Perhaps the best starting point for thinking about the nature of crime is the Latin saying nullum crimen sine lege ("no crime without law"). In other words, while anyone can define an action as repugnant or immoral, what makes the action a crime is that it violates a pre-existing law in the locale in which it was committed. Criminal codes seem to be part of all complex societies, and specify both proscribed activities and punishments.
Crimes are normally divided into three categories:
- Crimes against persons: This involves direct physical harm to another person, including murder, manslaughter, assault, rape, kidnapping and intimidation.
- Crimes against property: These include burglary, robbery, forging currency, vandalism, fraud, bribery, arson, money laundering, and receiving stolen property. Most white collar crime falls under this category.
- Crimes Against Society or Statutory Crimes: These are things which are against the law but do not directly harm other individuals, such as underage drinking, child pornography, selling or using illegal drugs, or other violations of local laws.