How the Media Simplifies Crime

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

This 2019 blog post from the John Howard Society of Canada is useful here:

The media simplify the coverage of crime in the following ways:

  • Media coverage tends to focus on the individual criminals, and their psychological state, with very little focus on the social context which led to a crime being committed (so very little sociological analysis in the mainstream media!)
  • Crime stories quote the police and victims and their families, but rarely experts in the field – nice link to the news value of ‘personalisation’ here.
  • Coverage is usually ‘emotional’ and often ‘angry’ with little objective analysis of the actual risk of the wider public also falling a victim of the crime featured. As a result, the media spreads an unrealistic fear of crime.
  • Coverage of crime is often associated with only one policy option – harsher punishments for offenders – there is very little discussion of alternatives to punishment, despite the fact that a lot of evidence points to the fact that harsher punishments are not the most effective means of controlling crime.

You can find several examples of this simplification of the crime narrative in the BBC News and crime-focussed documentaries (even though the later are supposed to have more depth and breadth)

  • Documentaries typically take the side of the police – following them around, or having them in as experts in the studio – Crimewatch even encourages the public to phone in and help the police
  • The underlying causes of crime are rarely looked at in the news or crime documentaries – as we will see next term factors such as family breakdown, poverty, child abuse mean that many criminals are themselves victims of an unequal society and a harsh upbringing, but this is rarely considered.
  • You rarely hear from the criminals – they tend to be talked about by experts. One obvious example of this is the issue surrounding the war on terror – have you ever heard the Islamists point of view in the mainstream media? The west has been engaged in a ‘war against Al Queda’ for a decade now – wouldn’t it maybe help our understanding of this war if the BBC had made some attempt to let a radical Islamist at least explain why they think terrorism is legitimate? Maybe just once in the last decade?
  • Where political protest happens, the media tend to focus on the violence done by a fringe minority rather than the issues that are being protested about – focussing on violent clashes between police and demonstrators (if there are any) rather than on the issues and speeches that went on during those demonstrations.

What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime refers to illegal activities carried out with a computer over a network such as the internet.

Some of the most common types of cybercrime include:

  • Identity and data theft
  • internet fraud (online scams)
  • hacking (unauthorised access to networks)
  • Infecting devices with viruses
  • Denial of Service attacks (DOS attacks)
  • file sharing in breach of copyright
  • 3D Printing of illegal products
  • Cyberwarfare
  • child pornography

The key characteristics of cybercrime include:

  • The use of digital technologies – either a desktop or laptop computer, but also mobile phones and games consoles.
  • Cyber crime takes place over networked devices. (NB this means one of the main strategies for protecting yourself is to DISCONNECT OR SWITCH OFF your devices whenever you can!)
  • Most cyber crime is informational – it involves an attempt to access and steal personal or corporate/ government information or an attack on online identities.Cyber crime is non-local in nature – it takes place in ‘cyberspace’, not in a real physical location.
  • Having said that, there are physical locations where ‘attacks’ originate from, and these are often in different countries to the victims, making cyber crime very global in nature.
  • There is a considerable ‘data gap’ when it comes to what we know about cyber criminals – more than 80% of victims of online fraud can say NOTHING about the person that committed a crime against them for example.

Cyber dependent and cyber enabled crime

This is a common distinction in criminology (and a very useful analysis tool for A-level sociology students!).

Cyber-dependent crime refers to crimes which can only take place over computer networks – such as Hacking, virus and Denial of Service attacks. These are relatively new crimes, as they have only been possible since the emergence of the internent.

Cyber-enabled crime refers to pretty much ALL cyber crime and includes OLD types of crime that have been made easier with internet – this is MOST cyber-crime and includes identify theft, fraud, file sharing, counterfeiting and child pornography.

There maybe some types of Fraud which you think aren’t possible in the offline world, such as attempting to steal money from people through catfish type romance scams, but technically this would have been possible before the internet through newspaper dating ads and sending photos via letters, but as you can imagine, this would have been A LOT more difficult back in the day before the internet!

Contemporary Examples of Cybercrime

Below I provide some examples of famous historical cybercrimes and more recent cybercrimes to illustrate the nature and extent of some of the different types listed above.

(I’ve omitted the last type in the bullet point list, it’s a bit sensitive).

Identity and data theft

Only around 5% of the internet is visible (searchable by Google), 95% is the Deep Web (which includes the Dark Web) which is where people’s and corporations’ private data is stored, invisible to Google and encrypted, so that most people can’t gain access to it.

HOWEVER, data breaches are VERY common – where a company’s private records are either hacked or security weaknesses are exploited by other means.

This infographic shows you the extent of data breaches, and there are some BIG companies that have had been victims – Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Experian and many, many others.

Wikipedia shows you the same data in a list format , citing research estimating that the annual cost of data breaches to companies currently stands at over $2 trillion annually.

If people’s personal data is breached it can make its way onto the internet so other people can access it. Sometimes this data might be made available for free (just for lolz), other times it might be up for sale on the Dark Web – the later being more likely if the data has financial value, like people’s financial information.

Depending on the type of stolen data made available this can be used against people in the following ways:

  • email lists can be used in personalised phishing attempts (so if a criminal has a list of Barclay’s customers’ emails and other details, he can put together a more authentic looking Barclays phishing scam email).
  • Some personal data may be used to set up bank accounts and apply for credit cards which can then lead to financial crime being committed in other people’s names, this is essentially IDENTITY THEFT.
  • some data might be damaging to people’s reputations – like the Adult Friend Finder data breach – many people on that site were married.
  • If passwords are hacked they can be used to take over people’s social media and other accounts and then used against them – ever received an email from a friend you haven’t heard from in years directing you to click on a link? They were probably a victim of a data breach!

