Crime, Criminality and the Principle of Crime Prevention


In the Post-modern world, crimes exist in various forms, accomodating a wide array of offenses. The trends that mainstream crimes now follow have encountered a significant statistical change with time and evolution of human perception. Crime is now no longer seen as an independent element of societal problems, rather it has become a problem for a nation’s political, cultural, and economic paradigms.[i] Nation-states have been trying to make and implement regulations to control them, but to date, all these preventive techniques to a large extent have gone in vain. “What’s the reason behind this failure?”, here in this article, we would try answering this question, taking into consideration the basics of Principles of Crime Prevention, and how by complying with certain essentialities our government could construct legislation to ameliorate the pandemonia.

The Jurisprudence of Crime

As observed by courts, globally, establishing a moulded definition for the term “Crime” is a herculean task. Jurists like Salmond, Turner, Glanville Williams, Russell, have all conceded that defining crime is a matter of great difficulty and there could be no individual, satisfactory definition within which the term could be strait-jacketed.[ii]

It was Paul Tappan in 1947 who for the first-time tried defining crime as “an intentional act in violation of criminal law without an excuse and which is penalized by the state.”[iii] This being, for a long span, the most accepted, accommodated, and cited definition, was critiqued for being strictly legal which, with a tint of absolutistic-monarchism, paid no emphasis on the roles of actors like criminologists who are a major instrument of law-making.  Based upon Tappan’s definition, it may be said that crime is essentially a noumenon (sociological, to a larger extent) where a specific type of behaviour is practiced which, in its totality, is against the moral standards of the society and defeats the humanness a person holds.

It may thus be deduced that the term crime, as a noumenon, can not be placed into a moulded definition considering the subjectivity involved in its commission and perception, consequently, jurists now consider it better to define Criminality rather than Crime to tackle this problem.

The study of Criminality to understand Crime

As postulated by various jurists, one can avoid the problem of defining crime altogether by studying the individual who commits the crime, thereby defining the Criminality behind a crime. Criminality is a clinical term used mainly in criminological studies with no attributes of legal nature. While Crime is the act/intention to contradict the law, Criminality is the property/ulterior motive of a criminal under the garb of which he commits some crime.[iv] Within Criminality, one studies the traits of a person to use some perverted actions to defy laws thereby creating turmoil in the overall social structure. It is Criminality which results to the crime and it is for this reason legal luminaries have proposed that since both Crime and Criminality are congruous, they can be defined in the context of one another thereby eradicating the problems arising in defining the term Crime.[v]

An important point to be noted here is, that only the existence of Criminality does not make a man Criminal, it is the act of defiance that he commits, in a later part, which results in the actual Crime and it is only then he/she could be termed as a criminal.

The notion of Criminality behind a Crime

It is noteworthy, that there has been an increase in the crime rate over the past four decades. While there is an increase in the crime against the body (Murder, Rape), on one hand, there is a decrease in crime against the property (Robbery, Burglary) on the other.[vi] As India made enormous economic growth, the number of cases for property offenses has also increased.[vii] Indian society has experienced rapid structural changes in the past four decades which have led to major transformations in almost every societal institution. This could be said as the root cause of crimes in modern times.

Rapid changes in the social structure have led to developments of conflicting ideas which has resultantly led in differences that extend from individual level to social level, which with a perverted intent leads to a crime. Modernity despite having major boon for society has also led to social defragmentation, which has led to an increased crime rate.[viii] India in recent times is encountering a rapid growth in the urban population and, the drastic changes, accompanying this expansion, in the existing value-based, social and political system are further contributing to the increase in the crime rate.

Another reason for an increase in cases of major criminal offenses is the increase in the number of violations of statutes dealing with criminal matters.[ix] We have criminal legislation with loopholes, so obvious, that even in cases of major crimes, offenders to a greater degree are able to dodge the punishments they are entitled to or simply delay justice to the aggrieved party (a stark example to this being the Delhi Rape Case), by utilizing these loopholes under the garb of statutory rights. It is for this reason that our present legislations need a major overhaul and improvements to make a robust and stern Justice Delivery System.

In light of these facts it may be deduced that crime, as an element of our society, despite having an independent existence is mutual and interdependent to every other element, acting essentially as an antithesis to the developments our nation is making in varying fields.

Crimes within the Indian precinct

Citing a report of the National Crime Records Bureau, while the crime rate for minor offenses (say, burglary) has declined significantly by 79.84%, the rate of major offenses (say, murder) has increased by 7.39%. On a similar note, while Kidnapping has increased by 47.80%, cases of Robbery has declined by 28.85%.[x] These numbers indicate the predominance of major offenses even in this day and age of Judicial Activism, with sterner laws.

Another report by the NCRB shows that the state of Uttar Pradesh has recorded the highest Crime Rate, while Nagaland recorded the least. The report also shows that despite Uttar Pradesh have a lower crime rate for offenses under IPC, its overall crime rate is ten times the size of its IPC crime rate because of the higher numbers of overall offenses.[xi] Reports show that in 2006, 5,204,660 cognizable crimes were committed including 2,348,293 Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes, with an increase of 1.5% over 2005.[xii]

In light of these statistical data, it could be deduced that crimes in India are larger than individual roles, party problems, and propagandas. One may boast about laws, Judiciary, or administrative bodies, but this cannot be denied that we have to date not been able to understand the very nature of crimes, and therefore, have not been able to mitigate its effects for the tranquillity, law, and order of the nation. Hereunder is a list of headings that, based upon reports, accommodates major space of offenses committed in India.

