Poverty is without a doubt one of the biggest international challenges. In addition, in the majority of the countries on a global scale, crime has become a major concern. For instance, in the United States, poverty has become a major concern due to its impact on society. Many young individuals struggle to afford necessities and lack adult guidance. There is a lot of strain placed on young individuals living in poverty from those who are as young as eight years old. Furthermore, such children are secluded from the mainstream society, are prone to behavioral problems in school, often suffer from severe stress, do not have access to good education and hence many of them result in criminal activities. This paper focuses on the causes of poverty-related crime, the impact of these crimes, and solutions to the problem. Even though no one would choose to live a life of poverty, there is a strong link between poverty and crime.
Many experts believe that when the majority of young adults do not get decent salaries, their desire to start their own families gradually diminishes. Such individuals live in constant fear of losing their jobs in the event that tomorrow the company will fire them as it tries to cut down on budget expenses. Moreover, many people seem to believe that lack of occupation, as well as low income, are factors that force individuals to get involved in crimes in order to get the money they desire. According to research by Ulmer and Steffensmeier, people involved in crime tend to be adolescents and young adults who are below twenty-five years old (377). Poverty is a result of inter-related and diverse reasons that can be classified into the following categories:
- Regional-geographic: Because of some areas being more developed than others;
- Political: Due to reasons such as forced migration and politics;
- Academic qualifications: Due to lack of training or proper education;
- Socio-economic: Lack of insufficient social guarantees;
- Demographic: Having so many dependents in a family;
- Socio-medical: Due to illness, old age, or disability;
- Economic: Due to low income or unemployment
For every action, there is a reaction. In every kind of crisis, it is expected that the people involved will react, in order to adapt. Criminal acts, even those done with good motives cannot be justified. However, poverty-related crimes are in most cases executed as a reaction to poor living conditions. Poverty has resulted in many crimes, some people commit these crimes as a survival mechanism, while others commit these crimes because they were born into them and do not know any other way of life. In the majority of the cases, the crimes committed are those that the criminal would not commit if they were not living in poverty.
Living in a state of poverty is something that can be caused by various circumstances. Overall, people living in such conditions often suffer from depression and many times cannot afford the basic daily necessities, for instance, food, decent clothing, and in many cases, shelter. Research by Chaudry & Wimer states that economic insecurity, as well as poverty, is a major cause for depression and other mental illnesses especially for parents (26). Moreover, in a census that was done in 2017, it was determined that 39.7 million people living in the United States were living in poverty (Center for Poverty Research Par. 1). In order to take care of themselves and/or their families, desperate situations force them into desperate actions so they can survive.
In a certain way, poverty has a role to play in a persons’ way of thinking, it is common for some people in such situations to think of the quickest way to get money as opposed to finding productive ways of slowly generating the money through acceptable and legal ways. In addition, some of them go to extents such as hurting people for money. Furthermore, some of them end up committing a crime not because they cannot think of a legal way of generating money, but because they need capital to make the money they desire. Because of the current economic situation of the country, as well as the lack of employment, it is expected that people be bound to look for ways of making money, no matter the risk or the cost. Eventually, criminal thoughts turn into actions.
Policing practices is yet another example of how a crime can be influenced in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. When a crime is committed intentionally or unintentionally, there always seems to be more focus on high-end neighborhoods than there is in poor neighborhoods. Because of this, the focus on such lower-class neighborhoods can have a major impact on criminal-related activities. There is a strong relationship between the total number of arrests and the type of neighborhood. Lower-class neighborhoods tend to have more arrests than upper-class neighborhoods (Chamberlain & Boggess Par. 1). In addition, childhood family poverty and childhood neglect can be used as pre-determining factors of criminal behavior. When children are brought up in environments where they are neglected, they are bound to gradually result to criminal activities because their parents or guardians do not pay close attention to them (Chaudry & Wimer 26). Moreover, some might get into criminal activities to make money as a way of attempting to help their parents provide for the family.
Endurance in poverty-stricken areas is among the top reasons for criminal activity. However, inequality in regards to the law is yet another reason for crime in such areas. Individuals in such places result in taking the law into their own hands because they feel that the authorities do not care about them, to them, the authorities only care more about people living in upper-class neighborhoods. For example, no one would care much if an individual in a poor neighborhood were robbed of everything in his or her house; however, if such a criminal act were to happen in an upper-class neighborhood -for instance, in a celebrity’s house in the suburbs- more action would have been taken.
According to Singer, people living in poverty are more likely to end up in jail (1). It is rare for areas high in poverty to have a strong law enforcement system in place. A majority of the population in such areas find them as not helpful; as such, it is common for many crimes to be committed in such areas. In the absence of such opportunities, retaliatory activities- in most, cases those of a violent nature- become the easiest way for individuals to achieve highly respectable status. Moreover, individuals in such neighborhoods believe that they cannot depend on anyone to protect them but themselves because law enforcement has failed to protect them. It is not rare for the police response time to be significantly slower in poor neighborhoods than it is in high-end neighborhoods. In most cases, everyone is viewed as a criminal while they might be the ones in need of help. This can commonly be noted among black people, for instance, according to research by Lopez, in the United States thirteen percent of the population is black; however, thirty-nine percent of black people have been killed even though they were not armed (Par. 1). An example of this is Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer at a traffic stop while reaching for his identification card (Park).
