence of Genetics
Figuring out how parents influence criminal behavior
Creating criminals through evolution
Blaming the Brain
Eating a poor diet
Grappling with the wrong brain chemistry
Having a low IQ
Struggling with Mental Illness
Dealing with a Personality Disorder
Focusing on antisocial personality disorder
Distinguishing psychopaths
Chapter 15: Critical Theory: Theories off the Beaten Path
Labeling Someone a Criminal
Changing someone’s self-image
Erasing the criminal label
Finding the theory’s weakness
Exploring Feminist Theory
Examining Leftist Realism: A Response to Law and Order
Making Peace
Seeking Healing through Restorative Justice
Encouraging justice within a community
Debating treatment versus incarceration
Part IV: Fighting Crime
Chapter 16: Battling Crime at the Local Level
Keeping the Streets Clean: The Players at the Local Level
Distinguishing sheriffs from police chiefs
Driving the streets: Patrol officers
Focusing on neighborhoods: Community officers
Supervising patrol officers: Sergeants
Investigating crimes: Detectives
Giving police officers special assignments
Counting on civilian employees
Greater than the sum of their parts: Task forces
Bringing in citizen cops: Reserves
Thinking about Theories of Policing
Policing at the community level
Fixing broken windows
Adopting intelligence-led policing
Chapter 17: Tackling Crime at the Federal Level
Sorting through the Alphabet Soup of Federal Agencies
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Secret Service
U.S. Marshals Service
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Other federal law enforcement agencies
Coordinating Federal and Local Efforts
Working with local law enforcement
Federal funding: Tapping federal resources to maximize effect
Chapter 18: Solving Crimes: The Process
Responding to a Crime Scene
Interviewing witnesses
Interrogating suspects
Gathering physical evidence
Writing a report
Using Special Crime-Fighting Tools and Techniques
Conducting crime scene investigations
Applying for search warrants
Analyzing computers, cellphones, and other electronic evidence
Administering lie detector tests
Looking for fingerprints
Testing DNA
Comparing handwriting
Studying blood stain patterns
Collecting cell tower evidence
Reconstructing an accident
Part V: Prosecuting and Punishing Crime
Chapter 19: Seeking Justice: The Players and Their Roles
Prosecutors: Guardians of Safety
Charging crimes
Helping with investigations
Weighing ethical responsibilities
Fulfilling additional duties
Defense Attorneys: Guardians of Liberty
Hiring a public or private defender
Facing ethical dilemmas
Trial Judges: Overseeing the Justice Process
Authorizing cops to search
Keeping cases moving
Presiding over a trial
Sentencing the defendant
Appellate Judges: Setting Legal Precedents
Looking for procedural errors
Wading through the final layers of appeal
Chapter 20: Finding the Truth: Pleading Guilty or Going to Trial
Keeping It Local: Municipal Courts
Movin’ On Up: State Court Systems
Affecting the Whole Nation: The Federal Court System
Negotiating a Plea Agreement
Determining the strength of the evidence
Figuring out time in custody
Considering victim compensation
Working out probation conditions
Suppressing Evidence (Or Not): The Pretrial Hearing
Determining whether a search was legal
Taking a look at the confessions of a defendant
Facing a Jury (Or a Judge): The Process
Choosing trial by jury or by judge
Selecting a jury
Making opening statements
Proving the state’s case
Conducting direct examinations
Displaying physical exhibits
Cross-examining witnesses
Putting on a defense
Hearing closing arguments
Reaching a verdict
Chapter 21: Punishing the Guilty: Why and How Society Does It
Understanding Theories of Punishment and Incarceration
Seeking retribution, not personal revenge
Deterring future crimes
Protecting society: Incapacitation
Aiming for rehabilitation and restoration
Combining the theories
Placing Defendants in Custody
Going to a local jail
Heading to state prison
Facing federal prison
Serving time in Private Prison, Inc.
Facing Challenges in the Prison System
Controlling contraband
Dealing with inmate violence
Implementing treatment and education programs
Covering the cost of imprisonment
Placing Defendants on Probation
The probation officer’s role
Probation violations and their effects
Debating the Death Penalty
The crimes you can die for
The rules of a capital case
The execution process
Arguments for or against the death penalty
Chapter 22: Examining the Juvenile Justice System
Taking a Look Back: The Historical Treatment of Juveniles
Why Juveniles Are Treated Differently
Walking through the Juvenile Justice Process
Speaking the language of the juvenile justice system
Introducing the key players
Arresting and detaining a juvenile
Filing a petition — Or not
Adjudicating a case
Proceeding to disposition
Facing probation
Treating a Juvenile like an Adult
Eyeing Modern Trends in Juvenile Justice
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Chapter 23: Ten Jobs to Consider in Criminal Justice
Police Officer
Corrections Officer
Forensic Scientist
Computer Forensic Specialist
Crime and Intelligence Analysts
Probation Officer
Juvenile Counselor
Crime Victim Advocate
Legal or Law Enforcement Secretary
Court Reporter
Chapter 24: Ten Notorious, Unsolved Crimes
The JonBenet Ramsey Murder
The Sam Sheppard Case
The Zodiac Killer
The Murder of Robert Blake’s Wife
The Murder of Seattle Prosecutor Tom Wales
The D. B. Cooper Hijacking
The Black Dahlia Murder
The Jack the Ripper Killings
The Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa
The Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