If you want to find out whether your email has been in a data breach, or ‘pawnd’ – the click here (NB not a scam!) – HaveIBeenPawnd.com.

Pawnd shows us that data in over 11 billion private accounts have been ‘breached’ and it further reports that the details of over 200 million of these accounts have been ‘pasted’ online – or made available so other people can access them.

NB – data breaches are not always the result of the obvious criminal organisations or lone individuals – the recent Pegasus SpyWare scandal is an example of a corporate enabled state crime in which people’s data was accessed illegally by various governments around the world.

Internet fraud (online scams)

The number of internet frauds, or internet scams out there are, unfortunately, many and varied. They include, but are by no means limited to…..

  • Covid-19 scams – A VERY unfortunate response to pandemic has been the emergence of lots of fake websites and emails (a form of phishing) offering people everything from ‘quality’ (in reality crap) Facemasks to rapid tests for travel to fake vaccines.
  • Get rich quick investment scams – there must be thousands of fake profiles on Instagram and other sites where users claim to be making LOTS of money trading stocks, crypto, currencies, property, and if you invest with them, you get a cut of their profits – you invest a little, get some returns, then you invest more, then your buddy stops contacting you and runs off with your money.
  • Instagram influencer scams – Influencers can get scammed too – especially the up and coming ones – with bogus offers to ‘come to this amazing location or event sponsored by Cosmo and take photos, but oh you’ve got to pay some money upfront for the hotels/ drivers/ flights and so on – they arrive to find the first night paid for, and then nothing else, and no sponsors of course!
  • Phishing scams – ”You’ve won a prize’ – please click here and enter ALL your personal and bank details so we can transfer it into your account.

A common type of phishing scam – don’t click any links!
  • False shopping scams – bargain web sites with ‘too good to be true’ prices – you pay for some goods at a crazy 70% discount and then, err, never receive them!
  • The ‘Nigerian Romance’ (419) scam – this is THE classic scam, 419 refers to the penal code in Nigeria which outlaws it – basically someone sets up a fake profile on a dating site, worms their way into the confidence of the unsuspecting victim they message, this could take months, and eventually they require a substantial sum of money to help with their sister’s or mother’s (or whoever’s) medical expenses following an accident. In the USA alone in 2019 there were 146 00 victims who reported losing an average of $6000 each in these scams. (Further evidence that Americans are VERY stupid, maybe?)
  • Scareware – ‘Your computer is infected please call this number to get it sorted’, which may mean you end up being a victim of the following….
  • The ‘Microsoft Windows has been infected’ (‘Indian Call Centre’) scam – in which either someone from India (probably claiming to be in America or the UK if you push them) calls you (or you may have well called them following their Scareware attack) and helps you get rid of the virus infecting your Microsoft Windows software – accept in the process you give them access to your PC and they download all your data stored on that PC which may include bank details and passwords which they can use to get your money or set up fake accounts in your name, and get money that way, linking to Fraud above.

A recent example of one of these get rich quick scams is outlined in this BBC article – the victim explains how someone he followed on Instagram claimed he was making a lot of money trading currencies and that if people invested with him, he would carry on trading in the same way and deposit their share of the earnings back into their accounts.

The victim said he started off with a small amount of money – £1000, started see returns and gradually invested more and more, until the returns stopped and he’d lost a total of £17 000 to what was a scammer who’d set up a fake account on Instagram.

NB – watch out for instagram: according to one estimate almost HALF of accounts are fake.

Hacking (unauthorised access to networks)

Kevin Poulson is one of the world’s most famous hackers – in 1983 at the age of 17 he hacked into ARPANET, The Pentagon’s computer system. He was quickly caught but not prosecuted as he was a minor at that time.

He ignored the warning he received and carried on hacking, he gained some fame by hacking into Radio station’s servers when they ran competitions guaranteeing the 100th caller would win a prize – he made sure he was that caller and won and Porsche and $20 000.

He’s served five years in jail for his crimes but is now reformed and is a ‘white hat’ hacker who works for Wired magazine. You can read more about his story here. NB this is a great example of a biography providing us insight into criminal behaviour!

Kevin Poulson’s profile picture on Wired.

Another interesting type of hacking is ‘hactivism’ – most commonly associated with the group Anonymous (‘We are Legion’) – they were most active a decade ago around 2010, when they famously took issue with Scientology, hacking their systems and making them less visible on Google.

According to this article Hactivism has had something of a resurge with Covid-19. If you’re interested in finding out what Anonymous are up to, there’s a collection of articles from Wired here.

3D Printing of illegal products

3D printers bring an interesting twist to cybercrime – a good example of cyber enabled crime – it is now possible to print very robust, very powerful guns using a 3D printer, and (I imagine) you can pick up the specifications somewhere from the Dark Web.

It’s not just guns – printers can also be used to print access cards (swipe cards), and even drugs depending on the type of printer you have.

Read this article to find out more.

Cyberwarfare

This is where a nation state engages in attacking government or Corporate systems in an attempt to bring down those systems. Russia has been accused of doing this recently by the U.S President Joe Biden.

NB – it may be difficult to pin the blame on the Russian State as they allegedly get criminal organisations to do this on their behalf and then make no effort to prosecute them.

