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International Comparative Criminology: What Crime Is


What is crime, indeed? Generally defined as a violation of law and is punishable or anything that goes “against the law” (Law Commission of Canada, 2004), crime is caused by economical, political, cultural and social factors. A crime is committed both by those in power, as well as by the poor. Crime is a global issue; hence studies on the causes of crime and how to control it are necessary. Crime control also varies depending on the country and the culture. Developed and developing countries have different levels of crime and crime control (Barak, 2000a). In the given paper Canada and South Africa are going to be compared in terms of their criminal statistics and the factors causing crimes.

Economical Factors of Crime in Canada

In Canada, many businesses are prone to economical crime, which has been accelerated by globalization. Most companies have been victims of the sudden economical changes and have lost large amounts of money. In 2005, economic crime rate went up from $600,000 to $3.7 million.

Mortgage crime in Canada runs into millions of dollars. The highest rates of mortgage crime can be observed in the urban of Ontario, British Columbia and other areas, like Quebec. Some of these frauds involve dealing with millions of dollars. Such crimes are committed with help of the WorldWideWeb where fraudsters are able to steal financial information from various state databases. With the financial data and fake documents they acquire online, hackers are able to access loans from financial lending institutions. The crimes committed online are enhanced by the technological advancement, which is the downside of the world technological progress (CISC, 2007).

Entrepreneurs all over the world have been told to be prepared for preventing online crimes and avoid being reactive in order to reduce the crime. The most influential companies of the world should prevent crimes by taking internal control measures. Entrepreneurs should be fast and independent when tackling financial investigations, detecting fraud and reducing its occurrence with their specific means.

Political Factors of Crime in Canada

In Canada, political crime rates rise during presidential campaigns. Drug cartels fund the government, which leads to releasing state criminals without sufficient reasons. The released ex-prisoners continue to push drugs, which, in turn, leads to the surge of crimes committed by drug addicts. The amnesty and the following drug peddling also affects the economy, as the threat that drug addicts pose to the society has a most negative impact on people’s moods and hinders not only their personal lives, but also hinders their economical performance (Beare & Schneider, 2007).

In the case of money laundering the government is slow to act because it is said that laundering does not affect the environment and no direct threats to human beings are involved. Thus, the underhand dealings continue and this eventually hurts the economy of the country (Beare & Schneider, 2007).

Social Factors of Crime in Canada

Those Canadians who studied at the higher educational establishments have better jobs. Living in the area where the level of completing or dropping out of school is high, one is subjected to considerable risk of getting involved further on into criminal activities, having no other way to earn sufficient sums of money. The rate of the people who did not manage to get into higher education establishments has declined, though there are still the underprivileged youths dropping out of schools and universities and thus reducing their opportunities for employment considerably. They mostly end up getting involved in crime and most of them end up in jail, as Chief Public Health Officer (2008) says. Crime is also high in rural areas. It is also worth paying attention to the fact that women become the victims of crimes more often than men. Children are also abused in Canada often, according to the sad statistics. In 2003 over 235,000 investigations carried out among children below 15 years have shown that there is a high percentage of youth bullied and abused among the participants of the survey living in dysfunctional families (Chief Public Health Officer, 2008). Children from dysfunctional families are more likely to get involved in criminal activities and shape the typical criminal behavior. Most of the children from dysfunctional families commit suicide after becoming independent on substances (Chief Public Health Officer, 2008).

Some people reported being bullied because of their race, religion and even ethnicity; thus, about 25% males and about 21% females have experienced negative treatment and violation of their rights. The raise in criminal activities can also be associated with changing employment patterns. This is unemployment which is becoming a permanent feature of the modern job market. Hence, the jobless youths tend to resort to criminal activities.

When unemployment leads to child poverty, rise in crime, families’ breakdown, the government, police and society have to react somehow. Under the pressure of the problems experienced, the poverty and the despair, people often resort to crimes, which still can be prevented at the early stages.

