Experimental visualization of narrower problems
Other Names:
Vulnerability of social defences
Dependence on crime
Criminal liability

Crime, on the increase throughout the world, includes both personal attacks (assaults, theft, muggings) and transnational offenses (diplomat kidnappings, airplane hijackings, drug trafficking), leading to a pervasive uneasiness amongst ordinary citizens who are increasingly resorting to active as well as passive self-protection measures. In addition to criminal offenses often associated with low socio-economic groups (such as murder, burglary, rape, arson, manslaughter, and theft), there is now an acceleration in the dimensions of white collar crimes such as consumer fraud, illegal price fixing, tax evasion and contravention of anti-trust or anti-monopoly laws and labour legislation. Convictions of criminals by courts reflect biases inherent in police practice, as many criminal acts escape notice or their perpetrators cannot be identified. Organized crime, often impervious to police intensifications and court actions, is taken for granted as an aspect of modern industrial life in various countries, often putting legitimate businesses into bankruptcy as a result of unequal competition. Corrupt practices within official bureaucracies may divert funds intended for national development. Transnational crimes in their new political forms challenge social defence while disrupting world order and security.

Recorded crime in industrial societies has increased every year since the mid-1950s, for complex reasons not wholly understood, and now the rate of increase exceeds any in previous history. While studies show that in most countries urban areas have higher crime rates than the surrounding rural areas (due to unemployment, poverty, hopelessness of self-improvement, anonymity and overcrowding being more prevalent in cities), the corresponding economic strain has forced many countries to curtail their rehabilitative crime prevention programmes in favour of less effective short-term repressive policies. The overall general decline of family structure has led both to a mistrust of and intolerance of the older and more established methods of prevention and control, and to impatience with the value systems upon which they have been based. As education spreads, higher expectations, if unfulfilled, appear to increase the vulnerability of young people to the temptation of illegal short cuts to wealth, power, and status. In any case, crime is predominantly an activity of young male members of society.


Neglecting national variations in the basis of statistical estimates, figures from Interpol indicate that in 1990 there were approximately 39 million crimes reported from 91 countries worldwide, namely 1300 per 100,000 population; some 8.8 million (namely 22%) were claimed to have been resolved.

About one in four American households was hit in 1989 by a violent or property crime including rape, robbery, assault, personal theft, burglary and motor vehicle theft. In the same year the UK suffered 11,500 crimes a day, of which 94% were crimes against property. All crime in the UK increased by 3.8% in 1993 over 1992, which included a 14% increase in robberies. Burglaries, which accounted for one quarter of all crime, increased by 9%, and house burglaries by 12%. Vehicle crime rose by 5%, largely due to a 7% rise in the thefts of cars. The 1992 British Crime Survey reported that recorded crime nearly doubled between 1981 and 1991, reaching 5.5 million reported incidents. Most crimes are not reported, however, and the estimate of total crimes in England and Wales in 1991 was 15 million. A similar, though less pronounced, increase showed in the Netherlands in the ten years between 1980 and 1990, with an increase in robberies from 291,543 to 381,324 (over 30%); assaults from 13,409 to 21,786 (62%); and attempted murders from 1,501 to 2,178 (45%).

Reduced By:
Campbell, Duncan: That Was Business, This is Personal: the changing faces of professional crime
Heidensohn, Frances: Women and Crime
Eitzen, Stanley D and Timmer, Doug A: Crime in the Streets and Crime in the Suites: perspectives on crime and criminal justice
Meier, Robert F: Crime and Society
Gross, F A: Crime: a universal problem
Muslehuddin, Muhammad: Crime and the Islamic Doctrine of Preventive Measures
Hall, Richard: Deorganized Crime
Normandeau, André: International Bibliography on Criminal Statistics: 1945-1968
Chang, Dae H and Blazicek, Donald L: An Introduction to Comparative and International Criminology
Huggings, Martha K: From Slavery to Vagrancy in Brazil: crime and social control in the Third World
Johnson, Elmer H: International Handbook of Contemporary Developments in Criminology
Lopez-Rey, Manual: Guide to United Nations Criminal Policy
Reid, Sue T: Crime and Criminology
Shariff, M: Crime and Punishment in Islam
Wilson, James Q and Herrnstein, Richard J: Crime and Human Nature
Nettler, Gwynn: Explaining Crime
Archer, Dane and Gartner, Rosemary: Violence and Crime in Cross-National Perspectives
Shoham, S Giora and Rahau, Giora: The Mark of Cain: the stigma theory of crime and social deviance
Braithwaite, John: Crime, Shame and Reintegration
Litan, Robert E and Winston, Clifford: Liability: perspectives and policy
Hirsch, Andrew Von: Past or Future Crimes: deservedness and dangerousness in the sentencing
Messerschmidt, James: Capitalism, Patriarchy and Crime
Council of Europe: Economic Crises and Crime
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
B: Basic universal problems
Date of last update
03.02.2021 – 18:30 CET