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Anomie Theory  

Jón Gunnar Bernburg

Originating in the tradition of classical sociology (Durkheim, Merton), anomie theory posits how broad social conditions influence deviant behavior and crime. The French sociologist Émile Durkheim was the first to discuss the concept of anomie as an analytical tool in his 1890s seminal works of sociological theory and method. In these works, anomie, which refers to a widespread lack of commitment to shared values, standards, and rules needed to regulate the behaviors and aspirations of individuals, is an intermediate condition by which social (dis)organization impacts individual distress and deviant behavior. An observant of the massive social changes of 19th-century Europe, Durkheim argued that anomie resulted from rapid social change and the weakening of traditional institutions, particularly the reduced authority of such institutions in the economic sphere, as well as changes in the principles legitimizingsocial inequality. A few decades later, the American sociologist Robert Merton re-formulated anomie theory, arguing how a particular malintegration of the culture-structure constitution of modern society produces high rates of crime. Echoing selected themes in Durkheim’s work, and discussing the United States as a prime example, Merton argued how a shared overemphasis on monetary success goals undermines individual commitment to social rules and generates a particularly acute strain on individuals in disadvantaged social positions. Thus, having implications for research on crime rate differences between societies as well as between individuals and groups within the society, anomie theory has inspired a broad range of both macro- and micro-level applications and extensions. On the one hand, the theory has shaped studies of crime rates across large social units, such as countries and metropolitan areas. Such research, while often limited in terms of the types of crime that can reliably be compared across large social units, has linked crime with economic inequality, materialistic values, the institutional dominance of market-driven processes and values, and rapid social change. An important development in this tradition is the advent of multilevel research that links societal factors with individual normlessness, strain, and criminal behavior. On the other hand, micro-level implications of anomie theory, often referred to as classic strain theory, have shaped studies of individual and group differences in criminal behavior within societies. This type of work often studies youths, at times bringing in notions of gangs, subculture, and differential opportunities, focusing on the criminogenic effects of strain stemming from opportunity blockage and relative deprivation. Yet the work rarely examines individual normlessness as an intermediate process linking social structure and delinquency. Finally, anomie theory has been extended and applied to research on business/corporate and white-collar crime. While more research is needed in this area, the extant work suggests how anomie theory provides a powerful explanation of national-level differences in business/corporate crime (e.g., bribery). The article concludes by noting that an increased emphasis on multilevel research may lead to an integration of the macro-level and micro-level extensions and applications of anomie theory in the future.


The Harms and Crimes of Logging and Deforestation  

José Luis Carpio-Domínguez

Among the socioenvironmental problems that have been determinant in the causes of climate change, deforestation represents one of the main ones. The environmental harms caused by deforestation include the extinction of flora and fauna species, the loss of soil fertility, and limits on regional sustainability, affecting efforts to mitigate climate change. The social harms include the reduction of communities’ capacities for development and the loss of ecosystem services such as water and soil fertility for subsistence, and phenomena such as illegal logging, when configured as organized crime, threaten the security of local communities. Despite government efforts to regulate this practice at local, regional, and global levels, it is still present in an illegal or uncontrolled manner in many countries. Deforestation is linked to soft law enforcement, the economic precariousness of the places where deforestation takes place (as a subsistence or illegal activity), and highly profitable illegal markets, therefore requiring a multifactorial response. Improving forest law enforcement and environmental conservation also requires strong political commitment across governments, as well as institutional, social (including native and Indigenous communities), economic, and environmental sector collaboration, promoting horizontal governance at all levels.


Identity Theft  

Dylan Reynolds

Identity theft commonly refers to the illegal theft and misuse of another person’s identity information, resulting in a benefit to the offender or harm to the victim. With the rise of technological payment systems, identity theft increased dramatically in the 1990s and 2000s and impacts almost 1 in 10 adults annually. Identity theft can be difficult to measure, in part because few victims report it to law enforcement and government agencies and because victims often have limited knowledge about how their information was obtained and misused. Identity theft can involve the misuse of existing bank, credit, or other accounts, the creation of new accounts, or other fraudulent misuses of personal information. Moreover, the methods of acquiring identity information vary and include hacking, phishing, and stealing physical documents. While identity theft’s rise results from increasing technological reliance, the relative prevalence of online and offline forms remains unknown. The limited research on identity theft offenders finds that their motives and techniques vary, but that committing identity theft is usually a rational choice and that offenders often use techniques to neutralize identity theft behaviors. More research exists on identity theft victims, due, in part, to identity theft victimization surveys, which find that victims face a range of consequences and reporting options. Globally, both criminal and consumer protection laws have been implemented or modified to respond to identity theft, although victims must typically advocate for themselves to resolve identity theft’s consequences.


