The Concept of Social Crime and Its Dimensions Criminology Essay Sample

How do the concept of ‘social harm’ and the understanding relations of power aid our understanding of the complexities of crime? Social harm is a concept that has no real definitive meaning and can be seen to be quite ambiguous with having several different meanings to people within society. Harm is defined as injury or damage imposed intentionally or unintentionally upon society, social institutions or individuals. Social harm allows for Criminologists to gauge recognition of certain behaviours that go beyond legal and state definitions of harmful, hurtful and detrimental practices and see them as forms of harm, because of this social harm is seen to have advantages over crime. Crime is defined as an action that is detrimental to society and it values or is legally prohibited, these are then punishable by criminal laws set out by Government.

However, definitions of crimes through the years have changed, many losing their criminal status within this modernising world and are dependent form state from state to state. In sociological terms, power is any form of suppression on human behaviour that derives from unequal social relations, servitude and any structures of dominance that is forced upon or dealt out through some sort of general agreement. Power plays a part in how social harm and crime is perceived within society of today. Through the use of chapter 2 Mooney and Talbot ‘Global cities, segregation and transgression’ and chapter 4 Westmorland ‘Gender abuse and people trafficking’ this essay will discuss how the concept of social harm and the understanding relations of power aid out understanding of the complexities of crime.

Chapter 2 Mooney and Talbot ‘Global cities, segregation and transgression’ focuses on the connections between crime and social control and their relations to geography and space. Mooney and Talbot look at urban space is terms of how crime is viewed via policies that are aimed at managing behaviour and helping to prevent crime. Years ago cities were considered a place of crime but in today’s modernising world, the city has now become the popular choice to live for many of the millions populations. However, insecurities and fears about crime, violence and social change are manifested and portrayed in many contrasting ways and ideas.

‘The social phenomenon of boundary creation suggests, therefore, that the encounter of difference or ‘otherness’ is a problem for society.’ (Mooney and Talbot, 2012, pg. 47)

Section 3 of chapter 2 highlights how spaces used by the public are managed to prevent crime and influence certain populations that are considered as being a ‘problem population’ and displaying problematic behaviour. Extract 2.1 ‘We are not pigeons’ is an article that demonstrates that with today’s westerns society, there is a need to control and dictate to violent and unruly young people. The article reports about a council installing a gadget that emits a high frequency noise that is only audible to young people in a bit to combat anti-social behaviour in a place called Hertsmere. A leader of the Elstree and Borehamwood Youth Council comments on the article saying that this type of device is similar to ones used to get rid of cats, foxes and pigeons when they are a nuisance, so this would suggest that the young people are being branded as sort of animal. This article highlights a form of power enacted by the Borehamwood and Radlett Council in a way to categorise and exclude the young people who they deem to be a ‘problem population’. Through this exertion of power, social harms are being caused as neglecting the fact that this particular social group are subjected and made victims of violence, abuse and exploitation already.

‘Being denied access to public spaces may eventually result in young people being unable to communicate and integrate with others unlike themselves’ (Baunan cited in Mooney et el, 2010, pg.51) Despite the government trying to prevent and prohibit certain groups they deem as problems, much angst is displayed from them and communities about these social groups being segregated and the effect it has.

Section 4 ‘Slums, segregation and violence’ in chapter 2 highlights harm and violence by letting you looks into the ways of how segregation cans cause and develop areas of slums within a city. The Unite Nations Settlement Programme (UN-HABITAT) defines a slum as being:

‘…an area that combines, to various extents, the following characteristics (restricted to the physical and legal characteristics of the settlement, and excluding the more difficult social dimensions.):

Inadequate access to water;

Inadequate access to sanitation and other infrastructure;

Poor structural quality of housing; overcrowding;

Insecure residential status.

(UN-HABITAT 2003, pg12 cited in Mooney et al 2010, pg. 52)

Mooney and Talbot use case studies, in particular they used one relating to the poor slums around the world to highlight the increasing amount of global poor that live within them in places such as Rio de Janiero, Mumbai and India and many other underdeveloped countries. Whereas within the UK, slums in the form of old Victorian houses were knocked down to make way for tower blocks. These allowed for more forms of segregation to take place and allow for thoughts of crime, violence and disorder to be associated. Extracts 2.2 and 2.3 are from interviews from residents who reside within the Rocinha favela in Rio de Janeiro by New York Investigator Reporter Robert Neuwith. Both extracts comments on the crime, violence and disorder but give a sense that rules and a certain way of behaving take place in living within the favelas.

Although faced with the threat of violence and crime with everyday living, it aids to the way of life. Power, crime and social harms can be seen to entangle in the case of the slums as legal and illegal have in a sense merged into one as corruption takes place with the government and local drug dealers and gangs support the community by providing protection and money. Due to the stigma surrounding slums and the economic, protection and institutive action can cause the production of social harms as they were put in place to achieve improvement and controls, polices see slums as place that can generate their social harms of extreme need, often financial, crime and violence.

