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Modernization and Crime - Rapid Modernization In The Twentieth Century

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawModernization and Crime - Definitions: Complex Phenomena, The Long-term European View, Rapid Modernization In The Twentieth Century

Rapid modernization in the twentieth century

Rapid modernization in the twentieth century led to different effects on crime. Examples include modernization in third world societies, especially after the end of authoritarian or dictatorial rule, and rapid modernization during periods of fundamental reform in societies with state-socialist forms of government.

Consider third world countries. Uncertainties of record keeping suggest that we focus on relatively reliable homicide and murder data. Dane Archer and Rosemary Gartner offer time series for a large number of third world countries, mostly through 1970. Some extend just through a decade, others through seven decades. Some countries show clear declines in violence. In Chile, for example, the homicide rate declined from above thirty per 100,000 during the first three decades of the twentieth century to below ten and as low as four during the 1960s and early 1970s. Egypt shows a 50 percent decline in murder rates between the early 1950s and mid 1960s. Ghana, Indonesia, and, for homicide, Mexico, Tunisia, and Israel show declines between 50 and 75 percent. Other countries are characterized by stable or cyclical rates of homicide or murder, respectively, including India, Kenya, Sudan, Tanzania, Lebanon, Pakistan, Korea, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Countries with rising homicide or murder rates include Taiwan, Bermuda, Thailand, and Turkey.

Other researchers study individual developing countries beyond 1970. In Nigeria, for example, urbanization after the end of colonial rule in 1960 appears to have been associated with massive increases in crime, even though crime figures follow a highly erratic course in a turbulent political environment (Olufunmilayo Oloruntimehin in Heiland, Shelley, and Katoh, eds.). Several studies are available for Caribbean and Latin American countries. For example, Barbados shows a threefold increase in crime rates between 1960 and 1980 (from 43 to 139 per 100,000 population) and Jamaica shows a more than 100 percent increase, while crime in Trinidad and Tobago is quite stable (Hyacinthe Ellis in Heiland et al., eds.). Ellis explains this increase in Jamaican rates of violence with a combination of massive economic crises and poverty and a disoriented state and law enforcement. While tough crime-fighting programs were pronounced, clearance and conviction rates declined to dismal levels. In Venezuela crime rates more than doubled between 1962 and 1987 (from 474 to 1,111 per 100,000 population). Homicide rates doubled between 1971 (6.2) and 1980 (12.5), then declined to 8.1 in 1987 (Christopher Bikbeck in Heiland et al., eds.), and increased again dramatically to reach a new peak of 24.4 in 1994 (Ana Maria Sanjuan in Pinheiro et al.). Rates for the city of Caracas were even higher with a level of 13.4 per 100,000 population in 1986, climbing to above eighty in 1993 and 1994, then declining more modestly to 64.5 in 1996 (Sanjuan in Pinheiro et al.).

Generally, then, crime statistics for developing societies show quite divergent trends through the beginning of the 1970s. This period is generally associated with decolonization, and globalization of political rule and economic trade. More recent studies on a smaller number of single countries point at an increase in crime rates. Clearly, simple conclusions on the relationship between development and crime cannot be drawn. Open questions include: Which sectors of the population are affected by which aspects of modernization and in which subpopulations is crime concentrated?

Other countries are of particular interest, as they underwent conscious and short-term modernizing reforms. Consider democratization and moves toward market economy. Both processes are generally considered aspects of modernization by development theorists. They also fit the more basic sociological understanding of modernization as they imply a replacement of particularistic action orientations by universalistic ones. Consider the People's Republic of China after the introduction of market reform. A period of highly stable official crime statistics is followed by a massive increase of serious crimes from 50,000 in 1980 to 366,000 in 1989. The vast majority of these crimes were committed by juveniles. In addition, economic crimes increased dramatically (see He Bingsong in Heiland et al., eds., and numerous media reports, e.g., The New York Times, 11 July 1996, pp. A1, A6). Or consider massive changes in political organization. South Africa, after the abolition of apartheid and following a period of deadly civil strife, experienced a massive increase in crime, including violent crime. Homicide rates reached above forty per 100,000 population by 1997 (John Aitchison in Pinheiro et al.). Another example of democratization is Brazil after two decades of military dictatorship (1964–1985). Homicide rates for São Paulo, Brazil's largest city, for example, increased from fourteen per 100,000 population in 1981 to above thirty-three by 1993. The increase, however, had already begun during the last years of dictatorship (Sergio Adorno, Maria Helena P. Jorge, both in Pinheiro et al.).

One of the most radical moves toward modernization was initiated near the end of the 1980s when the formerly state socialist countries of east, east central, and southeastern Europe introduced market reform and democratic political structures. Crime rates began to increase markedly during the 1980s, the decade of reform. The increases accelerated after the breakdown of state socialism in 1989 (Savelsberg, 1995) but leveled off in most countries by 1992 or 1993. Official police data show partly dramatic rate increases between the mid-1980s and the mid-1990s: for homicide, increases of 150 percent (Russia), 450 percent (Estonia), 250 percent (Lithuania), 100 percent (Poland), 100 percent (Czech Republic), 80 percent (Slovak Republic), and 50 percent (Hungary); for burglaries, increases of 270 percent (Russia), 300 percent (Estonia), 230 percent (Lithuania), and 300 percent (Slovak Republic); for robbery, increases of 300 percent (Russia), 500 percent (Estonia), 2,000 percent (Lithuania), 200 percent (Poland), 300 percent (Czech Republic), and 120 percent (Slovak Republic). Rates of assault and rape, on the other hand, were considerably more stable. Victimization research for eastern Germany, the area of the former German Democratic Republic, indicates that increases in the post-Communist era are not merely a reflection of changing control practices (see several contributions in Bilsky, Pfeiffer, and Wetzels, eds.). Crime rates apparently stabilized at levels comparable to those of mainstream west European countries, with some crime types at somewhat higher, others at somewhat lower levels (Van Dijk and Mayhew). Only countries emerging from the former Soviet Union reach considerably higher crime levels.

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