Robberies, burglaries, auto thefts, and larceny are all everyday realities in our society. But why do they happen? Is this not the land of opportunity, where everyone has a chance to succeed and obtain the American dream? When you examine these crimes, and look at explanations from sociologist as to why they happen, these idealistic notions of our society do not hold up. The fact is that not everyone is afforded the same luxuries as means of achieving success, even though the ideals of, and desires for success are pretty consistent throughout society.
Therefore, when the means are lacking but the desire is strong, any methods, especially committing a property crime, become options. When examining crimes such as robbery in a case study, one must take into account the fact that even with the reported statistics only limited conclusions can be reached. This is because not all crimes are reported; therefore the statistics are not 100 percent accurate. Robbery is defined as the taking or attempting to take anything from person(s) by the use of force/violence to institute fear (McCaghy 155).
The NCVS states that only 57% of robberies that are committed are successfully reported and documented by the proper authorities (McCaghy 156). This rate is subject to change dependent upon other victim experiences, broken bones, injury by weapon, etc, usually the more serious the crime the greater response the victim will put forth. The person(s) that commits a robbery is usually a stranger, also over half of these robberies are committed on the streets, thus giving fame to the expression street crimes (McCaghy 158).
There are a variety of robbers: addict, professional, opportunist, and alcoholic. Many robbers commit the act because they have an urgent need for money brought on by their addiction to drugs. Robbing an individual is the quickest and easiest way to fulfil this need. For the majority of robberies the offender is merely looking for financial gain, thus the victim usually escapes the encounter unscaved. The UCR defines burglary as the unlawful entry of an area with the intent to commit a felony or theft (McCaghy 160).
According to the UCR the rate of burglaries are on the decline, although they do not include private homes, the NCVS also reports the rates of burglaries have been on the decline since 1973. The UCR reports that young white males commit the majority of burglaries. These statistics are based on the 13% of reported burglaries that result in arrest (McCaghy 162). When a burglary is committed it is usually calculated and done in a professional fashion. The stolen goods are usually turned over to fences, who sell the hot goods on the street.
No more money is made on the goods once they are sold on the street to the general public. The UCR defines motor theft as the theft or attempted theft of automobiles, including a wide variety of motorized vehicles (McCaghy 164). The theft rate for motor vehicles is currently stable according to statistics. The UCR statistical data is comprised of all stolen vehicles, while the NCVS only reports on privately owned vehicles. As was the case with burglaries, young white males commit the majority of all auto thefts. Only half of the cars they steal are ever recovered.
There are a variety of names given to the different types of car thieves: joy-riders (who steal your car to have a good time with it), short termers (who just need your car to get out of town), felony motivated thieves (who may use your car for a drive-by shooting), long termers (who steal your car because they want it), and finally profit motivated thieves (who usually steal your car for parts that will be sold to the public). Larceny theft is defined by the UCR as the unlawful taking of property with out the use of force or fraud.
An example of larceny theft would be shoplifting (McCaghy 167). Shoplifting occurs everywhere in the world, but even more so in the United States. There are so many types of shoplifters, many of them have specially designed devices that allow them to walk into stores and walk out with thousands of dollars in merchandise, completely undetected. A way to approach an explanation for property crime is through Merton s theory of aspirations that can not be attained by the means available (McCaghy 58).
This concept is known as the Strain theory, what this theory states is that one may set a variety of goals to be accomplished but they do not have the ability to achieve them. What it comes down to is that we as a society are told what is expected out of us. Committing a property crime is for many people, the only way they see possible to reach societies expectations. For example, all the teenagers are buying the hottest new tennis shoes, but a poor deprived inner city teen can not even come close to affording a pair, so what is his option, steal them or do with out.
This theory offers a good explanation for all property crimes, because it puts an individuals need to meet the standards of society at its core. Durkheim s concept of anomie offers a second explanation behind property crime. In his theory, Durkheim portrays society as being riddled with greed, so much so that they will do anything to achieve what they want. Durkheim explains that when people have such motivated aspirations, nothing, not even personal morals are strong enough to control the methods by which those aspirations are achieved.
A person may feel that morals and laws are only holding him or her back, and are therefore justified in committing a crime. This explanation works to an extent, but if a person is so motivated by greed to achieve their goals, why does that motivation have to result in committing a crime. Someone with so much motivation should be able to use it in a positive way, instead of a negative way. Karl Marx offers a third theory that may be applied to property crimes. His theory states that society is full of forces competing for the control of production, distribution, ownership, and the process of transferring wealth in society.
Marx s theory suggests that we as humans are overpowered by greed, and therefore, are driven to compete economically. This theory works to explain property crimes, because it means that there will always be someone at the bottom that cannot achieve the success of those at the top. Marx is trying to point out the fact that we as humans are always going to desire those things, which we do not have. However, we are not solely individuals, we are a part of a whole society, and in the imbalance of our society, against the wishes of Marx and many others, not everything is attainable for everyone.