Why Culture Counts in Criminology

In my second post, I talked about what Criminology is:

‘Basically it’s the study of crime – who causes, why and how to prevent it. Then the idea is that you can use that information once you are employed to better understand and respond to crime, and prevent it in the future.’

Without something being deemed a crime, no one will bother to prevent it.

Laws are different in every country – for example, it used to be illegal to buy chewing gum, with Singaporeans heading to Malaysia to get supplies when the ban first came in place in 1992. The ban still remains to this day, however it is not as strict.

The point of the ban was to prevent vandals from interfering with the (then new) metro train system in Singapore. The Prime Minister decided on a ban as a result of chewing gum being stuck on the door sensors, which was costly to repair and caused disruption to the train services. The ban remains in a less restricted way, with gum now being legally sold for medicinal purposes.

There is effort and cost in first writing legislation – (called the Regulation of Imports and Exports (Chewing Gum) Regulations 1992 if anyone is interested), testing it and then policing it. In Singapore’s case, the government phased in the ban and allowed shops to sell all current stock without penalty. The effort in implementing the law may well have been worth it – repairs to trains would have been less likely to be required, and Singapore is highly regarded internationally by travellers for it’s cleanliness.

The point I’m trying to make here is that this law is unique to Singapore – and so are the costs and resources invested in it. Crime exists because society has made it so. What is considered a crime in one country or culture is not considered so in another, and communities and government will not put in effort to prevent or respond to the impact of crime unless it is considered a crime to begin with.

Until next time!


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