Numerous countries have accused Russia of committing cyberwarfare agains them.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – The Most Common Crimes in the UK

Fraud and computer misuse now account for half of all crimes in England and Wales, but 80% of victims no NOTHING about the criminals who acted against them!

Fraud and Computer Misuse now Account for Half of all Crime in England and Wales (1) , this means that in order to fully understand crime today, students of A-level Sociology REALLY need to know something about these two types of crime.

This is not only an important update relevant to the crime and deviance aspect of the AQA A-level sociology specification, it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that students educate themselves about the risks of being a victim of fraud and computer misuse and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and stay safe online.

Defining Fraud and Computer Misuse

The Office for National Statistics defines these crimes as below:

Fraud

Fraud involves a person dishonestly and deliberately deceiving a victim for personal gain of property or money or causing loss or risk of loss to another.

While Fraud can happen offline, most fraud today occurs online and the most common types known to include:

  • banking and payment card frauds
  • consumer and retail frauds
  • advance fee payment frauds

Computer misuse

Computer misuse covers computer viruses and any unauthorised access to computer material, as set out in the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

This can include any device using software accessible online, for example: computers smartphones, games consoles and even smart TVs. It includes offences such as:

  • the spreading of viruses.
  • hacking – gaining unauthorised access to information
  • denial-of-service (DoS) attacks – the flooding of internet servers to disrupt or take down a network or website.

Both of these types of crime are types of Cyber Crime (most fraud and all computer misuse).

How much Fraud and Computer Misuse are there in England and Wales?

The latest data from the TCSEW show that Fraud and Computer misuse have been increasing rapidly in recent years, and now account for more than half of all crime in England and Wales.

Fraud and Computer Misuse were only added to the Crime Survey of England and Wales recently, and there are so many incidents that the Office for National Statistics records records two totals – one with these crimes and one without, so we can make a fair comparison of all other crimes over a longer time scale.

This bar chart gives you an idea of just how much Fraud and Computer misuse there is compared to all other types of crime:

The above chart shows incidents, and the ONS estimates there were nearly 10 million adult victims of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 month period to December 2020, that’s more than 1 in 5 adults.

The increase has been so rapid that the UK government has recently declared that there is a ‘new battle front‘ against these types of crimes.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – Key statistics

To get a more in-depth analysis of Fraud and Computer Misuse we need to go back to this 2019 report: The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse (March 2019). This report notes the following:

Fraud

  • The amount of Fraud has increased in the last two years.
  • 76% of victims lost money, but around half lost less than £250.
  • Only 15% of fraud crimes were reported to the police
  • The likelihood of being a victim was generally lower in older age groups and greater in higher income households, there was little variation across gender and ethnicity.
  • In 63% of fraud incidents, there had been no contact between the victim and the offender.
  • Less than 15% of people could say ‘anything’ about the person who committed the Fraud against them – it’s a very ‘anonymous’ crime where the criminals are concerned!

Computer Misuse

  • Computer Misuse incidents have actually decreased in the last two years overall – especially crimes involving viruses being put on devices.
  • 21% of computer virus incidents resulted in data being accessed or lost.
  • As with fraud, older people aged over 75 were less likely to be victims of computer misuse
  • Over 90% of people reported taking security measures to keep themselves safe online, which could explain the decrease in this type of crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Students really need to pay attention to Fraud especially as it is the crime with the highest VICTIM count in England and Wales, so very relevant to victimology – and there is little variation by class, gender and ethnicity, only age it seems.

This material is also relevant to the media and crime topic, because more than half of all fraud is committed online, as are ALL crimes of computer misuse.

From a methods perspective, it’s worth noting that around 80% of victims of these crimes can say NOTHING about the people who committed crimes against them – these are truly faceless crimes, very possibly committed by criminals outside of the UK, so this is also relevant to the topic of globalisation and crime.

Find out More….

This Power Point Presentation from the Office for National Statistics outlines some of the problems with measuring these crimes.

If you want to find out more about how to stay safe online and protect yourself from these types of crime – there is a section at the end of The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse.

Students might like to do independent research on these types of cyber crime in Scotland and Northern Ireland to get a fuller picture covering the whole of the United Kingdom!

Qualifications

(1) Please forgive the slightly misleading title! The data on fraud and computer misuse are from England and Wales only, but for the sake of having a short, visible and digestible title I shortened this to the UK.

Are the Police Racist?

This post is an update of some of the evidence that might suggest the police in England and Wales are Racist.

This is a key topic within the sociology of Crime and Deviance. You can view a summary of the latest statistics on ethnicity and crime here.

This 2018 Video from News Night is worth a watch: in which black people speak about their experiences of being stop and search, many as young as 11-14 when they were first stopped and searched.

Many of the young men say they have been stopped over a dozen time, one says he can’t remember how many times he has been stopped and searched!

Liberty have released an analysis of Stop and Search stats pointing out that policing become much more discriminatory during Lockdown in England and Wales.

The government relaxed the restrictions on police stop and search during Lockdown and gave the police more freedom to stop and search at their discretion. The result: the number of black people stopped and searched (under section 60) increased dramatically.

They also report that black people were up to seven times more likely to receive a fine during Lockdown compared to white people.

Black, People, Racism and Human Rights is a recent report published in November 2020 which has a whole section summarising the over representation of black people in the Criminal Justice System – from stop and search through to deaths in custody.