Cheat Sheet

Criminology For Dummies®

by Steven Briggs with Joan Friedman


About the Author

Steven Briggs has spent most of his legal career as a criminal prosecutor, working at the local, state, and federal levels. He has handled cases from petty theft to organized crime and capital murder. Several of his cases have been broadcast on national TV and have become the subjects of true crime books. Mr. Briggs also oversaw his state’s criminal division, where he managed the organized crime, financial crime, and criminal intelligence units, as well as the state anti-terrorism and crime victim’s programs. In addition, Mr. Briggs managed his state’s district attorney assistance prosecution unit and special agents unit, which targeted complex crime, including Internet predators, social security fraud, and narcotics traffickers. An accomplished trainer, Mr. Briggs has regularly instructed state, national, and international audiences on a variety of criminal justice topics. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the University of Oregon School of Law, Mr. Briggs was a college football coach before pursuing his legal career.


For Marla and Elena.

Author’s Acknowledgments

I would like to give a big thanks to my agent, Barbara Doyen, as well as Development Editor Joan Friedman for their excellent work and guidance in preparing this book. Technical Editor Ken Rueben was, as always, a great resource and friend. Internationally recognized juvenile justice expert David Koch was very gracious with his time, as was Cynthia Stinson, the most knowledgeable person I know on the topic of crime victim services. Copy Editor Amanda Gillum and Project Editor Natalie Faye Harris worked very hard on improving this book’s readability. I must also acknowledge the lingering influence of Blinker Black and all his fraters. Finally, I would like to thank the men and women of the criminal division, who were not only the source of many great examples in this book, but whose sacrifice of personal interest in the pursuit of justice has been a constant inspiration to me.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

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Crime is fascinating. How else can you explain why, as I’m writing this book, six of the top ten TV shows focus on criminal investigations (and right in the heart of the American Idol and Dancing with the Stars seasons, too!)? But the study of crime is not only fascinating, it’s also terribly important. The U.S. government (and, in turn, every U.S. taxpayer) spends hundreds of billions of dollars every year combating crime. Are the government’s efforts smart? Are they enough?

I’ve spent most of my career fighting crime at the local, state, and federal levels. I’ve worked with just about every category of law enforcement professional there is, from detectives to probation officers to terrorism experts to judges. And of the thousands of people I’ve known, I can count on one hand the number of people who weren’t committed to something larger than themselves — to serving their fellow human beings. If you’re considering joining these men and women in their fight against crime, you’ve picked up the right book.

In this book, I explore both the world of crime and society’s response to it. Both topics are fascinating, exciting, and extremely vast. From the gang banger who sells eight balls of crack on the street corner to the cop who’s just trying to get home to his wife, I try to explain what people do and why they do it.

