Studies have recently concluded that more punishment doesn’t necessarily lead to less crime. Conclusions were reached by studying the origin along with the cause and effect of crime with the use of a computer simulation. According to the team of researchers led by Dirk Helbing, in order to fight crime, more attention should be placed on the social and economic profiles that encourage crimes. Humans have never really succeeded in eradicating crimes. However, according to the rational choice theory in economics, eradicating crimes should be possible.
Such theory further states that humans turn into criminals if it is deemed worthwhile. Evading or stealing taxes, for example, really pays off if prospects of such unlawful gains far outweigh the expected punishment. If a state therefore sets the penalties really high and further ensures that lawbreakers are really brought to justice, then it should actually be possible to eliminate such crime completely.
However, the theory of rational choice is largely oversimplified according to Helbing. United States, for example, have more drastic penalties than most European countries. Despite of the death penalty imposed in some of the American states, the homicide rate is still five times higher than the rate in Western Europe. Moreover, it is recorded that population in American prisons is ten times larger than in most European prisons.
According to Helbing, more repression can even sometimes lead to more crime. As particularly observed, he pointed out that ever since the United States of America has declared war on terrorism around the globe, there has been a significant increase in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide. Therefore, the classical approach wherein criminals are just needed to be pursued and be punished more strictly to curb the crime, often does not really work.
In order to further understand the origins and causes of crime, Professor Helbing and his colleagues have tried to develop a new agent-based model that takes into account the network of social interactions that is more realistic than its previous models. Not only does the innovative model include factors such as criminals and law enforcers but also honest citizens as a factor group. Parameters such as prosecution costs and penalties size can be varied with the model. Moreover, the scientific simulation also considers other factors such as spatial dependencies.
Using the innovative agent-based model, researchers were then able to demonstrate and affirm that tougher punishments do not really necessarily lead to less crime. The scientists were also able to predict and simulate how crimes can just suddenly break out and just calm down again.
Just like what we have learned in the predator-prey cycle in ecology, crimes also have a boom-bust cycle as well. This further explains earlier observations made. In America for example, a cyclical pattern of change in the frequency of such criminal offences can often be seen and found in several states. This is in accordance with the crime statistics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
According to Professor Helbing, if a certain state increases its investments in its own criminal justice policy to a certain extent that it is no longer cost-effective, politicians may soon cut down the state’s law enforcement budget. And as a result, there might be more room for such crimes to spread again.
Moreover, Helbing concluded that if we really wanted to reduce the level of crimes, we must analyze the socio-economic situations under which people live. Improving the social and economic conditions of people living in the community can probably solve problems on crime much more effectively than just building new prisons in the community.
What causes crime?
Aside from the socio-economic profile of people, there are also other reasons why crimes are rampant in United States of America. The desire for control, revenge or power, excessive use of drugs and alcohol, bad parental relationships and easy access to illegal firearms are some of the reasons why crimes do exist.
#1: Socio-economic profile– As we all know from the theories found in sociology, the environment always plays a vital role in the behavior of people. According to Helbing, most of the criminal acts committed have a social and economic background. Needless to say, poverty causes crime.
#2: Desire for control, power or revenge– This sinful desire often leads to violent crimes such as rapes, murders and assaults. These crimes usually occur due to a person’s impulse or due to the spur of moment when there is heighted emotion.
#3: Drugs and alcohol– There are social factors that pose a strong influence over a person’s ability and reliability to make choices. And for one, abuse and excessive use of alcohol and drugs belongs to such factor. The desire to commit a certain crime just to support a drug and alcohol addiction definitely affects the process of decision. Both alcohol and drugs do impair judgment and reduce inhibitions, thus giving a person a greater courage to commit a certain crime. Restraints such as serving long sentences in prison have little or no meaning at all when a person is absolutely drunk or high.
#4: Parental relations– In 1980’s, Cleckley’s ideas on sociopathy were adopted to fully describe a pattern and cycle of violence found in family histories. According to Clekley, people who experience and grow up with abuse or with an antisocial behavior at home will be more likely to abuse and mistreat their own children, who will in turn just follow the same pattern.
Children who are often neglected and abused are more likely to commit various crimes later in life. Similarly, children who have experienced sexual abuse in their childhood often lead them to also become sexual predators as adults. Likewise, many inmates on the death row have some histories of severe abuse. The abuse and neglect of children often progresses through time. The cycle of crime and abuse just keeps on repeating itself.
#5: Easy access– Another factor many researchers consider key to making crimes easier to commit is the wide availability of handguns in United States. Many of the firearms used in crimes are just stolen or just been purchased illegally. Firearms do simply provide means of committing a serious crime while allowing offenders to be distant or simply detached from their victims. At the beginning of the 21st century, firearm use was already the eighth leading cause of serious death in United States.