One interesting point to note is that families of people who have been through the CJS think that black men in particular are stereotyped by the CJS as being troublesome and violent.

This blog post summarises some interesting research published in 2016 that found ethnic minorities, especially black youths, featured heavily in ‘gang databases’ held by the London and Manchester police, even though such gang members had no formal history of violence. In fact the stats show that white people have higher rates of convictions for violent crime, but the police databases had disproprotionate amounts of black people on them simply for their being members of gangs.

This suggests an element of stereotyping the way policing was conducted.

The blog further summarises research of Prosecution teams who were more likely to draw on gang stereotypes (Rap music for example) when trying to convict black people compared to white people, and black defendants were also more likely to have their text messages used as evidence against them when undergoing trial compared to white people.

Examples of State Crimes 2020-2021

Some examples of State Crimes committed by developed and developing countries and an analysis of the problems of researching the nature and extent of state crime

This post provides several examples of Contemporary State Crimes and links to sources of information students can use to explore State Crimes further.

Before reading this post, you might like to read these two posts:

Studying State Crime is an explicit requirement for students studying A-level Sociology, as part of the compulsory Crime and Deviance Module.

Below I have highlighted five countries who are responsible for some of the worst state crimes in recent years….

I’ve tried to select examples of mainly developed countries committing state crimes, to demonstrate that it’s not all impoverished, war torn countries or ‘rogue states’ who are state-criminal actors.

It is, however, important to realise that I have been selective (so there is some selection bias here and these examples will lack representativeness) but I think it has to be this way to make this topic manageable. I have included links below where you can search for further examples of State Crimes.

NB – this post is a work in progress!

Countries Committing State Crimes in 2020-2021

I’ve listed these in rough order of the number of victims. The United Nations and Israel deserve their places at the top given the fact that, following Noam Chomsky, they are the two worst terrorist organisations/ rogue states of modern times, even if in the last couple of years their crimes against humanity may have been out of the spotlight!

1. The United States of America

Historically, there’s only one real contender for the the worst state criminal in all of all of human history – the USA.

Below is a useful summary video which takes a trip through some of the War Crimes committed by the United States of America since the end of World War Two.

2. The State of Israel

Israel has been committing crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories for several decades now – there are presently almost 7 million Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid policies which forbids Palestinians from having equal access to regions across Israel. This 2021 report from Human Rights watch explores this. A more accessible report might be this one from Amnesty international .

Some of the crimes the state of Israel commits against Palestinian civilians include:

  • Unlawful killing
  • Prevention of freedom of movement
  • Forced displacement
  • Discrimination

3. China

The Human Right’s Watch Global Report 2020 singles out China has being increasingly repressive in recent years. It notes that ‘….the detention of more than one million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to pressure them to abandon Islam and their culture, the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms, ongoing repression in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and the crackdown on independent voices throughout the country. This has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.’

4. The Russian Federation

Amnesty International outlines the criminal case against the state of Russia here.

Even in its post-communist years the Russian State has a long history of not allowing freedom of assembly to protest, and the censoring of journalists who criticise the state, and even the murdering of those who oppose the State.

5. Syria and Turkey

War Crimes are still being committed by Syria and Turkey in Syria – including the arbitrary killing of civilians, forced detention, which can lead to the death penalty, looting of property and displacement of peoples – there are now 6 million refugees from the region.

Interestingly the report also labels neighbouring countries as committing crimes by blocking access to these refugees!

6. War Crimes in War Torn Countries (Special Note)

NB – you will find plenty of examples of many state crimes in war torn countries such as Yemen for example, but it seemed a little bit too easy to focus on those, I’m trying to be critical here!

Three organisations which monitor state crimes:

  • Amnesty International has a useful hub page here which will allow you to explore contemporary case studies of States involved in various crimes – such as disappearances, political violence, torture and states denying citizens freedom of expression.
  • Human Rights Watch – monitors all sorts of State crimes – they cover some of the same ground as Amnesty but also focus more extensively on issues such as women’s’ rights, and reproductive rights and lots more. Their reports page is well worth a browse!
  • Transparency International – monitors global political corruption – they’ve developed an index based on surveys which asks people questions such as ‘have you paid a bribe to access a public service in the last year’ – they rank countries according to how corrupt they are and do research into corruption in several countries. You can access the latest world corruption report here.
  • You might also be interested in this rare academic source – The State Crime Journal .

Globalisation and Crime

The AQA Sociology Crime and Deviance Specification specifies that students must examine (among other things!) ‘globalisation and crime in contemporary society’.

Questions sociologists might ask about Globalisation and crime….

  1. How has globalisation affected crime in contemporary society?
  2. What are global crimes?
  3. What is the extent of global crime?
  4. What are the consequences of global crimes for individuals and society? (relating to crime control)
  5. Why has global crime increased? (It’s a reasonable assumption that it has as it’s relatively new on the specification, albeit 20 years out of date as is often the case with AQA A-level sociology).

You will need to be able to link your answers to these questions to other aspects of the Crime and Deviance Specification (when talking about consequences you might distinguish between effects on men and women, for example), and you need to be able to apply sociological perspectives.

Before we turn to looking at the relationship between globalisation and crime, it is worth reviewing the concept of globalisation, itself one of the most important concepts A-level sociology students need to know!

What is globalisation?

