April 02, 2009

Differential Opportunity for Criminal Behavior

author_brad By Bradley Wright

Jocelyn Addison, Nia McBrayer, and Jenniffer Watson are three college-aged women who needed some money. They could get a job, but that would probably cramp their style—with work hours and all. They could have asked their parents or family, but maybe they felt shy or had done that a lot before. So, instead, they decided to rob a Dollar Store in Bedford, Ohio. (Now that raises red flags right there. Is a Dollar Store the best place to find a lot of money? Why not go rob the Two-Dollar Store and double your take?).

They walked in with masks and a BB gun (in case the store was defended by a small bird?) and demanded money. The manager claimed that she couldn’t open the safe, (got to watch those crafty Dollar Store employees), and so the three young ladies left empty-handed. The manager called the police, who apprehended them about a mile away from the store, and each woman was charged with robbery.

Now, it might sound like these three novice criminals didn’t know what they were doing, but, to the contrary, when the police searched their car, they found a printed document, downloaded from the web, entitled: “How to Commit Armed Robbery in Six Easy Steps.” This document, downloaded 12 hours before the crime (so that they had enough time to learn the subtleties of robbery), spelled out exactly what a prospective robber should do, and they had followed some of its advice.

clip_image001The funny thing is that this guide was written as a joke. For example, the first step advises the reader to get appropriate gear, such as a mask or sunglasses. A ski mask “gives you a badass look as well as conceal your appearance.” The website promises good things with the mask, for wearing one will reduce “your chances of being caught… by .001%.” Next you need a big bag for carrying all the loot that you’ll get. The website recommends one with a dollar sign printed on its side, like in cartoons. After that, the website offers valuable guidance on picking partners, planning the robbery, executing it, and getting away.

What’s the point of this true-but-funny story? It illustrates that not everyone has the same access to crime—a line of thinking developed by sociologists Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin. As the story about the Dollar Store robbers suggests, some people, don’t have the knowledge needed to pull of crimes successfully. They don’t have family members or friends to teach them how to do it, and some crimes require special knowledge. Okay, robbing a Dollar Store might be pretty straightforward, but what about opening a safe or embezzling someone or creating counterfeit money? Some crimes take a certain amount of expertise, and many people do not have that expertise.


Other people do not have the opportunities to commit certain crimes. Some crimes need a person to have access to specific people and situations. Do you want to defraud stockholders? Well, you should probably have a job in a stock-trading company. Want to commit white-collar crime? It helps to have a white-collar job.

This differential access to crime compliments an idea that most of us are familiar with, and has been studied a lot in sociology--differential access to conventional gain, such as schooling and employment. Not everyone can pay for college or knows how to get into good colleges. Not everyone has the connections or experience needed to land a good job. In a way this makes the world unfair, for those who have can get more.

This discussion makes one wonder about the role of the internet. I don’t know if you’ve tried lately, but you can find information about just about anything online. I once challenged a colleague to come up with some human activity that wasn’t represented on-line, and he guessed “elbow fetish.” Well, it turns out that there are plenty of people who live in appreciation of the well-turned elbow. Go figure.

There is plenty of information on-line on the techniques of criminal behavior. For proprietary sake, I won’t list the sites here, but they are out there. So it’s possible that the advent of the web might give more people more ability to commit crimes more effectively. I just suppose that you have to be careful about which advice you follow.


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What a funny story! Figures people like that would be so desperate to get money. It's also funny how they took advice from a website that was clearly making a joke of robbery. You are right though, there are people out there who do have the proper intelligence to commit a serious robbery, and there are wedsites on how to actually do it. I've never been on one, but I find it believable.

I truly believe that the Internet is a really good source of information. However, as almost everything in life, Internet can be used either for a good reason or like in the post for “bad” reasons like robbery. Every new invention, and everything brought by the modernization to the society have two sides, and we are the ones who decide how to use it. Even the most common electronic devices present in our routine can be either good or bad for us. For example the cell phone, it can be really useful and help us a lot, but just if we use it on the right way, if someone started to surf on the Internet during class or at a important meeting he/she is damaging him or her-self by doing that, and everything because of the bad use of the cell phone. We can apply the same thing to the Internet issue, I don`t see the Internet as a bad thing to society, or that the Internet can increase the rate of crime in the society. As everything else on life we have to learn how to manage it and use it on a healthy way. For me, the scary thing about the Internet is the power that it gives to the companies that control it. Google for example has a huge database, including everything that everyone searches in the Internet. When you type a word in the Google’s web site it shows how many people have looked for the same topic. Therefore they have a huge power, and a enormous control under society, they know what the most people want.


I thought that this was a good example of how guliable people can be. I thought that this was a really good store as well as humorous. People need to be careful on what they are reading and think about if it's a good idea or not the internet is a very useful tool don't get me wrong but not everything that is on there is reality. Usually thinking about stealing something that isn't your isn't a really good idea because it isn't yours.

I think that the internet is a great source for information. However as the article implied that some people don't have the correct intelligence to pull of a crime they also may not have the correct intelligence to find accurate information. However I think the fact that the Internet is giving out harmful information that can cause people to commit crimes and ruin are society is awful. I think that people need to be taught better by there elders to do what's right and learn how to not be SO gullible and realize when somthing is completely ridiculous. Robbery in general is a cop out from getting an actual job and working hard to make ends meet. Our society is becoming more and more lazy every day and I think it starts in the schools. Our society would be better if people were more educated.

That was a funny story. Very true about the fact that a lot of people do not have the skills to commit a crime. The internet is not the best way to get a lot of information either, even though it was posted on the internet as a joke. It makes you think how some people actually react to the internet and go through with something so illegal. Very nice blog.

The internet. One of the greatest and worst inventions of all time. The internet can give you very useful information, along with a lot of junk. Some people just shouldn't be allowed internet access. It is amazing how some people take a joke and turn it around to help them commit a crime. That just goes to show the lack of common sense that some people have. I feel that your opinion on crime is true. Not everyone has equal access.

To think that internet can be an accessory to a crime, in contradiction it also help people to find and have solutions in their legal questions. Now a days you can actually search for a person name to check if he or she has a criminal records.

Well crafted piece.

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