Question 1. Identify the four specific categories of computer crimes. Provide an example for each category and explain the influence on society and criminal justice operations that the crime has under each category.
According to Carter (1995), there are 4 general types of computer crimes. First is computer as target. In this category of crime, the computer is the target and types of offenses under this category include theft of intellectual property. Other crimes falling under this category include theft of market information, unlawful access of government records and trespass. This crime has a great influence on society and criminal justice operations because it affects sensitive information. For example, it makes it difficult for criminal justice operations in events where there is access to criminal justice records since it can lead to the changing of criminal history. Second is the computer as the instrumentality of the crime. An example of such a crime is the fraudulent use of ATM cards. Such crimes affect society directly in that they lead to loss of people’s money. At the same time, dealing with such crimes becomes difficult for criminal justice operatives since they use sophisticated networks. Third is when the computer is incidental to other crimes. Examples include unlawful banking transactions and money laundering. These greatly affect society in that such crimes greatly affect the economy. It can also lead to the destruction of organized crime records and this impact negatively on criminal justice operations. Fourth are crimes associated with the prevalence of computer. Examples include software counterfeiting and piracy. Software piracy is a vice that greatly affects the software industry but due to the sophistication of the crime, it is difficult to identify the culprits.
Question 2. Define social structure theory. Outline and describe in detail some examples of theories within the social structure theory. How do you feel that society plays an important role in developing an individual’s personality and criminal behavior?
Social structure theory is often used in explaining the social patterns that usually have an influence on the actions and behaviors of an individual within that particular social setting. According to Siegel (2000), social structure theories pose that an individual’s place in the socioeconomic structure influences his or her chances o becoming a criminal. For example, a poor person is more likely to engage in crime since he or she is unable to accomplish social success in other ways. There are 3 theories under the social structure theory; social disorganization theory, strain theory, and cultural deviance theory.
According to social disorganization theory, slum dwellers are likely to violate the law since they inhabit areas which have a broken down social control. Strain theory perceives crime as being the result of anger that individuals experience due to their inability to accomplish legitimate economic and social success. According to cultural deviance theory, people of lower socioeconomic status or class tend to approve such behaviors as defying authority and being tough. Society has an important role in developing one’s personality and criminal behavior. For example, a child who grows up in a violent neighborhood ridden with criminal activities such as drug dealing is likely to end up engaging in criminal activities as an adult. This is because an individual tends to identify, associate and form his or her identity on what happens around him or her.
Question 3. Define subculture. From a sociological and criminological perspective, how does subculture contribute to criminal activity? Provide examples in which subculture contributes to crime.
According to the Council on Drug Abuse (2011), a subculture can be defined as a cultural subgroup that is differentiated by factors such as ethnic background, status, religion, and race among others, which unify the subgroup. Also, subcultures are seen as outlets for the values of groups, and thus there is a resultant pattern of behaviors. According to the Council on Drug Abuse (2011), many youths who engage in criminal activities are usually involved in groups. Such groups often have subcultures that tend to influence their members and this often leads to criminal behavior. A group’s subculture is its identity and therefore every member of the group must be able to portray that image.
If the subculture places high stakes on violence, then the members of that group have to show violent behavior. If a group’s subculture places emphasis on drugs or other forms of criminal activities, the members have to pick up those behaviors and identify with them. An example is the various gangs that operate in different cities or the organized crime families. For example, in some gang groupings, one has to kill a person before being initiated as a full member. This way, the individual can earn respect and achieve the sense of belongingness. This is an example of how subcultures influence criminal activity.
Question 4. What is cyber-victimization? Why has cyber-victimization become a growing issue in computer crimes? List and describe three examples of cyber-victimization and the influence of the crimes?
Cyber victimization can be described as the act of intentionally harassing, threatening and humiliating others in cyberspace. It is also referred to as cyber bullying. According to Ngo & Paternoster (2011), people are increasingly using technologies such as social networking sites, electronic mail and text messaging to inflict psychological harm on other people. Cyber victimization is growing due to a number of factors. First, technology has become increasingly available to people including children and adolescents. With many people owning cell phones and other devices capable of accessing the internet, cyber bullying has risen greatly. People can take and post humiliating photos of others on the internet or social networking sites. People can use photo editing software to ‘troll’ others, and this results in psychological harm to those affected.
Another reason is anonymity. the internet provides some level of anonymity and this makes it difficult to trace the culprits behind cyber bullying. Three major examples of cyber victimization are unauthorized access to one’s computer, having information altered without one’s knowledge and online harassment. Criminals can access one’s computer on the internet and this results in cyber victimization. Others can tamper by adding, deleting or changing information on the computer and this also constitutes cyber victimization. The most prevalent one is online harassment which is mainly via social networking sites and electronic mail. Many people have had to deal with their humiliating photographs and stories being posted on major networking sites. These crimes usually inflict psychological harm on the victims and there have even been reported cases on suicide among victims of cyber bullying.
Question 5. Compare and contrast the Choice Theory and the Deterrence Theory. Describe how rational thought affects the choices that individuals make before they commit a crime. Do you feel that one theory is more accurate than the other? Explain.
The rational choice theory was formulated in economics and makes the assumption that individuals are motivated by money or the possibility of making a profit. Based on this, then formal and predictive models of human behavior can be constructed. The premise is that every action is rational in character meaning that individuals have to evaluate the likely benefits and costs of any action before making their decision (Alkers, 1990). On the other hand, deterrence theory is based on the premise that certain, severe and swift legal penalties will deter crime. For example deterrence theorists believe that a severe punishment for an offence will discourage other people from engaging in the same offence. Usually, rational thought affects people’s choices before committing a crime. Usually, individuals will make a choice in relation to their goals and the means for achieving these goals.
Therefore, they have to anticipate the outcomes of alternatives and evaluate the best way of achieving the goals. Usually, it is the alternative that gives the greatest satisfaction that is chosen. By the fact that people engage in criminal acts as a personal choice, then this in itself is based on a rational choice. Therefore, rational choice theory is the more accurate of the two because humans are rational beings and thus make rational calculations before deciding what to do. It is rationality that will also evaluate the possibility of a reward or punishment, which form the basis of deterrence theory.
Alkers, R.L. (1990) Rational Choice, Deterrence, and Social Learning Theory in Criminology: The Path Not Taken. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 1990; 81(3): 653-676.
Carter, D.L. (1995) Computer Crime Categories. Law Enforcement Bulletin. U. S.
Council on Drug Abuse. (2011) Subcultures, Drugs and Crime: Is there a Connection? Retrieved on 02 Dec. 2013 from http://www.drugabuse.ca/subcultures-drugs-and-crimeis-there- connection
Ngo, F.T. & Paternoster, R. (2011) Cybercrime Victimization: An Examination of Individual and Situational Level Factors. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 2011; 5(1): 773- 793.
Siegel, L.J. (2000) Social Structure Theories. National Criminal Justice Reference Service, 2000, pp. 184-219.