About This Book

Criminology For Dummies isn’t a textbook (although, if you’re a student, it may help you actually understand your criminology textbook). It’s meant to give you an insider’s look into the world of crime and criminal justice. Throughout the book, I try to make the concepts and principles of criminology come alive because nothing is more real than personally experiencing crime.

I try very hard to avoid the use of complex terms in this book. As a prosecutor who has stood in front of numerous juries, I know that the secret to communicating is using straightforward language. Some of the ideas in criminology are complex, but their explanations don’t have to be.

If you’re considering a career in criminal justice, you should know that I don’t pull any punches in this book. If I think a job is tough, I tell you so and give you the reasons why. But I also try to explain the job objectively so that you can decide for yourself whether it’s the right move for you.

If you picked up this book simply because you’re fascinated by crime, you may want to set this book on the nightstand next to your collection of works by Ann Rule, Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, James Patterson, or the hundreds of other writers who make crime — at least the fictional kind — fun.

Conventions Used in This Book

Whenever I introduce a word or phrase that may not be familiar to you, I put that word in italics. You can rest assured that a definition or explanation is nearby.

On occasion, I include URLs for Web sites that I think may interest you. Those Web addresses appear in monofont, which helps them stand out from the rest of the text.

And speaking of Web addresses: When this book was printed, some Web addresses had to break across two lines of text. When that happened, rest assured that I didn’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So, when you’re using one of these Web addresses, just type in exactly what you see in this book, pretending that the line break doesn’t exist.

What You’re Not to Read

Given the amount of work that goes into writing a book, it may seem strange that I’m now suggesting that you don’t have to read the whole thing! But my goal is to make sure you use the book to your full advantage, which may mean skipping over text that isn’t crucial to your understanding of the subject at hand. In this book, you find two types of text that fall into this category:

check.png Paragraphs accompanied by the Technical Stuff icon: As I explain in a moment, this icon highlights text that goes into details that you may find unnecessary.

check.png Sidebars: These gray boxes contain anecdotes or explanations that I think you may find interesting but that aren’t essential to your criminology education.

Foolish Assumptions

This book covers such a wide array of information that I truly can’t assume I know why you’re reading it. Here are some wild guesses:

check.png You’re a college student taking an introductory course in criminology, and you picked up this book to help you interpret some of the jargon in your 600-page textbook.

check.png You’ve always thought about becoming a police officer or other law enforcement professional and are trying to gauge what the job entails and where it fits into the big picture of criminal justice.

check.png You’re thinking about going to law school to become a prosecutor or public defender, and you want to know what you’d be in for.

check.png You have a friend or relative entangled in the criminal justice system, and you want to be able to talk the talk so you can distinguish an arraignment from an appeal.

check.png You’re addicted to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or any number of other criminal investigation shows.

Whatever your motivation, I hope you find what you’re looking for in this book. And I hope you’re inspired to find out even more about the specific area of criminology that interests you because there’s much more to explore than I could possibly fit in these pages.

How This Book Is Organized

I’ve grouped the chapters in this book into six parts, each one focusing on a particular aspect of criminology. I’ve written the book so you can dive into any chapter without getting lost — just pick the topic that interests you most and start reading!

Part I: Defining and Measuring Crime

Chapter 1 offers a broad overview of the book’s contents so you can gain a better sense of what’s covered and where to find it.

Starting with Chapter 2, I delve into some tough questions. The first question is: What is crime? When you think about it, someone has to define crime, right? Actually, it’s most often defined by a group of someones whom folks like you and me elect to state and federal offices. The decisions these elected officials make about criminal law have far-reaching effects; they influence what actions are prosecuted and punished and, perhaps, how long punishments can last.

Another tough question I address in this part is: How much crime is there? Measuring crime can be a bit like measuring water with a sieve. In Chapter 3, I explain why.

No matter how you measure crime, almost every crime has one thing in common — a victim. In Chapter 4, I describe the various ways crime affects victims, and I explore recent efforts to secure victims’ rights throughout the criminal justice process.

