People will always argue about what causes crime, but why are more crimes happening in some places than others? Theorists have long debated this issue; however, a closer look at each of the theories indicates that there is no one correct answer to this question.
Choice theorists believe that crimes are committed because people simply choose to break the law, and that an individual is likely to offend if he or she can expect some kind of reward for their efforts. (Gaines & Miller, 2006, p.31). This may be true for some individuals, but many would argue that knowing right from wrong would eliminate many people from drifting aimlessly into this category. In addition, choice theory does not account for crime rates being higher in some areas than others, or why most offenders are from low income areas, broken families, or whether they belong to minority groups. Choice theory might explain why some people embark on a shoplifting spree for the thrill, despite having an ample amount of money on their person, although this situation could arguably have more to do with emotional instability than just bad choices.
In contrast, sociological theories might be able to provide clues to the unanswered questions left by the choice theorists. Looking more closely at areas with higher crime rates, one can determine that poverty; undesirable neighborhoods and disorganization of the family unit all seem to be common denominators. Residents of low income, high crime cities or states are faced with higher unemployment rates, a lack of advanced education, and poverty as a direct result of both. (Gaines & Miller, 2006, p.34). Temptation to take the easy way out can become a habit, and it is not uncommon for more than one member of a family to repeatedly commit crimes and be incarcerated at some point in their lives.
Drug crimes are growing at an alarming rate nationwide, and the drug trade in Arkansas alone has become an easy way for thousands of individuals to make a fast income. Despite the obvious risks, many people not only manufacture and sell drugs, they are also habitual users. The Arkansas Drug Threat Assessment is a comprehensive report which outlines in detail, which groups of individuals appear to be the culprits trafficking drugs in and out of the state, as well as what kinds of drugs are being peddled. The manufacturing, trafficking and use of crack cocaine in Arkansas has become a booming business in recent years, and "many observers blame the virtual explosion of violent crime that shook this country in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the widespread sale and use of crack cocaine at that time"(Gaines & Miller, 2006, p.42). A single rock of crack cocaine can be bought on the street for as little as $20 in Little Rock, Arkansas, making this substance affordable to any young person who cares to give it a try.
Unfortunately, the threat assessment which was compiled by the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC) also announced the following alarming statistics; "Of the 2,157 cocaine related treatment admissions reported by the Arkansas Department of Health in 2002, 1,524 were for crack"(NDIC, 2003, p.11). As well as those who participate in the manufacturing of crack cocaine, there are abusers who regularly resort to crime to support their habit, and these crimes often have violent consequences. Dealers themselves are also known to be violent offenders in many cases, resorting to physical force to collect unpaid money from the sale of drugs.
As if life for many minority groups in the United States was not difficult enough, the report clearly identifies Mexican groups as being the main offenders for the trafficking of powdered cocaine which ultimately becomes crack. Since the powdered cocaine derives from areas south of the United States borders, these individuals bring the cocaine into the country for further processing. Areas north of Arkansas such as Kansas and Illinois, as well as Houston and Dallas to the south and west are said to be other sources of crack making its way into Arkansas. There is also evidence of gang involvement in the distribution of crack cocaine, and while not all offenders are African American, most distributors who associate with gangs such as the Bloods, Vice Lords, Folks and Crypts are, "particularly in the Little Rock and West Memphis areas" (NDIC, 2003, p.14). Neither of these areas is known for their affluent communities.
Sociological theorists could indeed, be accurate in their beliefs that poverty and disorganization are the main contributors to crime. Many disadvantaged communities and their seemingly powerless residents nationwide are controlled by gang 'law' such as that imposed by the "Vice Lords, a gang that also is based in Chicago and controls a public housing project in central Little Rock"(NDIC, 2003, p.13). Some Mexican immigrants and those who collaborate with them to bring cocaine into the country are doing little to enhance the reputation of those who are here to build a better life for their families. One can only hope that as theories on the causation of crime evolve, predictable behaviors can be clearly identified so we can all live in peace.
Gaines, L. & Miller, R. L. (2006). Criminal justice in action: The core (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth. ISBN: 0-495-00305-4. National Drug Intelligence Center. (2003).
Arkansas Drug Threat Assessment. Retrieved March 2009, from United States Department of Justice: http://www.usdoj.gov/ndic/pubs6/6184/6184p.pdf