Analyze criminology theories associated with digital crime, and compare and contrast the various theories applied to digital crimes

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, I will briefly introduce some major, contemporary criminology theories:

1) Space Transition Theory

Developed by Dr. K. Jaishankar, this theory has seven postulates. This theory aims to explore why cyber-crimes occur.

a) Cyber crimes are attractive to people with criminally repressed behaviors as they tend to remove the social judgment and disgrace physical-space crimes engender.

b) The anonymity factor in cyber crime further removes social stigma.

c) Cyber crimes are becoming more attractive to traditionally focused, organized crime groups due to the challenges of tracking such crimes by law enforcement.

d) The global, spatiotemporal (referring to space and time) nature of cybercrime renders advanced, criminal activity possible across wide domains.

e) Recruitment opportunities abound on the Internet, in the form of discussion forums, chat rooms, and other social media (such as Twitter and Facebook).

f) People from closed societies are more likely to commit cyber-crimes than people from open societies.

g) Conflict of norms and acceptable behavior between various cultures across such a wide, global domain, precipitates the rise in cyber-crime.

2) Routine Activities Theory

This theory focuses on crime prevention. It greatly highlights the element of opportunity in criminal acts. One of many theories associated with environmental criminology, routine activities theory is predicated on three elements:

a) Strong, influential persons in the lives of potential offenders aid in crime prevention. Influential persons are termed 'handlers' in Routine Activities Theory; handlers include teachers, parents, coaches, etc. Crimes take place when handlers are weak, corrupt, or ineffective.

b) Targets or victims with strong, influential guardians in their lives are less likely to fall prey to potential offenders. Guardians include police officers, security guards, parents, and teachers. Engaged guardians are able to track the focus and tone of interactions across social media.

c) Ineffective place managers lead to more crimes. In this theory, place managers are often merchants, property owners, motel clerks, recreation works, parking-lot attendants, and security guards. Weak, corrupt, or absent place managers lead to more crime. In the area of cyber-crime, effective place managers such as librarians, teachers, and parents track computer use in libraries, schools, and homes, in order to reduce pedophile and predator victimization of young children and teenagers.

3) Deterrence Theory, Social Learning Theory, and Self-Control Theory

Experts hypothesize that these theories are effective explanations for digital piracy. The rational choice theory states that every individual weighs the costs and benefits of his/her action to arrive at a rational choice for action.

Social learning theory states that behavior is learned by observation. Therefore, college students prone to engage in digital crimes tend to have already observed their fellow peers committing such crimes without consequences.

The self-control theory states that individuals with lower self-control commit more cyber crimes. As with routine activities theory, the self control theory explores the role of strong guardians in preventing digital piracy: less effective parental control (stemming from weaker emotional attachments with their offspring) incapacitates efforts to prevent digital piracy. Read more here.

4) Neutralization Technique Theory

This theory states that offenders use denial-of-victim and denial-of-injury techniques to minimize guilt from their actions.

As you can see from the above examples of criminology theory (in the area of cyber crime), there is a seeming overlap between these theories. In all these theories, the concept of a strong and effective place manager/guardian/authority figure is a necessary aid against cyber-crime.

Another point to consider is that, the often sheer logistical and legal implications of tracking criminal activity across social media presents a challenge in crime prevention.

teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

More analysis:

While all the above theories emphasize the role of specific place managers/guardians/handlers, Dr. Jaishankar's space transition theory is possibly the only one which addresses the great difficulty in tracking, monitoring, and preventing cyber crime.

Take for example, former NSA contractor and whistle-blower, Edward Snowden's leak of classified documents to the Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies. The lack of oversight, leading to hacking opportunities for the Russians and the Chinese, have led to the exposure of both English and American spies. Furthermore, Snowden's hacked files have led to changes in the way oppressive regimes share and protect their own sensitive information.

While the leaked Snowden files have led to legal and constitutional arguments about First and Fourth Amendment rights, the larger issue of government prerogative in combating terrorism has come to the forefront in the discussion on terrorist hacking of sensitive military/government websites and the protection of American citizens against the dual threat of both terrorist and governmental intrusions.