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Criminology....... An Introduction

About Dr Khurram Sohail Raja

Criminology is the scientific study of the making of laws, the breaking of laws and society’s reaction to the breaking of laws.

Criminologists have adopted methods of study from all the social and behavioural sciences. Like all scientists, criminologists measure. They assess crime over time and place and they measure the characteristics of criminals and crimes.

The term " Criminology " is more than a century old and the subject has been of scientific interest for only two centuries.


In the middle ages human learning was commonly divided into four areas: law, medicine, theology and philosophy. Universities typically had four faculties one for each of these fields. It was not until the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that the natural and social sciences became full fledged disciplines

CRIMINOLOGY is the body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomenon. It includes within its scope the process of making laws, of breaking laws and of reacting towards the breaking of laws. The objective of criminology is the development of a body of general and verified principles and of other types of knowledge regarding this process of law, crime and treatment of prevention.

 It was in 18th century that the first persons conducted serious investigations into criminal behaviour but the investigations were not engaged in empirical research although they based their conclusions on factual information.

It was only in the 19th century that criminologists systematically gathered facts about crime and criminals and then evaluated their data in scientific manner.



Criminologists use the term " Deviance " to describe behaviour that violates social norms, including laws. The customary ways of doing everyday things are governed by norms other than laws. More serious deviant behaviour, like taking someone else’s property is governed by laws.

Criminologists are interested in what society does when customary ways of doing things no longer prove effective in controlling conduct perceived as undesirable.


A " Crime " is any human conduct that violates a criminal law and is subject to punishment.

Lawmaking is an accommodation of interests in a society, whether that society is composed of equals (as in democracy) or of rulers and ruled (as in absolute monarchies) so as to produce a system of law and enforcement to which everybody basically subscribes. This is the CONSENSUS MODEL.

Some criminologists view the making of laws in a society from a different theoretical perspective. In their interpretation known as the CONFLICT MODEL the criminal law expresses the values of the ruling class in a society and the criminal justice system is a means of controlling the classes without power. It is through power struggles that various interest groups manage to control lawmaking and law enforcement.


Sutherland, in saying that criminologists have to study the process of lawbreaking, had much more in mind than determining whether or not someone has violated the criminal law. He was referring to the process of Breaking of law.

That process encompasses a series of events, perhaps starting at birth or even earlier, which result in the commission of crime by some individuals and not by others.

Why are some people prone to commit crime and others not?

There is no agreement on the answer as yet.

Researchers have approached the question from different perspectives. Some have examined delinquents (juvenile offenders) and criminals from a biological perspective.

Are genes to blame?

Hormones? Diet?

Others have explored the role played by moral development and personality.

Is there a criminal personality?

Most criminologists look to such factors as economic and social conditions.

Others point to subcultures committed to violent or illegal activities.

Yet another argument is that the motivation to commit crime is simply part of human nature.

Other scholars have researched the question of why people who are inclined to break laws engage in particular acts at particular times.


Research has shown that society’s reaction to lawbreaking has often been irrational, arbitrary, emotional, politically motivated and counterproductive.


Very little happens on earth that doesn’t concerns criminology. Yet criminology as a science is only a century old.

Criminologists study behaviour that violates all social norms, including laws. They distinguish between two conflicting views of the history of criminal law: the consensus view, which regards lawmaking as the result of communal agreement about what is to be prohibited and the conflict view, according to which laws are imposed by those with power over those without power.

The breaking of laws is not merely a formal act that may lead to arrest and prosecution, but an intricate process by which some people violate some laws under some circumstances.

Many disciplines contribute to understanding the process of breaking norms and laws but as yet there is no consensus on why people become criminals.

Criminologist have discovered that the various agencies society has created to deal with lawbreaking can be made more efficient. Research on the system depends on the availability of a variety of data, especially statistics. The gathering and analysis of statistics on crime and criminal justice are the primary tasks of criminologists.

Criminology is a politically sensitive discipline. Its findings inform public policy. While Criminologists cannot dictate what the branches of government --- the legislative, the judicial and the executive--- should do about crime, their research findings are being used increasingly in making governmental decisions.


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