This essay is based on criminological theory and aims at explaining how police acts as agents of social control to prevent crime. It also tends to analyse whether the role by police is effective in society or not. For this purpose, the essay is divided into three parts; Introduction, Body and Conclusion. The last part is references which provide the list of sources used to gather information for this essay. The first part of the essay is Introduction which underlines the topic and background of the topic. The second part of the essay is Body which will provide in-depth discussion of the topic along with strong arguments. The third part, conclusion is the result of the topic. This section concludes the essay with strong arguments. In order to gather data for this essay, there were many sources referred. Foremost, the researcher had to work as a police officer to identify the reasons as to how police act as agents of social control to prevent crime. The researcher also corresponded with police officers of other departments regarding several problems.
In recent times, criminology theory is a rapidly growing field within the discipline of criminology. The criminology theory seeks to determine the potential causes of different types of crimes (Bayley, 2006). There are many criminology theories but most of them can be grouped together in academic disciplines such as economics, politics, political science etc. In general, theory is defined as the relationship between two or more phenomena. A theory is considered to serve numerous purposes such as unifying, organising and systemising knowledge, providing meaning to empirical findings, ensuring results of the theory can be put into practice, guiding and stimulating scientific inquiry and providing a base or framework for the kinds of research that can put in criminal justice system. With reference to definition of theory, criminology theory may be defined as the explanation between the characteristics of people and the possibility that they will involve themselves in criminal activities (BBC, 2012). The criminology theories that are in practice as of now have certain weaknesses. One, the theory of crime is not a theory of criminal behaviour i.e. it doesn’t help us to identify why behaviour is criminal or non-criminal. Second, the theories in practice don’t explain every type of criminal behaviour. In general, an ideal theory should integrate different aspects of criminal behaviour such as legal, sociological and psychological. As per many criminology theories, police act as agents of social control to prevent crime. The role of police is vital in ensuring the law & order of the region and ultimately, the whole country. By definition, social control is defined as the behaviour that should be followed by all the citizens irrespective of their caste, color and creed (Crown Prosecution Service, 2010). There are different levels of social control which are required to be safeguarded by the police. The levels of social control are Primary, Secondary and Tertiary. Police offers support many activities and take actions against them if required. They might support secondary control agent by informing a violator. Alternatively, they might support one secondary control supporter over other. Police act as conveyors between some secondary control system and non-tertiary control systems (Deflem, 2010).
The study of criminology usually targets that why people engage in criminal activities and why they behave criminally in some situations. There are many criminology theories with distinct view-points. Some theories suggest that it is conscious choice of an individual to commit a crime or not (Innes, 2013). Alternatively, some theories do suggest that it is the responsibility of the community to ensure that individuals don’t commit criminal crimes. It can be achieved by providing them secure and safe place to live. The criminology theories comprise of numerous theories such as Classical Theory, Choice Theory, Conflict Theory, Critical Theory, Labelling Theory, Positivist Theory etc (Mcdevitt, 2005). In a society, roles of people are determined by social relations that are governed by certain norms and laws. Roles don’t only comprise of obligations and responsibilities but are also governed by numerous privileges and rights. These roles are important and hence, are given to those people who are well-versed with its importance and rules governing them. With reference to this, police is given an important role in society. Their key role in society is to enforce law and also maintain public order. Policemen are required to be committed to their work effectively (Stenning, 2000).
Often, it is said that police acts agents of social control to prevent crime. As per Bursik and Gramsik, there are distinct types of social control. The first social control is private social control, second is parochial social control, and third is indirect social control. Private social control refers to the relationships between family and close friends (The National Archives, 2002). Parochial social control refers to the control exerted by one community on another which operates in one geographical area. Informal social control refers to the ability of individual and networks to keep the public goods and service secure. British criminologists have developed wide-variety of accounts in order to signify the importance of police as agents of social control to prevent crime. In much of their works, Police is considered to be representative of law and order, national interest and respectability (Reiner, 2012). In every country, police force is entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the interest of the citizens, taking strict actions against any criminal activities and to prevent and detect crimes.
