Although by definition all crimes tend to breach the law but not all breaches of law are termed as crimes. For instance, breaches of civil law such as a breach of contract may only be termed as an offence or as an infraction. The severity of such breaches of law is lower and hence they carry lower punishment. Crime is generally regarded as offence against the state by modern societies. This is different from torts that are seen as offences against private parties that give rise to civil cause of action (Burgess & Akers, 1966). As society expands, informal relationships and their sanctions are inadequate to establish and sustain a desired social order. In these circumstances, the government or the state has to impose more formalised and rigid approaches to social control. The agents of the state are entrusted to compel the masses to conform to agreed rules and laws using institutional and legal frameworks and machinery. These mechanisms may choose to punish or reform the non-conformant sections of society. 1.2. Sociological Perspectives The normative approach to sociology tends to view crime as various forms of deviant behaviour that tend to violate prevailing norms and cultural standards used to define normal human behaviour in society.
Crime is a complex phenomenon that is influenced by a number of factors including political, economic, social and psychological conditions at any point in time. Furthermore, any changes in these conditions will induce changes in the definition of criminal acts. Hence, the definition of crime and its form as well as legal, law enforcement and other penal responses made by society evolve as crime evolves (Dantzker & Hunter, 2000). The sociological approach to crime tries to consider the complex realities that influence criminal behaviour and the complex responses made by society in the wake of criminal behaviour. The structural realities used to define and deal with crime tend to remain fluid and may cause contention in society. There is a social tendency to criminalise or decriminalise certain kinds of behaviour as cultural changes and political changes emerge (Fox, 1981). Consequently, these changes have a direct bearing on the statistical crime rate, the allocation of resources to deal with criminal behaviour and general public opinion on criminal behaviour. In a similar manner, any changes in the collection techniques or calculation techniques for crime data tend to alter public perception of crime. Generally, these changes influence public perception of the extent of a “crime problem” above anything else. These adjustments to crime statistics along with people’s everyday experiences tend to influence public perception on the extent to which law or other social engineering mechanisms should be used by the state to encourage conformance to social norms. Therefore, the scientific study of crime and criminal behaviour is critical to public perception on crime. This method of looking at crime is better known as criminology and is discussed below in detail. 2. Criminology The scientific study of the nature, causes, extent and control of criminal behaviour on an individual and in the social perspective is better known as criminology. Criminology requires an interdisciplinary approach within the domain of behavioural sciences using knowledge gathered from sociology, psychology, anthropology and law (Jones, 2006). The bulk of research in criminology is diverted