In short it’s the different regions across the world becoming increasingly interconnected resulting in increasing flows of the following:

  • economic globalisation means more global trade (the increasing movement of goods and services between countries) and more Transnational companies.
  • cultural globalisation means more communication between people and the intermixing of ideas, often resulting in ‘hybrid’ cultures.
  • There is also the increasing migration of people – for study, work, flight from wars (refugees) and (for the wealthy) holidays, which has elements of both cultural and economic globalisation.

Globalisation can be physical – the movement of people and objects across borders, as well as virtual – the increasing significance of the internet in our lives has really pushed globalisation forward.

There is thus also a ‘technological’ underpinning to globalisation – transport and communications technologies especially.

There is debate over whether globalisation is mainly a one way process from the West to the developing world, or more of a two way process; and a debate over whether it’s good (optimism) or bad (pessimism) and also those who believe it has been exaggerated, or in reverse, all of which you can apply to our coming discussion of the relationship between globalisation and crime!

For more information on Globalisation, check out my ‘Global Development and Globalisation‘ web page – there are several links which will allow you to explore the concept further!

What are Global Crimes?

There are different ways of classifying global crimes, but one way we can do this is as follows:

  • Trafficking – moving drugs, people and/ or weapons across international borders
  • Cyber Crimes – such as phising attacks, extortion and fraud
  • Financial crimes – such as tax evasion.
  • International terrorism
  • Most (if not all?) green crimes are also global in nature.

Some of the above global crimes are carried out by loan operators, some by organised criminal networks (some people consider ‘organised crime’ to be a category of crime in its own right), some by governments themselves (state crimes) and some my Corporations.

What is the extent of global crime?

Trafficking

The Global Financial Integrity Report on Transnational Crime estimates that the total global value of all trafficking is between $1.6 to $2.2 trillion, with drug trafficking making up the largest share, around 30% of this, with a global value of around $500 billion.

According to The United Nations 2021 Drug Report , globally in 2018 an estimated 269 million people had used a drug at least once in the previous year, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of the population. This is projected to rise by 11% to 299 people by 2030.

Most of the increase will be in developing countries, with high income countries projected to see falling numbers of drug users in the next decade.

Cyber Crime

Cyber Security Ventures estimates that Cyber Crime will cost the world $5 trillion in 2021, and estimates that cost will grow to $10.5 trillion by 2025.

NB you might want to be cautious with these statistics because I think the company which did the research sells cyber security protection, so it’s in their interests to exaggerate the risks!

Nonetheless this is something governments and companies take very seriously.

A couple of important aspects mentioned in the article are that RansomWare is one of the fastest growing types of cyber crime – where your computer is hacked and data frozen, only to be released when you have paid a ransom (this may not be too much of a hassle for an individual, but if companies or government agencies are victims this is a much bigger dea.

Also, a lot of cyber crime takes place in the Deep and Dark Web, thought to be several times greater than what we can see online (visible, accessible public networks), and that This is also related increasingly to drug trafficking – increasingly people buy and sell drugs via the deep and dark web.

Tax Havens and Tax Evasion

The IMF estimates that there are $ several trillions of dollars of Corporate Funds stashed away in tax havens, costing the tax payer from between $500 to $600 in lost tax revenue (so a similar financial cost to the value of drug crime).

Estimates for how much individual wealth (rather than Corporate wealth) are stashed in tax havens are more varied, given the secrecy surrounding these funds, but two estimates cited by the IMF are from between $8 trillion to more than $30 trillion, costing the taxpayer around $200 billion a year in lost revenue.

There is a conceptual problem with labelling the use of tax havens as ‘criminal’ – companies and individuals often use loopholes in the law to get their funds out of countries where they are taxed and into tax havens where they are not taxed, or taxed at a very low rate, so we have to use a broader definition of crime as something which is harmful (through lost tax revenue) to ensure we include the use of tax havens in our examples of global crime.

Global Terrorism

Trends in global terrorism are actually going down (so some rare good news!).

According to the Global Terrorism Index, in 2019 ‘only’ just under 14000 people died in global terror incidents, the fifth year of decline since a peak of 34500 deaths in 2014.

Most terrorism deaths are located in a small handful of war torn countries, mainly Afghanistan, where 40% of deaths from Terror attacks occur.

While terrorism is often very locally felt, many of the groups who claim responsibility for these attacks are responding to global dynamics and see themselves as part of a global network, so they are a response to globalisation.

How has globalisation affected crime in contemporary society?

This is one of the more complex questions we can ask in A-level sociology, and there are several possible ways we can break down our analysis, and a lot of interconnecting ideas where ever we start.

Below I’ve started with the concept of globalisation and considered how economic and cultural globalisation have opened up more opportunities for people and organisations to engage in certain types of crime and how the nature and extent of crime has changed as a result.

Economic globalisation and global crime

Economic globalisation refers to increasing amounts of global trade and money, the increasing role of Transnational Corporations, the spread of an international division of labour, and (importantly from a broadly Marxist point of view) increasing amounts of inequality between rich and poor regions around the world.

Increasing amounts of trade of goods across international borders and the fact that some countries tax certain goods, such as alcohol and cigarettes, have lead to increasing amounts of smuggling of such highly taxed products -organised criminal networks have emerged (e.g. think of the Mafia) who smuggle cigarettes and alcohol from countries where they are produced very cheaply to countries where they are taxed very highly, such as the UK – this is simple demand and supply, albeit illegal, and very common: there are plenty of poor people in the UK (for example) who want cheaper booze and fags, and plenty of poor people in developing countries who are willing to risk jail time to traffic non-taxed booze and fags to countries such as the UK.