Cultural Factors of Crime in Canada

Crime is committed mostly by aboriginals and African Canadians, which implies that culture affects crime rates. It is interesting that the so-called risk groups account for 4% and 2% of the Canadian population, yet they account for the highest percentages of those found in the correctional system, i.e. 14% and 6% respectively (Wortely, 1999).

Men are also more likely to commit crimes than women, as studies have shown, which is also true in Canada, where mostly men are engaged in correctional systems. The low criminal rates among women could be linked to biological factors, since men are said to be more aggressive than women and, hence, more likely to commit crimes (Wright & Miller, 2005). Even though male population rates in Canada decreased in 2001 to about 2,000,000 people, the ratio of men involved in criminal activities, as compared to the women’s ratio, stayed the same, since mostly the male youth were engaged in criminal activities (Wortely, 1999).

Most Canadians live in homes with portable assets. Parents leave their homes unguarded as they go to work, which encourages burglaries. Youths are a target of robberies as they leave clubs at night, thrilled by night parties. Drugs, though being illegal, can also be obtained easily, which increases the crime rates among the youth even more.

Crime in South Africa

South Africa is one of the countries ranked as the state with the highest crime rates in the entire world. The murder rate is so high here that South Africa has been called the capital of crime (Barak, 2000b). The rate of crime continued to increase even after the country gained independence from the apartheid. The crime rate is associated with a number of reasons. By the March 2008, the African statistics indicated a decline in crime, but the figures were still high. In 2008, 18,487 murders were reported and the ratio for murder was 38.6 for every 100,000 citizens (Halstead-Cleak, 2009).

Political Factors for Crime in South Africa

With the political transition, there has been an increased illegal arms influx into the country. Since fire arms have become easy to obtain, more people are getting involved into crime and, thus, the rate is on the rise because of the porous borders between the legal and the illegal. One of the most threatening facts is that armed smugglers are able to access the country and sell the fire arms cheaply, which allows many people to buy arms comparatively cheap (Schonteich & Louw, 2001).

There is also a common opinion that the existing criminal justice system is far too unstable for the government to maintain low criminal rates in the country. Due to the weakening of criminal justice system caused by abolition of some laws and making of new ones, it is obvious that the threat posed to the society in Canada is quite big. The officials in the justice system are unsure of how to work within the new laws that are based on the constitution. Thus, the power of the prosecution has been weakened, and it takes a very long time to consider the cases already filed in a court, according to Schonteich & Louw (2001).

Social Factors for Crime in South Africa

Most of South Africans do not have qualifications to seek employment because they could not access education in due time. With their reduced opportunities for employment, most of the dwellers of South Africa get involved into crime in order to get money to cater for their families. The increasing poverty rates have led many South African immigrants look for employment. The immigrants are able to get it because they have the necessary qualifications, whereas the locals do not. With this influx of workforce in the country, a number of people are unable to find employment, which makes them resort to crime. Consequently, the unemployed South Africans treat these foreigners in the most hostile way, blaming them for depriving the locals of their employment opportunities. The rivalry between the immigrants and the local dwellers explains the recent xenophobic attacks unleashed on foreigners.

The culture of violence that got engrained during the apartheid era still has an impact on the crime scene in South Africa – 90% of the population experience it nowadays because many parents have lost control of their children’s upbringing during the era of many government disruptions and apartheid policies. Thus, the children had no one to guide them, and after witnessing violence, they started using violence as a means to survive or to take revenge on their opponents (Dixon, 2004).

Cultural Factors for Crime in South Africa

The population of South Africa is dominated by the youth, which leads to crime because, according to statistics, the male youths have a higher chance of falling into crime than older men and women (Emigrating to Canada, 2009).

Another reason for the crime influx in the South Africa stems from the fact that the state has had to deal with the issue of rapid urbanization. As the process of urbanization went on, more people shifted from rural areas to the urban centers. Resulting in overcrowding and lack of employment, the urbanization led to surge of criminal activities as the only means to survive when the cost of living was high. Committing crimes was also made easier by the availability of illegal fire arms, as Dixon (2004) says.

