In their most recent annual report, the Federal Bureau of Information (FBI,2009) informed that the good news was that crime is once again declining in America. However, the report also noted that the overall scope of crime in America remained large and of grave concern, and that more and stronger preventative actions needed to be taken. Of assistance in preventing crime is honing the behavioral and social sciences understanding of its nature. This paper seeks to contribute to this effort at honing understanding by a review of the literature related to the nature of crime.
Specifically, the paper delineates and discusses the nature of crime using a review of the literature. This review is aimed at answering three questions specific questions. These questions are:: (1) What is Crime?; (2) What is Crime Against Property?; and (3) What is Crime against People? The paper ends with the formulation of conclusions based on the reviewed literature.
At first glance, defining the term 'crime' would appear to be easy. As most people would say, crime is any action that violates the law (Schmalleger, 2008). However, not all violations of law are crimes. Indeed, in most cases, several criteria must be met for an action to be considered a crime.
For example, Schamlleger (2008) points out that an action is not considered a crime unless there is a well defined punishment attached to it. Bohm & Haley (2007) note that Western jurisprudence holds that in order for an action to be considered a crime, there must be both actus reus ("bad action) and mens rea ("bad mind"). The actus reus element is the concept that the act must be made criminal by some statute or other valid source of criminal law, while the mens rea element means there must be an intention to commit the act. Sometimes, a crime can be merely the intention of committing the criminal act. Also, a crime can consist of merely giving help to another who is breaking the law.