The above also applies to the illegal trade in counterfeit goods, from clothes to electronics – all of these goods (as well as fags and booze) may present themselves as genuine, but in reality they are fake – but when there are so many containers of goods moving around the world (global trade is massive) there is significant opportunity for organised criminal networks to smuggle their cheaper counterfeit/ untaxed goods into shipping containers and get them to willing and often unwitting consumers in their destination countries.

Marxists are keen to point out that it’s not just criminal networks involved in global economic crime – so are many Transnational Corporations -it’s a bit more difficult to analyse the role of these in global crime as they are more likely to engage in ‘law evasion’ rather than actual crime – for example Shell extracting oil in Nigeria and taking advantage of the laxer pollution laws in that country, committing effectively no ‘crime’ by Nigerian standards, but an environmental crime nonetheless.

TNCs also engage in tax evasion as do many wealthy individuals by stashing their wealth in tax havens, again, not technically illegal, but harmful due to lost tax revenue.

Another way in which economic globalisation might fuel global crime is through increasing inequality – one rather horrible aspect of this is sex trafficking – there are plenty of men in developed countries looking for cheap prostitutes prepared to travel to countries such those in Eastern Europe to get what they want – and the young women they find there may well have been trafficked into sex-work on the promise of something else by organised criminal gangs – one of the darker sides of the global economy.

The supply of drugs from poorer countries to richer countries is another aspect of inequality fuelling this global trade.

Cultural globalisation and global crime

The increasing communications between cultures may have lead to more cultural clashes the world over, more ‘ordinary people’ coming into conflict with their more traditional political orders.

An obvious example of this is ‘liberated’ women in Iran posting pictures of themselves on Instagram and the State ‘cracking down on them‘, but there’s much more to it than this – radical interpretations of Islam have made their way to Britain and other European countries, shared and circulated online and contributed to various terror attacks over the last couple of decades.

However, it’s important not to exaggerate the extent to which exposure to new ideas results in ‘violent cultural clashes’, it’s quite possible that for the most part people online are just stuck in their bubbles (their social media bubbles, not meant here in the Pandemic sense of the word) and for the most part not inclined to criminal behaviour!

We could also point to the emergence of a set of ‘global human right’s outlined by the United Nations which proclaim that Nation States (governments) are not permitted to breach certain rights of individual citizens – making illegal at a global level things such as genocide, which opens up the possibilities of governments being held accountable as criminals, which couldn’t have happened before the UN HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTION immediately after World War Two.

The Internet and Global Cyber Crime

The instantaneous connectivity through the internet deserves special mention in its own right in relation to global crime.

This probably more than ANYTHING else has changed the nature of crime across societies as it creates so many more opportunities for people anywhere in the world to commit crime and for people to be unwitting victims of crime.

It’s possible for one individual to send out literally millions of phishing emails or comments to millions of people in a single day in attempt to get them to click on a link which will (variably) try to elicit their personal information from them or get them to download some dodgy software which will collect their data from their computer.

The Deep Web and Dark Web also make it easier for people to trade in illegal goods and services online and to network and have conversations which may result in very serious criminal activities – think terrorist cells and child abuse rings – all made easier to maintain via the Dark Web.

What are the consequences of global crimes for individuals and society?

Here we really need to take a global development perspective and think of winners and losers at a global level.

Certainly global crime has created many losers from developing countries – anyone trafficked into the sex industry or any drug mules caught and sent to jail, and several migrants who have paid their life savings to then NOT be transported successfully to their destination countries.

But then again, you could see this as an opportunity – drugs are part of global trade – and there is more money to made in growing Cocaine than Coffee for some farmers in Colombia – possibly opening up better opportunities than ‘free trade as usual’ – NB not to say this will always be the case as being involved in the global drugs market probably isn’t that SAFE.

And it’s not necessarily the case that the consumers in the west are the winners – they may also be victims, of poor quality fags and booze for example.

Where cyber crime is concerned it’s more hidden – there are probably more victims alive today that DON’T know about it than ever before in human history.

Finally, global crime is a problem for governments – it takes a lot of resources and co-ordination to combat global crime, especially when so much of it is online and thus not visible.

And where some of more heinous crimes are concerned, this increases our sense of fear and vulnerability and uncertainty – such as with global terrorism.

Why has global crime increased?

It’s easy (lazy?) to see the increase of crime as an ‘inevitable’ response to Globalisation – with more flows of goods and people and ideas, SOME of that is going to be illegal.

There’s also an underlying technological change we need to consider – the internent does make crime easier.

But to answer this question with any analytical depth, you need to be able to apply the perspectives.

From a Marxist point of view this is due to the spread of Global Capitalism – creating more inequalities which results in inequities in supply and demand – plenty of poor people who can’t make decent money growing coffee would rather risk growing Cocaine, for example.

Another aspect of a Marxist analysis is the spread of TNCs engaged in law evasion and also tax evasion by elites.

Misha Glenny has researched the role of Organised criminal networks in facilitating the rise of Global Crime (the McMafia as he calls them) pointing out that the collapse of Communism in the late 1980s resulted in a massive increase in organised crime in countries such as Bulgaria – trafficking a lot of goods to Western Europe – here it’s not so much ‘legal capitalism’ which is the problem, rather criminal gangs operating outside the law in several countries.

You can also apply Feminism in order to help understand sex trafficking in particular.