Money Laundering: History, Regulations, and Techniques  

Benjámin Villányi

The goal of money laundering is to hide the tainted origin of criminal revenue. In this sense, it is a secondary crime that is always connected to another breach of law. These offenses can be different types of theft, trade in illicit goods, as well as other non-violent acts such as tax fraud, bribery, and, nowadays more relevantly, cybercrime. Depending on the size of the unlawful income, criminals may launder on their own or collaborate with other specialists. Especially in cases of large-scale tax evasion, grand corruption, transnational drug trafficking and similar highly organized forms of crime, laundering can entail very complex schemes performed in multiple countries. To describe and analyze this activity, a three-stage model is a widely accepted framework. The placement is the first step, when the illicit money is introduced into the financial system. The layering involves multiple transactions to remove the traces of these funds, while in the last stage criminals attempt to integrate the laundered money into the legal economy through various kinds of investments. Beginning with the 1970s, increasing international cooperation aimed to counter this activity and set standards that were later adapted to national judicial systems. Different types of crime were the focus of such approaches, which also shaped the methods used. During the Prohibition era rum-running and illegal gambling raised the most concern, later the war on drugs, and from the early 2000s the war on terror, and more recently the cryptocurrencies are in focus of anti-money laundering. The financial extent of worldwide money laundering is difficult to estimate with reasonable precision, but it is comparable to national economies in magnitude. Money laundering can have a social as well as financial impact, especially when it helps corrupt politicians to stay in power, decreases tax morale to unfeasible depths or enables organized criminals to take over whole economic sectors and geographic areas.


Organizational and Organized Cybercrime  

Yongyu Zeng and David Buil-Gil

Cybercrime has been on the rise since the 1990s, affecting individuals, private organizations and public agencies. There is an increasing involvement of organizations, both legitimate businesses and organized crime groups, in cybercrime, either as offenders or facilitators, but also as victims of cybersecurity attacks and cyber-enabled fraud. Since the “organizational” aspect of cybercrime is growing rapidly, this chapter urges cybercrime research to shift the attention toward better understanding, theorizing, and preventing cybercrimes with a direct or indirect involvement of organizations. This chapter describes the state of the art of organizational and organized cybercrime research. That is, the chapter describes what research has found regarding the role of organizations, both legitimate businesses and organized crime groups, in cybercrime, either as offenders, facilitators, or victims. Consequently, the chapter identifies common themes emerging from criminological studies, and illustrates research findings with case studies of cybercrimes recorded in France, the United States, Costa Rica, and the United Kingdom. Studies focusing on organized cybercrime groups show that offending networks have a spectrum of organizational complexity—from one extreme of loosely connected actors driven by common interests instead of stated leaders, to the other extreme of enduring and tightly connected groups of core members who coordinate the division of labor—with both illicit online sites and pre-existing relations in offline settings playing important roles in criminal network development. Cybercriminals may be parasitical on legitimate organizational structures and procedures in creating an outlook of legitimacy for concealment. Legitimate businesses may also facilitate white-collar cybercrime by providing the organizational means and resources for employees to carry out generally low-tech data breaches during their occupations, as well as directly engaging in cybercriminal activities such as cyber-espionage and cyber-enabled tax avoidance. Regarding the role of organizations as victims of cybercrime, research shows that the risk, nature, and harm of cybersecurity incidents varies extensively depending on the sector and size of organizations, and while not all forms of technical protection equally prevent organizational cybercrime victimization, improving cybersecurity awareness of employees (e.g., through training and seminars) seems to have strong impacts in preventing future incidents. The chapter then identifyies gaps in research and points researchers toward areas in which further research is needed.


State–Corporate Crime Nexus: Development of an Integrated Theoretical Framework  

Casey James Schotter and Ronald C. Kramer

State–corporate crime research has developed significantly since William Chambliss’s presidential speech to the American Society of Criminology in 1989 calling for specific attention to corporate crimes and connections with the state. From 1992 to 2000, four foundational case studies established a working theoretical framework. Since its debut in 1998, the integrated theoretical framework has had two levels of analysis added as well as the key concepts of state-initiated, state-facilitated, corporate-initiated, and corporate-facilitated crime. However, events of the 21st century have demonstrated the importance of developing the international level of analysis of the theoretical framework. The Great Recession of 2008, the Panama Papers and tax evasion by those people and corporations named, Peruvian lawsuits against German fossil fuel industries regarding climate change, the Cambridge Analytica data-mining scandal, and the global Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 elucidate the international connections between states and businesses and the need for extensive research uncovering these connections and the mechanisms used by states and corporations to maintain and reproduce these criminal partnerships.