Category Archives: Organised crime

Why English youths are more violent than Swedish youths

mylifeincrimeOne article in particular from the latest issue of European Journal of Criminology (Vol. 5, No. 3) caught my eye. Per-Olof H. Wikström and Robert Svensson report findings of a study to uncover why English youths are more violent than Swedish youths. At first glance it seems as if Wikstrom and Svensson are engaged in a circular argument:

… we use data from the English Peterborough Youth Study and the Swedish Eskilstuna Youth Study. The findings show that in both cities (1) young people’s self-reported violent behaviour is predicted by crime propensity and lifestyle, and their interaction, and (2) a substantial proportion (40 percent) of the difference in the level of violence vanishes when taking into account national differences in young people’s crime propensity and lifestyles. We conclude that the findings support the notion that one major cause of the difference in the level of violence among young people in England and Sweden is that more young people in England have a higher crime propensity and are living criminogenic lifestyles than in Sweden [from the abstract].

In other words, it looks as if they’re arguing that youths in England are criminals because they live a criminal lifestyle (a bit like this study reported in Improbable Research). In fact, it’s rather more interesting than that.

Here’s the theoretical framework Wikstrom and Svensson use to explore the data:

Two central ideas in criminology are that crime involvement is a consequence of (1) individual crime propensity and (2) criminogenic features of the environments to which an individual is exposed… One recent theory that takes into account the role of the individual–environment interaction in the explanation of crime is the situational action theory of crime causation … The cornerstone of the situational action theory is the assertion that human actions (including acts of crime and violence) are an outcome of how individuals perceive their ‘action alternatives’ and make their choices as a result of the interaction between their individual characteristics and experiences (propensities) and the features of the behaviour setting in which they take part (environmental inducements) [p.311].

Wikstrom and Svensson’s analysis indicates that not only are there more youths with higher levels of crime propensity in Peterborough compared to Eskilstuna but they also have lifestyles that are more ‘criminogenic’, i.e., they do things that put them into risky settings, which are more likely to prompt or facilitate criminal behaviour. Interesting stuff.


Other articles in this issue include:

  • The Greek Connection(s): The Social Organization of the Cigarette-Smuggling Business in Greece – Georgios A. Antonopoulos
  • How Serious Is the Problem of Item Nonresponse in Delinquency Scales and Aetiological Variables?: A Cross-National Inquiry into Two Classroom PAPI
  • Self-Report Studies in Antwerp and Halmstad – Lieven Pauwels and Robert Svensson
  • Self-Control in Global Perspective: An Empirical Assessment of Gottfredson and Hirschi’s General Theory Within and Across 32 National Settings – Cesar J. Rebellon, Murray A. Straus, and Rose Medeiros
  • Reassessing the Fear of Crime – Emily Gray, Jonathan Jackson, and Stephen Farrall

Photo credit: Marxchivist, Creative Commons License

Videos and podcasts

MP3onredRecently released video and podcasts on topics relevant to psychology and crime. Follow the links for access to the audio and visual material.

Advances in the History of Psychology recently alerted us to a 2005 PBS documentary The New Asylums, which examined the plight of mentally ill prisoners in the USA:

In “The New Asylums,” FRONTLINE goes deep inside Ohio’s state prison system to explore the complex and growing issue of mentally ill prisoners. With unprecedented access to prison therapy sessions, mental health treatment meetings, crisis wards, and prison disciplinary tribunals, the film provides a poignant and disturbing portrait of the new reality for the mentally ill.

All in the Mind (15 March) explores the psychological impact of being on Death Row: “…extraordinary first hand accounts from men who spent decades incarcerated on Death Row. And, psychologists investigating the state of the confined mind.”

An earlier AitM (23 Feb) focused on women offenders, including those convicted of infanticide, and asks if women offenders require different rehabilitation and treatment programmes to men.

Since the beginning of the year the Leonard Lopate show has featured several segments of forensic interest, including:

Photo credit: Focus_on_me, Creative Commons License

Docuticker round-up

ex libris gul law reports collectionLatest criminal justice-related reports from Docuticker

Public School Practices for Violence Prevention and Reduction: 2003–04 (National Center for Education Statistics): “This Issue Brief (1) examines principals’ reports of the prevalence of formal practices in public schools designed to prevent or reduce school violence and (2) describes the distribution of these practices by selected school characteristics.”

When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2005 Homicide Data (Violence Policy Center): “This annual report details national and state-by-state information on female homicides involving one female murder victim and one male offender.”

No Easy Answers: Sex Offender Laws in the United States (Human Rights Watch): “the first comprehensive study of US sex offender policies, their public safety impact, and the effect they have on former offenders and their families.”

Exploring the Drugs-Crime Connection within the Electronic Dance Music and Hip-Hop Nightclub Scenes (Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware / National Institute of Justice): “This report explores how the cultural ethos, behavioral norms, activities, and individual and group identities (subcultural phenomena), inherent to the electronic dance music … and the hip hop/rap nightclub scenes … impact the relationship between alcohol, drugs, and crime, with additional attention to victimization.”

Building an Offender Reentry Program: A Guide for Law Enforcement (International Association of Chiefs of Police): “In an effort to determine the state of law enforcement’s participation in offender reentry initiatives, the International Association of Chiefs of Police partnered with OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance to comprehensively examine law enforcement’s role in offender reentry initiatives.”

