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Society's Fear and Fascination with Crime Essay

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In today’s society the term ‘crime’ could be described as a buzzword. It could be argued that today’s society is both fearful of, and fascinated by, crime. There have been many explanations as to why society is increasingly both fearful and fascinated by the crime problem in the UK. This essay will outline what is meant by the term ‘crime’; will present evidence that society is both fascinated by and fearful of crime and discuss what factors may be contributing to this.

Crime is legally defined as “acts which break or contravene the letter of the law” (Mooney et al., 2004, pg 6). There is, however, another definition of what crime is, “acts which break or contravene a set of formal or informal norms or codes” (Mooney et al., 2004, pg 6), the normative definition. The two definitions of crime are quite different; there is no one predetermined definition of what is meant by the term ‘crime’, therefore, it is socially constructed.

Evidence suggests that the fear of crime is growing in today’s society. It is assumed that crime is getting worse; “we have got used to thinking of crime, like the weather and pop music, as something that is always getting worse” (Reiner in Mooney et al., 2004, pg 11). Is this fear and fascination with crime a new development? Pearson (1983 in Mooney et al., 2004, pg 22) argues that this is not the case, that the elders of each generation remember their youth as a ‘golden age’, in contrast to the behaviour of the youth of today.

In addition to this, there is a consensus that the days of community living are gone and some areas are now avoided because of reputation. The days of the local police officer living ‘round the corner’ and often being seen walking around are widely believed to be...


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...the main small-scale scuffles and vandalism, blew the whole event out of proportion. Newspaper headlines spoke of a ‘Day of Terror’...” (Mooney et al., 2004, pg 23)

In addition to this, the increase in the number of crimes reported could also be contributing to society’s fear and fascination with crime. Maguire (1997 in Mooney et al., 2004, pg 19) claims that there are more crimes reported now because of changes in society and the advancement of technology. The availability of telephones, the use of insurance and the increase in the number of police officers are all factors in making the reporting of crimes easier.

In conclusion, there is much evidence to suggest that today’s society is both fearful and fascinated by crime, however, it could be argued that this has always been the case, that society has always been both fearful of, and fascinated by, crime.


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