Interactionism is also relevant because changes in international law, and national laws can criminalise acts and thus ‘increase’ global crime overnight – the United Nations Human Rights Conventions did this with State crimes, for example. And the same thing is happening with many green or enviromental crimes.

Not to say that these legal changes are bad, but they do increase the amount of crime simply by making acts illegal that previously were not, such as genocide and several forms of pollution.

A-level Sociology Teaching Resources (Crime and Deviance)

I’ve just released the first of four packages of teaching resources for Crime and Deviance as part of my sociology teaching resources subscription package, available for only £9.99 a month!

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This month’s (May 2021) teaching resource bundle contains work books and Power Points covering eight lessons on Crime and Deviance – Intro to Crime, Functionalism and Consensus Theories and Marxism and Crime

Resources in the May 2021 bundle include

  1. Intro to Crime
  2. Intro to Crime Statistics
  3. Introducing perspectives on Crime and Deviance using the London Riots as an example
  4. Consensus Theories 1 – Functionalism, Bonds of Attachment and Strain Theory
  5. Consensus Theories 2 – Subcultural and Underclass Theory
  6. Marxism and Crime 1 – Crimogenic Capitalism and Corporate Crime
  7. Marxism and Crime 2 – Selective Law Enforcement and the ‘real’ functions of punishment
  8. Marxism and Crime 3  – Marxism and Crime Letter writing research task

The lessons are typically planned to last for one hour and 15 minutes, although some are longer. The Consensus Theories for example are longer lessons. 

The materials contain a good deal of material applying Crime and Deviance to Coronavirus and Lockdown.

The next three months resources will also focus on Crime and Deviance and work through the rest of the specification.

Resources in the bundle include:

  • Work books
  • Power points
  • Also contained in this month’s (May 2021) teaching bundle is a students Scheme of Work and some revision/ review material.

Fully modifiable resources

Every teacher likes to make resources their own by adding some things in and cutting other things out – and you can do this with both the work pack and the PowerPoints because I’m selling them in Word and PPT, rather than as PDFs, so you can modify them!

NB – I have had to remove most the pictures I use personally, for copyright reasons, but I’m sure you can find your own to fit in. It’s obvious where I’ve taken them out!

More resources to come…

I’m making resources available every month as part of this teacher resource subscription package. The schedule of release of resources is as below:

Outline and Explain two reasons why some sociologists think improving gender equality is the primary development goal.

This is a possible 10 mark question which could come up on exam paper 7192 (2) – topics in Sociology, under the Global Development Option.

For more general advice on answering exam questions for A-level sociology please see this page.

The strategy for these 10 markers is to join up the dots, make links between gender and all other parts of the Global Development module – it shouldn’t be too difficult as everything is related to everything in fairly obvious ways for this topic!

Below is just one suggestion for an answer…

The first reason is that women make up half of the population and they have historically been disempowered in most cultures on earth. Thus by focussing on empowering women we can improve pretty much ever other aspect of development.

Focussing on improving girls and women’s education can have huge knock on positive effects – firstly it will immediately improve the school enrolment rates, as it is mainly girls who traditionally are not in school!

Also, by educating girls, this creates job opportunities for them in later life, meaning greater independence, and may also help to break traditional values threat modernisation theorists think prevent development.

Especially where girls are held back by traditional values, getting them into school can be a great way of breaking this cycle, maybe the only way.

Education can also be a decent way of preventing violence and abuse by men – it can be an important starting point in protecting them against Rape, FGM and other forms of male violence.

In the longer term, with more women in work and politics as a result of raised aspirations we may see a decline in global violence and militarism which we have in the current male dominated global political sphere – which is very important as nothing prevents development like conflict!

Focussing on improving maternal health care is also the most effective way at improving life expectancy – most deaths in poor countries are avoidable, and many are because of children dying in infancy.

By focussing on better maternal health the infant mortality rate will decrease and women will less inclined to have more children. Also if women are given better care during pregnancy, the same is also true.

Going forwards if women know they have decent maternal health care they can start to aspire to have only one or two children rather than being tied into a cycle of having several children, which ties women to a life of domestic drudgery.

With fewer children women are more likely to be able to do paid work, which is also beneficial for development because women tend to reinvest more in their families compared to men.

Having said all of this it is crucial that improving opportunities for girls and women is done appropriately, as there may be local resistance from patriarchal culture, so it may not be easy!

A-level Sociology Students -same study patterns during lockdown?

Here’s some interesting insight into the study patterns of students and how Lockdown doesn’t seem to be having any affect at all so far this year……

Here’s my blog hits since August 2020….

NB – despite an increase in traffic this year (which is nice) the pattern you see below has been exactly the same for the last few years….

There is a dip in August, over the summer holiday, but a slow build up in early September – I guess as schools but not colleges start earlier, and then we have a stable weekly trend from September through to mid December, except for a dip when half term week comes – NB there is always a slow down on that last week before half term too.

There’s a significant dip during the XMAS holidays, but that’s to be expected, and then straight back up into January, and not how the half term dip repeats itself.

The final pink line is this week’s already only up to Tuesday, so looks like a bumper week – probably teachers threatening tests on the return in a couple of weeks.

Here’s the daily trend for the last month – you can see the weekend tail off too, every week, and then the half term dip at the end, and finally Monday – first day back after half term.

There will be some differences later this year I think….

There’s no formal exams, probably to be replaced by in house tests which will be earlier than the usual exams I imagine, so I’m not anticipating the usual May-June insane peak in views, I imagine it will be less intense and more spread out as the dates of tests will vary slightly from institution to instiution.

