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An introduction to crime and criminology
An introduction to crime and criminology

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1 Fear and fascination with crime and criminals

Have you thought about where your ideas about crime and ‘the criminal’ come from and what it is that has drawn you to being interested in this subject?

It is sometimes the case that people are drawn to study the problem of crime because of their fear of crime and so by studying it they might overcome those fears. Studying something to gain an understanding of it is one way people can conquer their fears. But, crime stories are also a source of fascination for some. Fascination may seem an unusual word to associate with the pressing social problem of crime, given its harmful and destructive consequences. Yet the already huge and continually growing volume of crime literature books is testimony to, and evidence of, some of this fascination. After all, being fascinated with something is often associated with being allured or charmed by it. How might such feelings be associated with those fearful things called crimes?

Activity 1 Fictional and true crime stories in everyday life

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Think about the role played by either fictional or non-fictional accounts of crimes and criminals in your everyday interactions and conversations. Can you think of any examples from TV or literature that illustrate a fascination with crime and criminals? Why do you think fictional or true crime stories hold such fascination for people?

Jot down your answers in the text boxes below.

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Examination of TV and film schedules, and the offerings of online streaming services such as Netflix, NOW TV or Amazon Prime suggest that people thrive on a high-crime diet of murder tales, detective thrillers as well as ‘true-life’ documentaries.

Likewise the quickest browse through any physical or online bookshop reveals a vast array of fictional crime titles and authors, from Agatha Christie to Robert Galbraith to Jonathan Kellerman. In many bookshops you will also find a whole section dedicated to ‘true crime’ and books which claim to explore the ‘mind of the criminal’ or recount gruesome biographies of serial killers. If you google ‘crime fiction books’ or look these search terms up on Amazon, you will find hundreds, if not thousands of pages of titles.

You may have come up with other ways that fictional and non-fictional crime stories enter your consciousness or conversations on a day-to-day basis, but it is likely that you will have found it quite easy to find past and present manifestations of the culture of fascination with ‘the crime problem’ and with ‘the criminal’.

It is important to recognise that individuals and societies construct narratives or stories about themselves and others because it is through stories that people can remember, make sense of and describe meaningful things in their lives.

It is also important to remember that there is always room for doubt and a single story can be told in an entirely different way when viewed from a different perspective.