In comparison to segregation causing slums and violence, the affluent have followed in the same circumstances with the thought of insecurities and anxieties that created by the way crime, violence and disorder are seen within the poor slums. This has led to the rich and the powerful creating gated communities and segregating themselves from the rest of society. Mooney and Talbot use the example of Dubai as it being governed by very strict Islamic laws, but allows for the global elite to use it as a playground but also Dubai coexists alongside a very poor province of Sharjah that encounters extreme poverty and any forms of transgressions are strictly prohibited e.g., within Sharjah stoning of women is regularly encouraged. Davies (2006) cited in Mooney et el (2010) explains that Dubai is created on western ideas but still has an underlining Islamic laws and cultures.

Al-Maktoum the monarch and his executives have created a regime where the global elite are allowed to partake in transgressions such as alcohol consumption and the sex trade. What would be consider as a crime within Dubai is allowed, who holds the power within decides who is commits a crime. Due to this may social harms are created, prostitution takes place, many of the women involved could have been forced into doing it and been involved sex trafficking and being held against their will. Dual standards take place within Dubai and Sharjah, segregation and transgressions when met with power allows it to operate on to different levels with the global elite as they bring in investment, business and money and because of this are able to do as they please whereas the poor have another.

Chapter 4 Westmarland ‘Gender abuse and people trafficking’ focuses on the illegal trading of trafficking and smuggling of human beings, especially of women and children. In sections 2 table 4.1 shows the differences between human trafficking and smuggling, the factsheet was created for use of law enforcement to assist them. The factsheet states being trafficked is against your will and your forced into it or your under the age of 18, whereas being smuggled the person went willing and was able to leave at any time. However, words used within the fact sheet can be seen to be ambiguous as the word coercion can lead you to believe that some people although they went willing may have been threatened with social harms against their family.

Extract 4.3 illustrate the two definitions of smuggling and trafficking through the story of a young women who was willing smuggled into America with fake documents and the promise of a job even though she knew it was wrong. When arriving in America she was isolated and told not to speak to anyone, no money was given to her for any work done and immigration was threatened. This story shows how words can have some form of ambiguity to them when trying to form an understanding, as in the end this young women was trafficked. Another case from the Department of State 2005 highlights how age can determine the difference between being smuggled or trafficked, within the same extract another case of three 17 year olds who were arrested during a raid for prostitution.

It came round that all three were under the age the age of 18, so are classed as juveniles which automatically defines them as being trafficked even if they went willing. Within section 2 of chapter 4, we can begin to gain a clear understanding of power as Westmarland discusses about having the freedom to make choices, as many of the victims who was trafficked maybe might have been presented with the choice but when reaching the acquired destination the trafficker soon takes away that choice which then leads to harm and violence for many where they are forced in to things.

Extract 4.4 is a report produced by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) which has proven to link gender and poverty to trafficking. The report goes on to highlight that girls from very poor families are more likely to become victims of trafficking as they get sold into the sex trade where in certain global continents is seen at a local deep rooted level as acceptable due to the years of gender discrimination. Often many families sell their children especially girls in to slavery or pushed into marrying much older guys as a way for family survival due to the burden of having to provide is taken away. Across the world, women and girls get exploited through sexual, domestic, commercial, marriage or forms of slavery which leads them to face much different social harms as power at a local level allows for this happen.

Andrea Di Nicola (2007) cited in Westmarland (2010) argues that legal definitions can be limiting and enabling as the main focus is on the state definitions of what is considered as deserving victim. People trafficking have been contested as to it being a crime or harm. Extract 5.5 illustrates how a young women was coerced in being smuggled as she went willingly but was then held against her will, on managing to escape she went to where she thought would be a place of help but was thrown into an immigration detention centre with the prospect of being deported back to her country and no pursuing of the men that exploited her when she was a minor. One of the many problems that trafficked women face is being exploited by the law enforcement as they hold the power over their fate.

 Claudia Aradauis (2008) cities in Westmarland (2010) argues that many women who have been trafficked are only seen as worthy of pity if they are willing to stand as witnesses for law enforcement procedure against traffickers. Horrific stories arise about the harms many of the women have been through, only then when they able to stand and bring their trafficker down are they given somewhat of a recognition but after their story is forgotten and they go back to being seen an illegal immigrant. This chapter highlighted that trafficking and smuggling affect mainly women and children from poor countries due to the power relations within the modernising world that allows for them to then face many forms of hardship.

In conclusion the concept of social harm can be seen to be influenced and produced by power and crime. Chapter 2 Mooney and Talbot ‘Global cities, segregation and transgression ‘ and chapter 4 Westmarland ‘Gender abuse and people trafficking’ both demonstrate how poorer people within the modernising world can be exploited and how power aids the understanding of the complexities of crime by changing it to suit the people or institution that holds it, this then leads to the creation of social harms within today’s society.