Criminology is the study of crime from a social and individual perspective. As a social science, criminology is not only concerned with the causes and preventions of crime but the social impacts and reactions to crime, as well as the criminals themselves. The term criminology was coined by an Italian law professor named Raffaele Garofalo.
Criminologists often study what, exactly, goes on in the criminal's mind to make him or her decide to act in a criminal manner. Criminologists can work law enforcement agencies, either on the local level or national level, to come up with certain profiles they see in some crimes. This can be very helpful as law enforcement pursues an investigation. Often times, those interested in criminology become police officers, federal law enforcement agents, criminology teachers or other related jobs.
Criminology attempts to explain why certain things are considered crimes in certain societies and explain any variances between societies and cultures. In some cases, things considered crimes in some areas may be legal in others. Criminology hopes to explain why there are differences and why there are some crimes that are nearly universal. It also seeks to explain why societies may choose some of the punishment options they do.
Criminology includes the study of a number of different theories to suggest why crimes are committed. Some of the most popular are: classical, positivist, and individual trait. In addition to these major theories, there are approximately a dozen other theories widely discussed and debated by criminologists.
The classical theory of criminology suggests that people commit crimes when they perceive the benefits outweigh the possible costs. Under this theory, the logical way to prevent crimes is to provide harsher punishments for crimes. If the punishments are harsher, then criminals will not perceive the benefits to outweigh the possible consequences.
The positivist theory of criminology suggests that crime is created by both internal and external factors outside of an individual's control. These may include biological factors or social factors. Social factors leading to criminal behavior include such things as poverty and education. In some ways, opening up educational opportunities and employment opportunities could prevent crime, according to this theory
The individual trait theory of criminology indicates the biggest factor in distinguishing differences between criminals and non-criminals are biological and psychological traits. As individuals with these traits interact with society as a whole, crime is the natural result. In this case, the only way to prevent crimes may be to limit this interaction between the individual and society at large as much as possible.