Skip to main content

Can We Blame the Society for Crime?

Nyamweya is a Kenyan scholar who has done many years of research on a diversity of topics

A criminal in prison

A criminal in prison

Why Crime is not just a ‘Personal Problem’ but also a Social Problem


In recent perspective, crime has been on the increase both in the Australian and on the global arena. This rise has attracted attention from the public, policy makers, authorities, philosophers, security enforcers and even researchers. Debates on whether crime is a personal problem or social issue have been rife both within the social sphere and the scholarly world. Political philosophers view crime differently. Conservatives consider crime from individual perspectives, personal delinquency, and that a human being can only be compelled to adhere the stipulated values and institutions (thus subscribing to the general claims to the benefit of penalties and religious beliefs). On the other hand, those within the liberal political affiliations have a tendency of perceiving crime to be a social inequity rather than a personal problem. In other words, they view crime as a social phonemena and not an individual matter (thus ascribing to the claim to the merit of social support and enhanced living standards. This paper also ascribes to the perception of crime being a social problem owing to its negative implication to the society.


All crimes occur within the precincts of the society without which no crime can exist. Furthermore, the moral values and practices as well as personal conduct and behavior are determined by the society. For instance, while abortion is strictly considered illegal in South Australia and that all courts are disallowed to permit women to abort their unborn children, the situation is different in other states including Western Australia where abortion is not considered a crime. Other countries in the same league include El Salvador, Canada, Britain, and Northern Irelan among other countries. On the other hand, some countries have strict abortion laws such as Mata, Vatican City, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic among others. The implication of this scenario is that while a particular society may consider a specific behavior, lifestyle or act a crime, another society may not regard the same behavior or act in a similar manner.

According to Salem & Lewis (2016), the fact that crime exists, occurs and is committed by people living within a society makes it a social issue. In this regard, it would be vague to consider crime a personal problem owing to its influence to other people living in the society as well. These authors identify two types of people living with a society; those who will attempt to address the issue and those who will endeavor to emulate the crime. However, in any society, it has been noted that many people would find it easier to replicate the crime compared to those who attempt to solve it. Hillyard & Tombs, (2007), supports this notion by articulating that the behavior emanating from a crime has a tendency of causing undesirable effects to other members of the society and the economy in general. Furthermore, this harm can extend to mental and physical spheres. The psychological and emotional implication of crime to the society was well evidenced in Australian in 1986 when the Victoria Police Headquarters in Russell Street, Melbourne was bombed. This saw a policewoman being killed while several other people got injured. This incident was followed shortly by two more mass shootings which also took place in the same city, Melbourne in 1987. The first bombing occurred in Hoddle Street, Clifton Hill on 9 August, 2017, and resulted into seven people getting killed while 19 were injured (The Australian: 11 August 1987). A few days later, another shooting incident occurred in the center of Melbourne, subsequently leading to eight deaths and injury to several people. The shooter identified as Frank Vitkovic, committed suicide shortly by jumping off from an eleventh floor of an office building where the shooting incident had taken place (The Bulletin;December 22-29 1987). The sense of horror and personal shock that accompanied many Australians followed these consistence shootings are also well documented. In reality, the events triggered psychological and emotional trauma among many Australians. Many came to the reality on the possibility of a senseless and random carnage commonly seen through the televisions and films coming live in the cities. This awareness further stirred instigation of remedial measures for the purpose of dealing with such violent behaviors in the society. This is also a good example of how crime affects the society on an individual and collective level.

Those in support of the idea that crime is a personal responsibility premise their reasoning to the assumption that it is easy to identify criminals because they have features that alienate them from non-criminals. However, it should be noted that it may not be always easy to differentiate criminals from non- criminals as there are no labels placed on them. Furthermore, the law and common sense dictates against making judgments without duly valid evidence. In addition, both criminals and non criminals are all living in the society. This fact rules out the issue of crime being a personal matter and justifies it to be a social issue.

Another example derived from the Australian context is the consistent surge of sexual assault cases in the society. As established by Davis & Lee (1996), this crime rose due to stereotypes and myths that were associated with the phenomena. Particularly, there was a tendency for the society to pass blame to the victim while also justifying forceful sex in certain scenarios. This therefore, in a way justified the vice and even encouraged more men to engage in it without fear of being punished. Therefore, it can be rightly said that in this case, the society played a role in perpetuated sexual assault and rape in the society. This therefore implies that the society can either affect the decline or crime, change of criminal behavior by individuals or vice versa, depending on the policies or actions of the collective and individual members.


This hub endeared itself towards justifying the subject of crime being a social issue. From this discussion, it has been noted that crime has an undue negative influence on other members of the society. What is considered to be crime is dictated by a society whereby; some acts and behavior may be considered criminals in a given society and not so in another society. This gives society an upper hand is determining what is crime. Bombers and shooters cause psychological and emotional trauma to the rest of the society. This is the same case with drug dealers or rapists who destroy the lives of their victims. In this regard, the society is mandated to curb criminal activities within its precincts by ensuring that all people adhere to the laid down policies and rules and making sure that those engaging in criminal activities are apprehended. Further, society members should also be keen on their behavior in the sense that they live morally right to the effect that they don’t cause a negative influence to the society.


Chappell D. (1989). Violence, crime and Australian society. Violence today no. 1. Canberra:

Scroll to Continue

Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved from

Davis, T., & Lee, C. (1996). Sexual assault: Myths and stereotypes among Australian

adolescents. Sex roles, 34(11-12), 787-803.

Haines, Kevin. (1999). ‘Crime is a Social Problem’. European Journal on Criminal Policy and

Research. 7 (3),263-275. 10.1023/A:1008713612878

The Australian: 11 August (1987). (2019). Countries where abortion is legal - and where it’s illegal. Retrieved from

The Bulletin. (December 22-29 1987).

Salem, G. W., & Lewis, D. A. (2016). Fear of crime: Incivility and the production of a social

problem. Transaction Publishers. Retrieved from 6&dq=Crime+a+social+problem&ots=7OdLck1ala&sig=vC6WhIqkMpOHLXYeTrY V7y5dRyE&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Crime%20a%20social%20problem&f=false

Wahlquist,C. (2019). Victoria police has unacceptably high levels of sexual harassment.

Retrieved from tably-high-levels-of-sexual-harassment-report

Related Articles