As per Bittner, police plays a vital role in addressing different human problems. These human problems may require use of force at times in order to address them effectively and maintain the peace (Walsh, 2011). One of the key aspects of policing is to use force in order to maintain the law and order. It is one of the unifying features of the police and a privilege or authority given to police. For instance, police may be required to use the force to bring a family dispute to an end or to resolve other issues. But the role of the police is not limited to using the forces. Their key aim remains to provide efficient and effective service to public (Gibbs, 2012). In general, public finds police intimidating so use of force is not necessary in every instance.
In society, police is considered to have most authoritative and privileged post. Hence, the role of police is effective in this role (Bertus, 2010). The role of policing is continuously expanding and evolving with time. They are expected to face numerous challenges on regular basis and then safeguard the interest of citizens. In order to ensure police plays an effective role as social agents, there various types of crime prevention strategies such physical prevention, social prevention etc. Physical prevention is intended to remove physical opportunities to commit crime (Watson, 1998). In this, police officials usually get training regarding the elimination of physical opportunities regarding locks and bolts. Alternatively, social prevention strategies are adopted to strengthen communities and restore informal surveillance and social control of crime.
To conclude, it can be stated that police play an important in maintaining the law and order in society and also safeguarding the interest of the citizens. Also, police acts as agents of social control to prevent various crimes and this role has proved to be highly effective. Above arguments state that police might support secondary control agent by informing a violator (Brown, 2010). Alternatively, they might support one secondary control supporter over other. On the other hand, police may act as conveyors between some secondary control system and some non-tertiary control systems (Goldstein, 1990). Hence, they are known to support different social control levels and maintain peace & law and order in society.
Criminology is one of the widely taken academic disciplines. In criminology, the primary aim of the study is to examine why people commit crimes and what are their behaviours while committing it. As criminologists have been finding best solutions to decrease the levels and type of crime, many theories have been developed by researchers. In general, theories are used as crucial tools to understand the world around us. However, in terms of criminology, it helps to understand the working of criminal justice system. By definition, criminology refers to as the study of the behaviour of criminals (Ankony, 1990). The primary goal of criminology theory is to help individuals get the knowledge of crimes and justice systems. There are distinct criminology theories given by British criminologists. These criminology theories can be used to assist in policy making and can be evaluated on different criteria such as clarity, scope, testability, empirical validity etc (Bobinsky, 1994). Some of the widely used theories used by criminologists are Rational Choice Theory, Social disorganisation theory, Strain theory, Social learning theory, Social control theory, Labelling theory etc.
Rational Choice Theory:
As per this theory, people usually commit crimes for their personal interests and commit crimes after determining the potential risks against the rewards. For example, criminals identify getting punishment or imprisonment before committing any crimes.
Social disorganisation theory:
As per this theory, the social and physical environment of the person is responsible for his actions and behaviour.
As per this theory, people who have the potential to meet goals but don’t able to make it because of less resources and abilities tend to achieve them by adopting criminal ways. They turn to criminal activities in order to achieve the success.
Social learning theory:
As per this, people commit crime due to other criminal people associated with them. For example, if one friend is indulged in criminal activity, other will be automatically influenced to indulge in such activities due to peer pressure.
Social control theory:
As per this theory, people engage in criminal activities not getting influenced from individuals but from institutions such as schools, colleges, hospitals etc.
As per this theory, people who are in power holds the authority to call someone criminal or not. When a person is labelled criminal, society perceives him as a criminal all his life and that label never gets discarded.
These are some of the theories used by criminologists to study the behaviour of the criminals and study the reasons why they commit crimes.
This essay throws light on the role of police as agents of social control to prevent crime and how this role is effective for them in society. In general, social control covers different processes that prevent the deviance. Experts believe that almost every phase of social life is as an example of social control. There are two forms of social control as studied by sociologists. These are informal means of control and formal means of control.
Informal means of social control:
This is a form of social control which is practiced by a community or society in form of customs, norms and mores.
Formal means of social control:
This is a form of social control which is practiced by indivuals independently.
