How much do you know about serial killers? Are you a fan of crime TV shows like CSI or the huge number of True Crime YouTube channels that exist? Well, then it is time to discover the exciting study area of criminology.
This article dives into studying criminology, what defines a criminology student, and the science behind this important and fascinating study course.
What Is Criminology and Why Is It Important to Study?
To understand these killers, we need to look at their motives. Why commit murder? Why are there so many serial killers in our society?
Criminologists have found answers to some of these questions, but there is much more for further research. For example, the current tally of serial killers in America is around 50 and rising every year. These numbers do not seem to be slowing down at all.
As a result, criminologists are trying to determine the best ways of investigating and stopping this killer epidemic from spreading further. To put it simply, criminology is the study of criminal behaviour and how it affects society as a whole.
Studying Criminology At University
Specializing in the areas of law enforcement, psychology, and social work, the criminologist uses their knowledge as a tool to investigate crime scenes and solve crimes.
Criminologists will usually begin their careers in the field of teaching at a university level doing a criminology-specific course.
The criminology program in Montreal at Wilfred Laurier University, for example, includes everything from specific criminal behaviours to crime scene investigation methods. They teach future law enforcement officers and criminal investigators how to gather evidence at the crime scene so they can piece together criminals’ motives and track them down later on.
These professionals also focus on different kinds of criminals, like white-collar criminals who commit financial offences instead of violent crimes.
How Are Criminology Students Trained?
Criminology is a broad field of study. Although there are several different areas of criminology, all of them involve gathering data and analyzing it to come to conclusions.
For example, an internationally known criminologist might conduct research on the different ways violence is occurring in society and how it affects crime rates. They might also decide that all methods of punishing criminals should be changed so that they can become less violent in nature and not require so much physical punishment.
Criminologists study many different cases to come to their conclusions. They collect data on murder weapons, crime scenes and more, using these as a basis for studying the causes behind these crimes and finding out what makes them happen.
For example, when studying murders committed with knives or scissors, you could ask yourself why they choose to use these objects. After answering that question, you could then make an inference on the motivation of attackers.
There are a few ways in which criminology students are specifically trained based on the type of area they are focusing on and there are many areas of criminology, so that a criminologist may decide to specialize in one area over the other.
Studying Humans and Social Behaviours
Crime data examination can take many different forms. Sociologists, who study social behaviours, may use surveys to compile information from certain groups and interview people who have been involved in crimes.
Criminologists often rely on criminological studies to see what the general patterns are in crime. For example, if you look at how many murderers use weapons in each district, you can make a hypothesis about why districts have higher murder rates than others.
Criminologists usually specialize in a certain area of criminology that best suits their interests. If you are interested in criminal behaviour, whether it is murder or any other type of crime, you could study these areas and focus on one for your degree.
Criminologists who are interested in criminal behaviour pick up on the reasons for people committing crimes and their motives behind them. For example, when studying murders, you could research how they are committed and who the most likely suspects are.
Criminologists must also be able to collect evidence at crime scenes or during investigations. They rely on interviews with victims and witnesses as well as forensic experts to gather accurate information about a crime.
As the name suggests, this is an area of study that focuses heavily on psychology related to police investigations. In fact, a forensic psychologist may help in the process of interviewing or being part of an investigation into a crime.
Forensic psychologists can offer expert opinions as well as help with jury selection for cases that involve psychological issues such as insanity and mental health.
Forensic psychologists are trained to deal with the psychological effects of crime, specifically the victims and witnesses who are usually left psychologically scarred by criminal acts.
Criminal behaviour is not always public or through use of a weapon or other implement.
An example of this is domestic violence. Domestic violence can include this can include sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and even financial abuse.
As well as being an awful crime with long term repercussions, domestic violence is a huge problem for society as it often leads to devastating repercussions for the family and can result in murder. Criminologists have researched how this happens so they can come up with ways to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Comparative criminology is a research project that looks at how different countries deal with various crimes.
For example, if countries have different punishments for murder or if one country has laws in place to deter money laundering, this could provide very useful information for comparative criminology research.
Criminologists compare the different policies that countries have in place to prevent crime and find ways to make them better. An example of this is when they research methods of punishment that have been used in the past and see how they have changed or improved over the years.
In recent years anthropology has become a more popular area of study for criminologists and other related disciplines such as sociology and psychology. This is because they are very interested in how the human race has evolved in terms of crime over time.
Criminologists, for example, use crime rates to compare countries like the United States and Canada to determine whether there are any differences between their criminal behaviours.
Specific Types Of Crime
During their study period, criminologists will look at different types of crime and learn about how and why they were committed.
These different types of crime include:
- Crimes Against People – the study of the effects of crimes against people such as murder, rape, kidnapping and domestic violence.
- Crimes Against Property – the study of crimes such as theft, burglary or vandalism and the many different ways to prevent these from happening.
- Cybercrime – the study of electronic crimes such as identity theft and other types that use computers or other technology to commit crimes. These are now becoming more commonplace due to the rise of the Internet and other technology allowing criminals to do so from anywhere in the world.
- Drug-Related Crime – the study of drug crimes such as drug trafficking, drug addiction and drug administration. Criminologists will usually also provide information about how drugs are distributed in a particular area.
- Extortion – the study of crimes involving extortion, such as the “impossible job” scam or any other type that involves threatening a victim with violence or some other type of threat.
- Gang Crime – the study of gang behaviour, how gangs are formed or how they recruit new members. This is a very common type of crime that can lead to more serious crimes, such as drug-related crimes.
- Terrorism – the study of terrorism which refers to a sudden, violent attack against a place or group of people that is meant to cause panic or fear.
- White-Collar Crime – the study of white-collar crime such as Medicare Fraud, tax evasion and embezzlement. A huge part of this area is financial in nature, and there are many ways that people can be ripped off by fraudulent activity.
In addition to this, criminologists can also specialize in the study of women who commit crimes or other types of gender-specific criminal behaviour.
Other Areas Of Study
Criminology is not all about studying criminal behaviour though.
There are other areas of study for criminologists to focus on, such as:
- Prisoner Rehabilitation – the study of prisoner rehabilitation programs and techniques to rehabilitate them before they are released from prison.
- Mental Health – the study of mental health treatment and prevention techniques that are used to prevent criminal behaviour in people with mental health issues.
- Youth Violence – the study of youth violence and any policies that may help prevent serious crimes from occurring. Research can be used to determine how violence might affect children in different ways, such as how it affects their brain development.
The Future Of Criminology
This field of study is becoming more and more popular as people are becoming more aware of the consequences of crime.
There are many different types of crimes that others have never heard of before, and the number is growing rapidly.
As these new crimes are uncovered, there will be more and more criminologists trying to find ways to prevent these crimes from occurring again, and more for future criminologists to learn and study.