Still, up until now, students are very much creatures of habit. Perhaps Positivists had a point? People really are predictable!

Please click here to return to the main ReviseSociology home page!

Anuta – A Case Study in Global Development

The Island of Anuta is one of the remotest places on Earth – part of the Soloman Islands, it is a 5-6 day sail from the Capital, with its nearest inhabited neighbouring island being over 50 KM away.

Boats may visit the island as infrequently as three times a year, so the islanders cannot rely on them for resources, they have to make use of what is available to them on the island and in the ocean surrounding.

Anuta is a very small island, with an area of only 0.4 square Kilometres, but with a population of around 300 it has one of the highest population densities on planet earth, similar to that of Bangladesh.

This island community should be of interest to any student studying the global development option for A-level sociology, as this case study illustrates many of the key themes of this module.

In terms of ‘economic development the inhabitants of Anuta are very undeveloped, they are money poor, but they seem to have a very high quality of life, almost idyllic.

At the very least this case study will make you question the advantages of western models of development, and the idea that advanced industrial economies are necessarily the most progressive.

Research studies on Anuta

The anthropologist Richard Feinberg has spent some time researching life on Anuta – he spent a year there in the early 1970s and returned more recently to make the film below, which is available on YouTube:

Bruce Parry also visited Anuta for several weeks as part of his Tribe documentary series, and if you can get hold of that from the BBC, it’s well worth a watch, although at time of writing this is more than a decade old already!

A summary of the video

The documentary starts on board the boat with the film makers and anthropologist talking through expectations.

When the boat first arrives at the island, one of the islanders comes aboard who Richard Feinberg knew from his previous visit (about a decade earlier) and they hug for about five minutes (quite unusual in itself by Western standards.

We first see the welcoming scene in which about three dozen people come out to meet – greeting by touching foreheads, quite a slow affair (again by Western standards)

We learn that population is becoming an issue – it has doubled in ten years, since the year 2000. People were even then starting to worry about their privacy, not so much the resources.

We now see the formal greetings with the chiefs – there is a hierarchical structure – based on ascribed status – if you can’t trace your lineage back to chief, you are not going to be a chief!

Anuta: emphasises compassion and equality

A core value in Anutan society is that of Aropa – which emphasises compassion for others and collaborative working and sharing.

One very tangible way this value manifests itself is through the equal sharing of finite resources – food for example is shared equally among all the islands inhabitants

There is a strong support structure on Anuta, the idea of someone being alone and unsupported is almost unheard of, something which is all too common in the west.

The entire crew of the ship is invited onto the island for a welcome feast – they get a full on welcome ceremony with dancing etc.

When you ask Anutans why they do something – there are two stock answers –

  1. Because it’s tradition
  2. Because it makes us happy

It’s worth nothing how different this is to the Western idea of doing something for the money, which often makes us miserable (Weber’s Instrumental logic!)

All of the islanders come out for the feast, and all 300 great the ship’s crew with a nose kiss, which ‘breaks down the individual personal bubble’.

Lots of the ship’s crew comment on how the way of being greeted was very emotional, with a total breaking down of barriers, and a real sense of unity being created between everyone.

Some historical context

They now go and visit with the Chief and he reflects on the past – he talks of previous famines, one in which people were forced to eat dirt to survive – he quips that since the arrival of the Christian Church there has been no famine as bad – so ‘our new God protects us better than the old gods.’

Feinberg also notes that the Christian teaching of ‘love thy neighbour’ fits in well with the Anuta value of Aropa – in that sense they were Christians before the Church got there!

Population and Environment

The Anutans seem to live a very sustainable life, recognising that everything the need comes from nature.

Despite their growing population they are not worried, at least that’s what the chief says.

The Anutans are self-sufficient for the most part – Fishing is the main activity, but they also hunt seabirds and grow food on the Island, the staple crop being Manioc

They are not entirely cut off in that they do use industrial technology to hunt and farm – steel fishing spears for example.

Some of the islanders also attend school off-island, and there is a monetary fund to pay for that, but not much detail is provided on this aspect of island life!

Interestingly, they have zoned out regions of the sea around the island which have extensive coral reefs, and they manage them sustainably, with bans on fishing in some of them for periods, to be harvested when the fish are bigger – kind of a natural sustainable management system!

Canoes

Canoes are treated as part of the family – trees on Anuta are scares, so when one is felled to make a canoe, it is a big deal.

We get to see one canoe which is over 100 years old and still used for fishing.

They are so important that if a canoe is damaged, a funeral is held, as if it were a dead relative.

Leaving Ceremony

There is an extensive leaving ceremony – in which they have a final tour of the island, and there is a group lamentation in which everyone weeps (a lot) as the guests leave.

We’re reminded that the Anutans, while very aware of the wider world, have made a choice to maintain their traditional culture as much as they can.

Anuta: Relevance to A-Level sociology

This case study can be used as a criticism of Modernisation Theory and Western Ideals of development more generally. Clearly the Anutans have a very traditional way of life, as expressed in their value of Aropa.

Aropa is quite like the collectivism mentioned in Rostow’s modernisation theory, but it is difficult to argue that this is ‘holding their culture’ back in anyway.

Of course there are challenges this community faces going forwards, and of course they benefit from modernisation in some ways (fish hooks) but it’s difficult to see how their becoming a fully fledged part of the modern capitalist industrial economy would benefit these islanders.

Sources

Anuta – wikipedia entry.