Besides forms of social control, there are three levels of social control (Burden, 1992). These three levels include; Primary, Secondary and Tertiary social control. Primary social control is defined as the kind of social control which is provided by a person himself. For instance, if a child is punished for some form of behaviour in his institution that certain form of behaviour is tend to be prohibited. In case he is punished by everyone the he has a perception in mind that this work is wrong and shouldn’t be repeated. This perception stays with him all through his life. Secondly, secondary social control is a type of social control which comes from activities in which a person engages. People with whom a person lives are crucial for the regulation of the person’s behaviour (Mastrofski, 1995). If a person will maintain cordial relations with the people he will meet in course of life then he will be considered good. Otherwise, the person will be boycotted by society if he doesn’t show good behaviour. If the person will show disturbing behaviour towards others then it will result in the person putting bad impression on others and community as a whole. Third type of social control is tertiary social control. This type of social control is practiced by formal social control agencies such as police, social workers, courts, hospitals etc. Police don’t play much role in primary and secondary social control but the role of police in tertiary control is vital. Police have to be determine the correct behaviour that they will show to people being accused of various crimes. In general, the agent with the charge of handling tertiary social control faces a confusion to inhibit some forms of behaviour and encourage other people to inhibit good behaviour and don’t commit crimes. There are various situations when police officers fall back to primary and secondary social control (More, 1992). This is due to the face that reward which police officers produce is distributed throughout the community. For instance, a person doesn’t know he may be targeted by an accused who has been arrested by police officers. Hence, the person thinks he don’t have any role to play. The fact police has caught up a person who is accused with some crime is unknown to a citizen but it will definitely exert some kind of pressure on the citizen to obey traffic rules or other legislations. These three types of social control levels are distinct but can be related at sometimes. Every level has different agents holding complete control over it. However, it can have positive and negative sanctions (Bertus, 1996).
The table showing different levels is represented below:
The source is this case is ego.
Individual, person himself
Negative: Shame, Guilt and Doubt
Positive: Pride, Satisfaction, Peace with Self.
Reciprocal Typfications and expectations from common activities.
A person for whom ego is important.
Negative: Hatred, Exclusion from activities
Positive: Acceptance, Survival
Group processes that lead to enactment of laws
The agents who are legally authorized.
Negative: Death, imprisonment
Positive: Awards, merits
Table 1: Different Levels of Social control
Source: Wilson, 1989
In this table, sources, agents, pros and cons for different levels of social control are mentioned. The source of primary level of social agent is ego within individuals, source of secondary level of social control is expectations made by people from common activities and source of tertiary level of social control is group process which leads to enactment of laws. The agent of primary level of social agent is individual himself while that of secondary level is a person for whom ego is important and for tertiary level are the agents who are legally authorised. From primary level of social agent, negative consequences include ego, shame, and guilt and doubt while positive consequences include pride, satisfaction and peace. For secondary level of social agent, negative consequences include hatred and exclusion from society while positive consequences include acceptance and survival. For tertiary level of social agent, negative consequences include death and imprisonment while positive consequences include awards and merits.
The police maintain social control efforts and organizations by many of their activities. They work as a resulting control manager by notifying an offender, with authority, about the penalties payable in case of any major offence (Taylor, 1998). For instance, in a case the police came across a boy aged 12 years during a response action taken to a distress call, which was initially accounted as a fight. It later appeared that the "fight" was just a brawl between brothers, but, during the examination of the complaint, the officer came to know that the boy has missed school for the past 6 days and his parents has no idea how to deal with it. The officered on his part strictly addressed the boy about his responsibility of compliance to his parents, and then also instructed the mother that she should get in touch with the juvenile department if her son still refuses to go to school the next morning and a report of the current situation would be there to provide them with the backdrop of the case. The officer had to use some effort to persuade the 12 year old that there can be stern prospective penalties of declining to comply with his parents. Thus this situation perfectly depicts the way in which the police act as agents of social control and work efficiently in preventing crime. In several other cases the police also choose one social control system over another which has been is wrong. For instance – to act in response to a family distress call, where it so happened that the spouse had been hitting his wife, it was evident that the probable explanation was to facilitate the wife stay with some of his family members who ready to take care of her. On further investigation the officer concluded that the husband was intoxicated, quarrelsome, and openly aggressive but, by accompanying her out and not arresting the husband they should their efforts in social control. A case was registered against the husband which would be further handled by the lawyers thus in this way the police maintain law and order in situations and thereby hand over cases which are not in their authority to other law agencies. In many cases often there is no legal solution, thus the police can make several efforts to address the demands of people and there by maintain social control.
