THE EDITOR: For us to readily make any significant dent to the crime and criminality phenomenon in the society at this time we must rely on a multidisciplinary approach.
Any strategic plan to fight crime designed by the security agencies must include members of the criminal justice system and the social scientific expertise of criminologists, sociologists, psychologists and social workers.
Crime today is very much apparent in our expanded value system brought about by neocapitalism and the North Americanisation of the society. Members of society perceive success based on the fetishism of money. Fetishism of money has become institutionalised and well organised in society.
To many of us, money matters above everything else and success to everyone means economic success. Therefore it is not surprising to see a pensioner purchasing Play Way and Lotto tickets with his/her pension.
Crime and criminality should not focus exclusively on the lower socioeconomic groups in society. Crime is committed by all socioeconomic groups – the upper class, the middle class and the working class. The pursuit of economic success is a societal phenomenon and not a class phenomenon. Some rich or poor people who feel they do not have enough will most likely gravitate to a life of crime.
The emphasis on monetary success today has certainly impacted on the long established institutions of family, religion and education. The ignoring of these institutions creates intense pressure for financial success which only some people can achieve. Many members of society sometimes turn to crime because of the criminological nature of the society.
Criminology research has shown that criminal behaviour is learned from people who are close to them emotionally. The learning of criminal behaviour involves mastering how to commit the crime and also the deviant attitudes that justify committing the crime.
The deviant construct also includes the acquisition of knowledge that is associated with the justification of the definition of societal laws as worthy of obedience or deserved to be violated. People break the law if they develop more lawbreaking attitudes than law-abiding attitudes.
Psychological research has shown that aggressive behaviours are learned behaviours. We may see our parents or friends act aggressively, and we may see violence on TV and other aspects of our popular culture. All these influences help us learn that aggressive behaviour is acceptable behaviour.
Finally, although much learning of criminal behaviour occurs within the intimate personal group it can also result from the influence of school authorities, police, the mass media, and other non-primary groups. Yet it must be recognised that criminal behaviour can provide its own rewards, such as excitement and increased wealth.
Whether individuals will refrain from or commit a crime at any given time and whether they will continue or desist from doing so in the future depends on the individual’s conceptualisation of his/her reality of what crime is to him/her.
VALENTINE SMITH via e-mail