1.        Bodily Injuries (say, Rape) – Crimes falling under this head, constitutes the largest portion of reported offenses. Taking into consideration, the cases of rape, official records show that rape cases have doubled in the last two decades. Citing the NCRB report of 2012, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat had the largest number of offenses against the body, whereas the North-Eastern territories, especially Mizoram, had the least number of cases.[xiii]

2.        Mental and Psychological Injuries (say, Drug Abuse) – India is at a focal point between the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan) and the Golden Triangle (Laos, Burma, and Thailand) making it a hotspot for drug trafficking through the borders. As per the report of the Narcotics Control Bureau, India homes at least four-and-a-half million drug addicts mainly consuming psychedelic substances like cannabis, hash, opium, and heroin which shows how India is stuck in the quagmire of Drug Abuse. Furthermore, in global reports, India is placed as the world’s largest producer of opium. The report of the Ministry of Social Justice and AIIMS states that, Mumbai is the hub for narcotics in India.[xiv]

Thus, offenses majorly in the form of bodily and mental injuries constitute a major portion of Crimes committed and reported in India. Apart from these two, there are also economic offenses (say, corruption, embezzlement) which also constitutes a portion of crimes in India. Based upon the number of cases, there are also crimes like Homicides, Dowry Deaths, Extortion, etc. which also fall within these categories and have a pervasive effect on our society leading it to utter dilapidation.

Steps the Government can take to prevent the crimes

The Nation States have been long been trying to reduce crimes by taking measures to placate the after-effects of crimes which may range from petty thievery to mass slaughter. The Indian government is trying its best to ensure the safety of the Indian Social Structure as a whole and are implementing various instruments and legislations to ameliorate the pandemonium crimes create.  Hereunder are a few measures, based upon the Principles of Crime Prevention, that the government may take into consideration for Policy-making:[xv]

1.        Regulations should be made to utilize the field of Criminology, which holds tools to gather scientific evidence to focus on hotspots or habitual offenders such that we can prevent or reduce violence at the very root.

2.        Legislations must, firsthand, focus upon means of preventing the intent (or, Criminality) that leads people to the actus of crime. A systematic, integrated, coordinated approach must be considered and developed as a preventive measure with punitive steps as a last resort.

3.        In the modern era where, considering the Hate Speech Cases, Cyberspace has become a domain for violence. Crimes on these platforms range from videos showing assassinations to recruitments made for extremist groups, coercion to frauds, and profane religious propagandas. It is quite explicit that criminality, in its abstract sense, has proliferated even to the web, and legislation dealing with them has become imperative.

4.        Regulations must be made as an amalgamation, based on an equilibrium between repression and prevention, incorporating rehabilitation policies which could affect the mentality of people and thereby diluting the Criminality or “mens” for any perverted action.

5.        Most importantly just like skirting the problem of defining Crime through Criminality, legislations must be aimed at preventing the root of all crimes, i.e., criminality which would not only further the means of preventive policies but to a larger extent aid the Justice Delivery System.

Thoughts for the way ahead

Instances of crimes and the crime rate in India have encountered a steep incline in the last four decades. While crime against the human body is on an increase, cases of petty crimes like burglary, etc. have seen a decline. The increase seen in the last four decades in the crime rate indicates some sort of perversion in society.  Considering global statistics, India as a nation has still not seen an aggravation in crime rate as that in the Latin American countries,[xvi] which is a sigh of relief. In India, Economic, political, and social factors play a crucial role in the cases of crimes. If these primary factors could be controlled or even stabilized, we can anticipate an improvement in the turmoil created by crimes and a fall in crime rate as well. It is not only for our Government but also for all of us as humans and citizens of this nation that we contribute to this cause and it is only then we can dream of an ideal nation.

[i] Academike, Crime, Crime Rates, and Control Techniques: A Statistical Analysis,, (last accessed 22 May 2020, 03:24 PM).

[ii] Michael Tonry and David P. Farrington. “Strategic Approaches to Crime Prevention”, Crime and Justice, Vol. 19, 1995, pp. 1–20. JSTOR,, (last accessed 22 May 2020, 03:20 PM).

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Robert C. Scott, “Deemphasize Punishment, Reemphasize Crime Prevention”, Federal Sentencing Reporter, Vol. 20, No. 5, 2008, pp. 299–303. JSTOR,,  (last accessed 22 May 2020, 03:25 PM).

[v] Supra Note 2.

[vi] Supra Note 2.

[vii] Supra Note 7.

[viii] Supra Note 2.

[ix] Supra Note 1.

[x] National Crime Record Beaureu, Incidence of cognizable crimes (IPC) under different crime heads during 1953–2007″,, (last accessed 22 May 2020, 03:24 PM)

[xi]National Crime Record Beaureu, “Crimes in India”,, (last accessed 22 May 2020, 03:25 PM).

[xii] Supra Note 6.

[xiii] Supra note 7.

[xiv]Molly Charles, “Drug Trade Dyanamics in India”,, (last accessed 22 May 2020, 03:20 PM)

[xv] The Guardian, 24 ways to reduce crime in the world’s most violent cities, network/2015/jun/30/24-ways-to-reduce-in-the-worlds-most-violent-cities, (last accessed 22 May 2020, 03:20 PM), Supra Note 4.

[xvi] Supra Note 1.

Pratyush Pandey from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab

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