Suicide Trends Among Youths and Young Adults Aged 10–24 Years — United States, 1990–2004 (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC): “The report is an analysis of annual data from the CDC?s National Vital Statistics System”

Law Enforcement for Lawabiders (Police Foundation): “Why do people comply with the law? Professor Tracey Meares of Yale University explores the power of private social control in controlling and reducing crime.”

Violent Deaths and the National Violent Death Reporting System (CDC): “The National Violent Death Reporting System collects data on violent deaths from a variety of sources. Together, these sources offer a more comprehensive picture of the circumstances surrounding a homicide or suicide.”

Upward trend in racist crimes in at least 8 EU countries (European Parliament): “The report analyses discrimination in employment, housing and education across the 27 Member States.”

Minding Moral Responsibility (Engage, via SSRN): “… one of the most enduring areas of controversy in our criminal law involves questions about mitigation and the insanity defense.”

Fatal fires: fire-associated homicide in Australia, 1990-2005 (Australian Institute of Criminology)

2007 Annual Report on Organized crime in Canada (Criminal Intelligence Service Canada)

The British Gambling Prevalence Survey 2007 (Gambling Commission UK)

Photo credit: ex_libris_gul, Creative Commons License

Latest issue of the RCMP Gazette now online

mountieThe latest issue of the RCMP’s Gazette (volume 69, issue 2) is online, featuring several stories on crimes against children, both offline and on the internet.

Particular articles that caught my eye include an account of the psychological support given to officers involved in online paedophile investigations at the Surete de Quebec, an article by Martine Powell on questioning child victims and witnesses, and a great article on research gaps in this area from Roberta Sinclair, Ethel Quayle, Merlyn Horton and Tink Palmer. One area where more research is needed is, they argue, in:

our understanding of offenders who employ Internet-based techniques to engage in adult-child sexual exploitation. The following questions should be addressed:

* What are the characteristics of offenders who sexually exploit children solely through the Internet?
* How do Internet offenders differ from contact offenders?
* Do chat sites, bulletin boards and websites that support adult-child sexual interest encourage and legitimize pro-abuse ideologies?
* Do these sites increase the risk of contact offending?

The research in this area is growing, but much of our knowledge is still based on incarcerated sexual offenders. Examining Internet offenders may expose the differences between this group and sexual offenders who do not use the Internet to abuse children.

Also in this issue, articles on cross-border operations against organised crime; digital evidence in the courtroom; mental illness and the role of the police; occupational stressors and ‘noble cause’ corruption; the CSI effect and the Canadian jury; trends in art crime; and resilience at the RCMP. Access it all for free via this link.

Photo credit: miss_rogue, Creative Commons License

Conference announcement: Policing Transnational Crimes

Kings College London is holding a one-day conference on 18 May in London on policing serious transnational crimes.  They say:

It will be an excellent opportunity for practitioners, academics, policy makers and voluntary sector organisations to come together to assess current measures in place to tackle transnational crimes and to assess the impact of the creation of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Recognising that this is a time of great change within this area of policing, it is an opportune moment to explore issues around governance, accountability and ethics of transnational policing. The conference will draw together delegates from a wide range of backgrounds including police officers from Africa, South Asia and Europe. It is a networking opportunity not to be missed.

Full details in the conference flyer (pdf).

The Changing Structure of Organized Crime Groups

Published by Royal Canadian Mounted Police, June 2005

To obtain an electronic copy of the complete report (PDF), please send a request by e-mail to the Research and Evaluation Section (Community, Contract and Aboriginal Policing Services) of the RCMP

From the Executive Summary :

With significant improvements in modes of transport, communication and ever-expanding horizon of technology, organized crime has significantly evolved into a global phenomenon.
Continue reading The Changing Structure of Organized Crime Groups

Supergrass bill ‘will hurt crime gangs’

The Guardian November 25, 2004

Legislation to formalise the use of “supergrasses” will make it easier to net gangsters draining billions from the British economy, the head of the new crimebusting agency dubbed the British FBI said yesterday. The plan to allow criminals to testify against former accomplices in return for lighter sentences, or possibly immunity from prosecution, is part of the government policing bill, which will create the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca), overhaul police powers, and extend the powers of community support officers. […] The courts can show leniency towards witnesses who turn Queen’s evidence against accomplices. But government and senior law enforcement figures believe formalising this system will yield better results, helping persuade those on the periphery of big gangs to inform on the godfathers, and allowing Soca to “disrupt and intervene much quicker”. […] Critics say the system is open to abuse, and it was discredited in Northern Ireland in the 80s, when many jailed on unreliable supergrass evidence later had their convictions overturned.,2763,1358936,00.html

Tide of misery by seaside as big city drug gangs move in

Tide of misery by seaside as big city drug gangs move in
The Observer September 5, 2004

[…] The latest figures released by Norfolk police show that around a third of all the dealers in Class A drugs arrested in the area come from Merseyside. A significant proportion of the remainder have been recruited by or are being supplied by the Liverpool gangs. The situation is being repeated across the country with several police forces setting up operations aimed at specifically targeting the dealers from the north west. A recent report published by the Devon & Cornwall police authority and obtained by The Observer states: ‘Liverpool criminals who have previously controlled the heroin distribution in Devon & Cornwall have diversified into crack and cocaine. They are now responsible for much of the Class A drug supply across the force area. This group poses a major threat to the force as their market places and networks are well defined and commercially viable.’ […] The increased focus on areas outside Liverpool is also believed to be in part a response to a year-long crackdown in the city by Merseyside police which has massively disrupted dealing in key areas.,2763,1297550,00.html