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Causes of Crime

By Barrington H. Brennen

November 10, 2011




Why would an individual develop a lifestyle of criminal activities?  Why would someone make a deliberate choice to cause harm to another person or destroy the property of another?   Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and theologians have asked these questions repeatedly over the past decades.  Some answers exist about what makes the criminal mind works; but in spite of the information gleaned, criminal activities continue to rise, not only in The Bahamas but around the world.   

Nineteenth century writer, Henry Thomas Buckle, who penned the “History of Civilization in England”, wrote these profound words: "Society prepares the crime, the criminal commits it."   This is true because it is my view that the environment in which one lives impacts one’s lifestyle.  Although not everyone is influenced the same way and will become a criminal, yet far too many become victims of a sick society.  On the other hand, God created human beings with the ability to choose; hence, no one is forced to become a criminal.  It is a choice one makes.  So then, what influences some to become criminals?   I will share with you the views of online writers Talija and Darius, which I believe correspond with my own observations and beliefs about why some people become criminals. 


  1. Little or no love.  Musicians Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote this beautiful song in 1965: “What the world needs now is love sweet love.”  It speaks directly to the central problem in society.  Living in a dysfunctional family or a disadvantaged environment does not cause crime.  According to one author, these factors can cause the lack of love, respect, and tolerance for others.  When there is lack of love, respect, and tolerance, combined with other factors, a lifestyle of criminal activities can be created.
  2. Poor judgment.   Writers Talija and Darius state: “Lack of proper education and great role-models cause many to fail to distinguish right from wrong. In most cases offenders don't think they are doing something wrong. It seems right from their point of view. Poor judgment is also reflected in knowing it's wrong, but thinking they could get away with it, not getting caught.”
  3. Poverty. “Poverty is often blamed for leading to crime, however underneath is something more vital—society bombards us with commercial values, making us want more and more material things, to the point that some would do anything (including criminal acts) to get them. Unemployment is another factor in this category that contributes to crime through looking at ways to earn money by any means possible.”  For decades many agencies and institutions, including the United Nations have researched the impact of poverty on crime and have found this statement to be true.
  4. Television Violence.  Christian writer, Josh McDowell, has documented from as early as the 1980s the impact of the media on social behavior and published his findings in his book “Why Wait,” The Impact of Television on the Lives of Individuals.  Many individuals and institutions around the world, including the Surgeon General of the United States of America, psychologist T. H. A. van der Voort, and Dr. James Dobson, have published articles about the impact of television on the mind, especially on the mind of the very young and the youth.
  5. Poor parenting skills.  I have been writing about this point for almost two decades.  In my articles, “Rules without Relationship Breeds Chaos” (Parts 1 and 2), I share how a misunderstanding of discipline contributes to so much pain and violence in so many families. Talija and Darius state “erratic or harsh discipline, lack of parental control, supervision and monitoring, parental conflict, family dysfunction/breakdown, criminal, anti-social and/or alcoholic parent/s, fatherlessness  are underestimated causes of crime.”
  6. Being a victim in a chain of events. “Sometimes individuals don't mean to cause harm, but are drawn into it by a chain of events that are beyond their control or influence.”   This is not being stated as an excuse but as a factor for individuals, especially those who have been raised in dysfunctional homes and have not developed a disciplined lifestyle.
  7. Deprived neighborhoods.  Talija and Darius write: “Economically impoverished neighborhoods breed criminal minds.” This seems to be painfully true, although not in every case because other factors are usually involved that influence criminal behavior.  For example, the reasons stated earlier in this article.
  8. Ecological. “It has long been known by police officers that cold winter nights keep criminals off the streets and crime levels down. Crime scientists speculate that one of the hidden consequences of global warming will be an increase in street crime during mild winters. Studies have suggested that warmer temperatures boost aggression hormones such as epinephrine and testosterone.”  Could this be true in The Bahamas and the Caribbean?
  9. Sin.  The Christian readers may appreciate this reason.  Often, there seems to be no reason some people act so violently.  The only answer is that this is an evil world and that evil doers are being influenced to do wrong by the ‘evil one.”

These risk factors should cause us to pause and think and can help us find ways to prevent and reduce criminal activity.  Next article will deal with prevention.

Barrington H. Brennen is a marriage and family therapist  Send your comments and questions to question@soencouragement.org  or visit www.soencouragement.org  or call 1242 327 1980


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