Effects of poverty-related crime
Every individual is different in many ways, including the level at which crime would affect them. The physiological and in some cases the psychological impact of a crime can be overwhelming to the victims and their families, regardless of the nature of the crime. In addition, the mental and physical effects of a crime can last for a long time regardless of the severity of the crime. This is because some people can be affected by a minor incident while others can go about their lives after the occurrence of a devastating crime as if it never happened. Lastly, there are individuals who are indirectly affected by a crime. An example of such a situation is if a store owner in a poor neighborhood were constantly robbed every time that he or she restocked items, he or she would soon run out of business. This would affect many people in the neighborhood, especially if the store were known to provide very affordable items. In addition, this would then lead to loss of jobs for people who depended on the store for employment; moreover, it would lead to a limited number of products in the neighborhood. It would likewise trigger an increase in item prices in the neighborhood due to the demand, in addition to the existing stores’ need to recover money they would spend on security. Overall, the product output in such a neighborhood would be limited; hence, there are people who would be indirectly affected and those who will be directly affected.
People living in a society where the majority of the people are educated and productive are better off; however, the same cannot be said for people living in areas that are high in crime. It is not only the victims who are affected by the crimes; the people who commit crimes are affected as well. Majority of people charged with criminal acts are generally young (Chaudry & Wimer 26). Their criminal acts harm them in various ways, for instance, if they are caught and are sentenced to prison, they lose valuable time that they would have spent gaining work experience, no matter how small the job would be. Moreover, once they are caught committing a crime, it goes on their criminal record, which might one day hinder them from getting a good job. Because of this, many criminals sentence themselves to a life of struggle without knowing it.
Education is one aspect that can help prevent poverty. In the event that youngsters are educated appropriately, at that point, they will see the reality of how life is and they will attempt to prevail in acceptable ways to study, to find a new line of work. At times, crime is the manifestation of culture, and education can fix social destitution and hence the financial destitution will be cured as an outcome. If poverty is reduced, crime rates will reduce as well. Moreover, high unemployment levels lead to poverty in all countries. Poverty reduction should be treated as an urgent matter. A good way for poverty to be reduced is by ensuring there are equal social opportunities. If society continues to treat poverty as a temporary problem, there will never be permanent solutions that can eradicate it. Moreover, society should focus more on long-term strategies and objectives that can help develop the country on a social and economic level, while making people’s lives better. As such, the objectives should include the following crucial issues:
- Ensuring the safety of all citizens, no matter what social class they are from;
- Decreasing inequality and ensuring citizens are given the chance to know their legal rights;
- Ensuring there is a shared economic space;
- Development of infrastructure via the joint efforts of the federal and private sector;
- Enhancing living standards including ensuring there is a clean environment that will not put people’s health at risk;
- Ensuring there is an even development of regions;
- Ensuring there are harmonized interethnic relations in the nation;
Dealing with the consequences of poverty is more difficult than preventing poverty itself. Crime cannot be justified no matter who commits it. In any case, the government needs to take actions to minimize poverty, and in the end eradicate it. This can be done by ensuring there are sources of employment even to those that do not have academic qualifications. Moreover, positive changes in the economy, as well as society, can help in enabling individuals to pursue higher levels of education, which will help them advance their careers. Legitimate conservative strategy, positive changes in the social circle, prudent issues and business can ensure the more elevated amount of training and understanding the standards, which will dodge the wrongdoing later on. There ought to be likewise composed the specific crusades went for the decrease of neediness, as it now and again causes wrongdoing.
Even though no one would choose to live a life of poverty, there is a strong link between poverty and crime. Poverty has become a challenge that affects billions of people everyday on a global scale. Areas with impoverished neighborhoods are known to have high crime rates. Some people commit crimes as a form of self-help while others do it to gain respect. In some cases, some people become desperate and get to the point where they are capable of harming others just so they can provide for their families. However, criminal acts do not come without consequences; they affect the people involved whether it is directly or indirectly. Educating people from a young age would be among the first steps of ending poverty in the long-term. Moreover, if the government and private sectors work together to ensure there were equal social and economic conditions for everyone, poverty would be significantly reduced.
Center for Poverty Research. "What is the Current Poverty Rate in the United States?" UC Davis Center for Poverty Research, 15 Oct. 2018, poverty.ucdavis.edu/faq/what-current-poverty-rate-united-states. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Chamberlain, Alyssa W., and Lyndsay N. Boggess. "Why Disadvantaged Neighborhoods Are More Attractive Targets for Burgling Than Wealthy Ones." USAPP, 29 Sept. 2016, blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2016/09/26/why-disadvantaged-neighborhoods-are-more-attractive-targets-for-burgling-than-wealthy-ones/#Author. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Chaudry, Ajay, and Christopher Wimer. "Poverty is Not Just an Indicator: The Relationship Between Income, Poverty, and Child Well-Being." Academic Pediatrics, vol. 16, no. 3, Apr. 2016, pp. 23-29, doi.org/10.1016/j.acap.2015.12.010. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Lopez, German. "There Are Huge Racial Disparities in How US Police Use Force." Vox, 14 Nov. 2018, www.vox.com/identities/2016/8/13/17938186/police-shootings-killings-racism-racial-disparities. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Park, Madison. "Police Shootings: Trials, Convictions Are Rare for Officers." CNN, 3 Oct. 2018, edition.cnn.com/2017/05/18/us/police-involved-shooting-cases/index.html. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Singer, Simon. "Middle-Class Crime and Criminality." Oxford Bibliographies Online Datasets, 28 Feb. 2017, pp. 1-2, doi:10.1093/obo/9780195396607-0212. Accessed 4 Apr. 2019.
Ulmer, Jeffery, and Darrell Steffensmeier. "The Age and Crime Relationship." Social Variation, Social Explanations, The Pennsylvania State University, pp. 377-396, www.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/60294_Chapter_23.pdf.