With the violence unleashed on Blacks during the apartheid, many Black youngsters were forced to get involved in the struggle between Blacks and their opponents to protect the communities of the African people. Thus, the latter distrusted the authorities that were unleashing considerable discrimination on them. A number of young people from the Black communities still have a problem respecting the law of the current government long after the apartheid. With so much exposure to violence, most South Africans solve their problems, however, avoiding violence as much as possible, no matter what environment they are in (Schonteich & Louw, 2001).


There are certain similarities and differences concerning the factors motivating crimes committed in Canada and South Africa. Unemployment is one of the common factors for crime in both countries, because when people are unable to meet their needs, they are more likely to result to crime.

The justice system in both countries is different. Canada has a strong system, unlike the one in South Africa, which is still coming to terms with the new changes. Therefore, offenders in Canada are deterred from continuing their criminal record, while a weak justice system in South Africa, on the contrary, provides sufficient for continuing the unlawful activities. There is still a long way to go for the African justice system before it can function at an optimal to address the cases pending in the courts. Hence, more people continue getting involved into crime as they see the government’s inaction. The African population also does not have faith in the justice system, which explains the number of unreported crimes and willing witnesses (Ebbe, 1996).

Canada has a strict gun policy, which makes the community safer. This ensures that guns do not fall into wrong hands. Without guns circulating freely, less crime happens (Fogman, 2008). On the other hand, guns are readily available and sold cheaply in South Africa. Hence, the threat of unlawful activities and various crimes increases.

Speaking of Canada, one must mark that it encourages multiculturalism. Hence, people from diverse backgrounds are accommodated here, which creates sufficient premises for peaceful coexistence. In addition, the stable economy of Canada adds to creating a peaceful atmosphere and offering a law-abiding mode of behavior. It is easy to find employment and, thus, there is no reason to engage in crime (Fogman, 2008). In contrast, in South Africa, one can observe xenophobic attacks.

The differences in the social, political, cultural and economical factors contribute to constantly high levels of crime in South Africa and stably low crime levels in Canada. Meanwhile, Africa is supposed to deal with crime proactively and aim to reduce or prevent crime as this will be less costly. Crime remains a global challenge, which people have to fight with help of efficient crime control.

Reference List

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Barak, G. (2000b). Comparative criminology. A global view. The Critical Criminologist Journal, 10, 2.

Beare, E. M. & Schneider, S. (2007). Money laundering in Canada: Chasing dirty and dangerous dollars. Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press.

Canda’s Chief Public Health Officer. (2008). The Chief Public Health Officer’s report on the state of public health in Canada. Retrieved May, 15, 2009 from Public Service Alliance of Canada: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2008/fr-rc/index-eng.php

CISC. (2007). Mortgage fraud and organized crime in Canada. Strategic Intelligence brief. Retrieved May, 15, 2009 from Criminal Intelligence Service Canada – Central Bureau Intelligence Analysis and Knowledge Development Branch.

Dixon, B. (2004). Justice gained? Crime and crime control in South Africa’s Transition. Cape Town, ZA: Juta &Company.

Ebbe, O. (Ed). (1996). Comparative and international criminal justice systems: Policing, judiciary and corrections. Berlin, DE: Heinemann.

Emigrating to Canada. (2009). Overseas immigration. Retrieved May, 14, 2009 from http://www.overseas-emigration.co.uk/canada-immigration-visas/

Fogman, M. (2008). Top 10 reasons to live in Canada. Retrieved May, 15, 2009 from Nairaland, the Nigerian Forum.

Halstead-Cleak, J. (2009). The lived experience of losing a sibling through murder in South Africa. Guateng, SA: University of Johannesburg.

Law Commission of Canada. (2004). What is a crime? Retrieved May, 15, 2009 from http://www.ubcpress.ca/books/pdf/chapters/whatisacrime/whatcrime.pdf

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Wortley, S. A. (1999). National taboo: Research on race crime, and criminal justice in Canada. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 41, 261-274.

Wright, R. A., & Miller, J. M. (Eds). (2005). Encyclopedia of criminology (Vols. 1-3). New York, NY: Routledge.