ordinary crime | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminology

Ordinary crime refers to the type of crime that is often visible in public places, commonly known as street crime.

Ordinary crime, often referred to as street crime, is a term in criminal justice that refers to crimes committed in public areas and often witnessed by many. They are usually straightforward offenses that affect people’s daily lives. Both the public and the authorities can easily detect them. Crimes like theft, robbery, assault, and vandalism fall under this category.

Visibility of Ordinary Crime

Above all, these crimes are highly visible. This visibility doesn’t necessarily mean they occur more often than other types of crime. However, because these crimes are committed in the open, they are more likely to be reported and caught by law enforcement. Moreover, the media often highlights these crimes, which further increases their visibility to the public.

Impact of Ordinary Crime

These crimes can have significant impacts on individuals and communities. They can create a sense of fear and insecurity in neighborhoods, discouraging people from leaving their homes or investing in their communities. Additionally, they can lead to property damage or loss and physical injuries, which are direct, tangible effects.

The Law and Ordinary Crime

The criminal justice system takes these crimes seriously. When someone commits an ordinary crime, they can expect law enforcement to respond. After all, it’s the police’s job to maintain public order, and ordinary crimes disrupt that order. The person responsible can face legal consequences such as fines, community service, probation, or even jail time, depending on the severity of the crime and their previous criminal record.

Ordinary Crime and Other Types of Crime

All things considered, these crimes are just one part of the broad spectrum of criminal activities. While they are often the most visible, other types of crime, like white-collar crimes (fraud, embezzlement), are typically less obvious but can be equally, if not more, damaging. Nonetheless, it’s important to understand the nature and impact of ordinary crimes, as it’s these crimes that people often encounter in their everyday lives.

Responding to Ordinary Crime

Dealing with ordinary crime is a significant task for law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and individuals. Effective responses often involve proactive policing, community engagement, and individual vigilance. After that, the justice system works to hold offenders accountable, which serves both as a punishment for the crime and as a deterrent to others.

In conclusion, ordinary crimes, or street crimes, are public, highly visible offenses that have tangible impacts on communities. They form a considerable portion of the work of law enforcement and the criminal justice system. While the visibility of these crimes can breed fear, it also offers opportunities for proactive prevention and response strategies.

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Last Modified: 07/11/2023

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