Part II: Identifying Types of Crime

The crimes that get the most attention on TV are violent in nature, so I start this part by defining and explaining the different types of violent crime in Chapter 5. But far more people are victims of property crime than violent crime; thus, I devote Chapter 6 to that topic.

Chapter 7 focuses on the unique nature of white-collar crime, and Chapter 8 explores the fascinating and frightening world of organized crime (including gangs).

I round out this part by devoting a chapter each to two topics that make front-page news all too frequently these days: the drug trade and terrorism.

Part III: Figuring Out Who Commits Crimes and Why

The heart of criminology is trying to figure out why people commit crime. After all, if you can answer that fundamental question, you may have a chance of reducing crime.

Obviously, no one claims to have a single answer. In this part, I explore several theories that seem to offer insights, from the rational choice theory (which holds that criminals make rational decisions based on the costs and benefits of their actions) to the theory of labeling (which holds that people labeled as criminals early in life have limited opportunities and, therefore, can’t break free from lives of crime).

Part IV: Fighting Crime

TV producers sure love this stage of the criminal justice process — the stage that involves chasing and apprehending the bad guys. The chase may involve either local law enforcement officials or federal agencies, so I devote a chapter to explaining each. I then explore the processes that law enforcement officers use to try to solve crimes.

Part V: Prosecuting and Punishing Crime

Although the chase and apprehension of a suspect are exciting, what happens next can be equally riveting (hence the appeal of Law & Order). After all, when someone is arrested, that person’s experience with the criminal justice system is just beginning.

In this part, I introduce the people who carry a criminal case through the courtroom phase. I explain what accepting a plea bargain means and what happens when a case goes to trial (which relatively few cases do).

When the prosecution is done and the accused person is sentenced, that person enters the punishment phase of the criminal justice system. In Chapter 21, I explore theories of why society punishes people and explain how punishment typically occurs in the United States.

I round out this part with a chapter that focuses on juvenile offenders, whose crimes may be similar to those of adults but whose experience with the criminal justice system is likely to be very different.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Every For Dummies book contains this part, which features short chapters of easily digestible material. You get two chapters in this part: one on ten jobs to consider in the criminal justice field and one on ten notorious, unsolved crimes.

Icons Used in This Book

In the margins of this book, you find the following icons — mini graphics that point out paragraphs containing certain types of information:

tip.eps This icon points out hints to help you better understand the concepts I cover in this book.

strangebuttrue_weddings.eps This icon sits next to paragraphs that contain real-life examples and anecdotes — most often from my years of experience in the criminal justice field.

remember.eps This icon points out material that’s important enough to put into your mental filing cabinet.

warning_bomb.eps When you see this icon, you know the information in the accompanying paragraph encourages a note of caution.

technicalstuff.eps On a few occasions, I include information that I consider worth knowing but that you may not. If you’re looking for strictly big-picture information, feel free to skip these paragraphs.

Where to Go from Here

The beauty of this book is that you can start anywhere and understand it. If you’re the type of person who likes to eat your dinner one food at a time, perhaps you want to start with Chapter 1 and read straight through. But if you’re most interested in the theories about why people commit crime, skip straight to Part III and sink your teeth in. If you’re most interested in how the criminal justice system treats juveniles, head to Chapter 22. Where you go next is your call!

Part I

Defining and Measuring Crime


In this part . . .

What exactly is crime? When you think about it, you realize it’s not such an easy question to answer. After all, someone has to decide that a specific action is criminal and, therefore, worth prosecuting and punishing. To complicate matters, the actions that the law labels criminal change as time goes by — new laws are added and old ones are revised.

Here’s another tough question: How much crime is there? No one knows the exact amount. The methods for measuring crime are imperfect, partly because police reporting is imperfect and partly because crime stats depend on a victim’s willingness to come forward.

In this part, I offer my best answers to these two questions and explain some of the nuances that color those answers. I also describe how crime impacts victims and explore a few recent movements to try to support and empower them.