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How to Prevent Crime by Addressing Its Root Causes

Originally written in 2016 for the Criminological Theory CJ 330 Course at Minot State University

Factors that Lead to Crime in the United States

Our fast-paced world has new and unique characteristics that affect how people interact and co-exist. The contemporary society has many factors that can be considered as causes for crimes. Here I will list briefly some of the factors that might lead to crimes in the United States.

Biological and Mental Illness

The theory of biological factors as causes of crime has been ignored for many years. However, some researchers and scientists are reconsidering those theories as factors for some crimes. Mental disorder is a growing problem in our contemporary society. Millions of people all over the USA are suffering from some mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. These mental illnesses can lead to criminal behavior in a number of ways. For example, people with mental illnesses may be more likely to act impulsively or make poor decisions. They may also be more likely to experience hallucinations or delusions that could lead them to commit crimes.

Prescribed and Illicit Drugs

The majority of violent crimes are being committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The increase rate of mental disorders leads to the increase of substance abuse, and vice-versa. Easy access to drugs and alcohol is another reason for substance abuse in America. Drugs and alcohol can impair judgment and decision-making, which can lead to criminal behavior. They can also make people more aggressive and more likely to act on impulse.


High percentage of offenders do not have high school diploma. The lack of education qualification makes it hard for people to find jobs, which lead them to criminal activities. The education requirements for basic jobs keep increasing which leave many unqualified individuals without jobs. People who do not have a high school diploma are more likely to be unemployed and live in poverty. These factors can increase the risk of crime.

Media Influence

Crimes are always the main story in any news outlet. News channels portray crime as a normal thing. Potential criminals might see this as an opportunity to commit a crime in specific place and time. Media and TV shows provide knowledge and information on how crimes are committed and solved and what types of crimes are available. This can desensitize people to violence and make them more likely to commit crimes.

Cyber Crimes

Electronic crimes are becoming a serious threat to our society, crimes such as identity theft, cyber-stalking, information theft and sabotage. The law enforcement authorities are struggling to keep up to date with all the technological advances, and many criminal organizations are benefiting fast from Internet crimes. Cyber crimes are hard to prosecute, hard to prove, and there are always jurisdiction issues, whether interstate or international.

Easy Access to Firearms

Firearms make it easier for individuals to commit crimes. Having easy access to firearms make the criminals think they can easily and quickly commit crimes without worrying about confrontation. In many cases, if the criminal does not have a gun, he/she wouldn’t pull an attack such as robbery.

Increased Crime Rate

Law enforcement and government officials have limited resources to fight crimes, with the increase in crimes, there is an opportunity for committing a crime without being caught, especially small crimes such as burglary and theft.

War on Terror

Since the terrorist attack of 9/11, the FBI switched their focus from crime investigation to counter-terrorism. In 2000, the FBI had 75% of their field agents working on traditional criminal investigative areas and 25% on terrorism related. In 2004, the number of agents assigned to crime investigation fell to 65%, while the terrorism related areas agent rose to 35%. The rate continued to drop for traditional crime agents and increase for counter-terrorism. Local agencies such as Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department closed their Organized Crime Section and opened Counter-Terrorism Section instead. The decrease of federal and local law enforcement on crimes could lead to increase in organized crime and interstate criminal activities, mainly white collar and drugs related crimes.

These are just some of the factors that can lead to crime in the United States. It is important to understand these factors in order to develop effective strategies to prevent crime.

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Fahad Hizam alHarbi, PI