Crime Control

Crime control, a form of social control, refers to the broad range of methods used in society that aim to reduce or prevent the occurrence of criminal behavior. Methods of controlling crime include those used by the state, such as policing strategies, courts, the use of punishment, bureaucracies that make up the criminal justice system, and the public policies that dictate them, as well as methods like private policing and private security. Nonstate entities, such as individuals and corporations, also practice various forms of crime control in the pursuit of safeguarding homes and businesses. A variety of technologies have increasingly become integral to attempts at controlling or preventing crime and monitoring offenders in the name of security for society. Crime control often appears in the fields of criminology and criminal justice in a few important theoretical ways: as a model of the administration of justice, the crime control model; to explain how private entities have played crucial roles alongside governmental crime control agencies while producing enormous profits, or crime control industry; and as a defining feature of late-modern (late 20th century and beyond) culture.

Western countries have experienced a trend of intensified security measures as harmful behaviors are being evermore criminalized and dealt with in terms of risk. This spiraling of security is seen through a variety of surveillance technologies that facilitate the pivot in crime control strategies and legislation. Examples of such technologies are data mining, offender registries, environmental design, closed-circuit television, data matching, and fingerprint systems, among others. There also now exists the ability to pool various technologies of surveillance into an assemblage of surveillance.

Conceptualizing Crime Control

Crime Control Industry and the Culture of Control

The crime control industry is a term used for the methods, reasonings, technologies, and processes of the social response of crime in industrial society. The idea of crime control as an industry has existed since the 1970s, but U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1967 President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, which advocated the use of science and technology as a mechanism for combating the existence of crime, has been a catalyst in the immense growth of the crime control industry. Used as a critique of dispensing justice, it highlights the massive swelling of criminal justice expenditures. For instance, in the United States, expenditures rose from about $36 billion in 1980 to well over $200 billion by the 2010s. This industry secures both profit and work alongside the social control of individuals who may potentially cause social disorder. This crime control industry is unique in that crime is seemingly always in supply and growth of the industry is foundational to it, as evident through the swelling in expenditure alongside public calls for additional crime control. An integral part to this idea is the effect from private entities on the operation of crime control and the criminal justice system. Corporate influences are evident in the merging of business and criminal justice (e.g., private police and prisons) and in using for-profit ideals to administer justice and manage bureaucracies in an impersonal way. These crime control entities operate within social contexts that have changed in important ways since the 1950s.

David Garland, a prominent sociologist of crime and punishment, describes crime control in relationship to its situation within the broader sociocultural and economic conditions of late modernity to which crime control adapts and influences. Late modernity is a term used to describe features of industrial society since the mid- to late 19th century (e.g., free market mentality, new penology, social exclusion, and decline of state sovereignty—including over crime control) that have gradually supplanted modernity (e.g., advanced technology, industrialization, and reliance on government for security). Crime control is thus changing in significant ways because though the state may provide punishment, it cannot guarantee security. Garland calls this new dynamic of political, social, cultural, and economic changes the crime control complex, which marks a momentous shift from the focus on rehabilitation and reform that preceded it. Entities external to the state, such as private security companies, have exploited the criminal justice market and have been increasingly utilized in spaces where the state is perceived to insufficiently maintain security.

Travis Milburn

See also Closed-Circuit Television ; Garland, David ; Governing Through Crime ; Incapacitation ; New Penology ; Social Control

Further Readings

Christie, Nils. Crime Control as Industry: Towards Gulags, Western Style. New York, NY: Routledge, 2017.

Currie, Elliot. Crime and Punishment in America. New York, NY: Macmillan, 2013.

Ericson, Richard. Crime in an Insecure World. Cambridge, England: Polity Press, 2007.

Garland, David. The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in a Contemporary Society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

Packer, Herbert L. “Two models of the criminal process.” University of Pennsylvania Law Review, v.113/1 (1964).