The police also act as a link between some agencies of social control and also some legal agencies. Thus the police aid in crisis situations and in also various medical emergency situations (Berg, 1984). The police also take several efforts to make appropriate decisions and thus the control of another agency in which the wrongdoer takes part thus to regulate and control the unlawful behaviour in situations where the present authorities have established inadequate (Community Policing, 2010). The various agencies in which a police personnel is concerned usually are rather relevant to his performance in other circumstances, but when they are distant, they may not think of them in the between a case. The symbolic concern for social control is many times utterly documented by police in fewer recognized terms (King, 1995). One of the generally significant things executed by the police to maintaining law along with proper command however comes basically from the police being there. People are usually hesitant to “interfere with the law` or indulge in unlawful activities such as taking take advantage of their neighbours when they know that they will be prosecuted and punished. Thus for this reason itself it that they police are an essential important part in maintaining the social control of the society. Thus it is also very essential for the police department for survive and be in existence in order to successfully instil fear in the offenders mind.
This method of community monitoring of the police adds a lot more to rule execution and universal safeguarding of the law and order because the possible offender are discourages, but also who the police personnel interacts. For example if a person, such as a wife, has made reciprocal adjustments with a possible offender thus the existence of the police may persuade her to challenge to discourage her spouse from unlawful activities because the existence of a superior level of social control act as a warning to her institutional version if her spouse is arrested. Thus a she may create dispute in opposition to her spouse stealing something, not for the reason that she considers that it is principally wrong but because she may believe the fact that the police will perhaps arrest him for his offenses she will not support him in his illegal activities (Mottaz, 1983). Thus in this way the police maintain the social control in successful avoiding the reciprocal action to several offenders by instilling fear. There have also been various cases where offenders haven’t succeeded when they did not receive reciprocal support. Therefore the implementation of this institution requires that the police stay a part of the social control agencies.
Consecutively Social control is also disrupted when people are intoxicated, or uncommitted permanently or situational to the controls of work, family, and neighbourhood. The police have to alternate for control in personal fights. The police also take action in lieu of conformist controls for homeless person, approving and also sometimes defending them. The authorization of the police is slightly uncertain. There are several the lawfully permitted purposes and the innumerable of other roles which have associated with police (Pogrebin, 2007). To maintain the social control in society the police are provided with several legal powers to fulfil their duty. They are also allowed to extend these legal powers according to the case and situations. The police are known to successful catch serious offenders and report them to higher levels of the agencies of social control, such as the courts thereby effectively setting the closure for justice in the society. The police there by support several other social control agencies, or vice versa and also express deviations from other agencies in order to successfully handle the offender as well as the victim. Thus they perform social control for community and special welfare by means of several lawfully authorized tools when they are efficient and taking help from other sources whenever necessary (Community Policing Defined, 2014). The conductive conclusion is that several of the regulations of conservative community get approximate social control which is anticipated, but not always through the recognized lawfully authorized sources. Most of the social control maintained by the police is routine and biased to the distinction, and divergence of a constantly altering and mainly spontaneous set of understanding which survives in an uncomfortable language with officially endorsed set of laws (Shernock, 1988).
To conclude, it can be stated that police plays an effective role in bringing relief to people who are homeless and are at greater risk of becoming victims of criminal activity than their peers due their lifestyle. Also, police has been able to act as agents of social control and adopting crime prevention strategies. The use of criminology theories have been considered effective since these provide a support to police to identify the reasons why criminal activities take and what should be potential steps to cope up with them. This paper has critically evaluated the criminology theories and role of police as agents of social control. The arguments are supported by strong evidences and examples.
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