Street Law: A Course in Practical Law

Chapter 7: Crime in America

Chapter Overviews

The Nature of Crimes A crime is something that a person does or fails to do that violates the law. The government establishes penalties for such behavior. Crime rates are influenced by many factors, although many people disagree about the causes of crime and the best solutions to the problem. Crime is costly. In addition to the loss of life and property, it costs the government a great amount of money to prevent, investigate, and prosecute crime.

Crime on campus. Schools are generally safe places, however, in recent years crime on school campuses has become a serious problem. Reports show that the rate of crime on middle school campuses is higher than crimes rates on elementary and high school campuses. College campuses may present special problems related to drug and alcohol use, as well as weapons possession.

Gangs and Crime Gangs are active in towns and cities of all sizes throughout the country. Gangs expose their members and their communities to extreme violence and danger. Many youth join gangs because gangs offer a sense of belonging and an opportunity to earn money. Most people agree that a promising strategy to discourage gang membership is to provide young people with opportunities and community connections that will offer them a greater sense of belonging.

Guns and the Law Most Americans who own firearms own them legally and use them lawfully. However, guns are often used in violent crimes. Many people disagree about the government's role in controlling gun ownership. The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 is the primary federal gun-control law. Gun laws have also been enacted at the state and local levels.

Substance Abuse and Crime Abuse of alcohol and drugs, often called substance abuse, contributes to many social problems and often leads to other criminal activity. Although many adults use alcohol responsibly, alcohol abuse can be very harmful to society. Some people argue that the best way to handle the drug problem is to legalize some or all drugs. They believe legalization would allow the government to better regulate drugs and would eliminate the problems that are associated with illegal distribution of drugs. Many others, however, strongly oppose legalization.

Victims of Crime Every person is at risk to become a victim of crime. However, teens and young adults are more likely than any other age groups to become victims. Victim advocacy groups work to protect victims by promoting the concerns and rights of victims.

Preventing and Reporting Crime You can help fight crime by learning how to protect yourself. Also, reporting crime can help to prevent others from becoming victims. There are many organizations and programs that exist to assist victims of crime and prevent future crime.

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