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

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2 Once a crime always a crime?

In the previous section it was stated that crimes can be thought of as acts which break the law and that this forms the legal definition of crime. At the same time though, some crimes are acts which can offend against a set of norms like moral codes or codes of expected public conduct. Only some norm violations are made into crimes, however. For example, graffiti is a crime when it appears without permission on public property. It is not a crime, however, if someone were to decorate the outside of their own home with graffiti-style images (although this may be contested by their neighbours, especially if it led to a decrease in property prices in the area!)

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Figure 3 Graffiti: is it a crime?

In this section, you will start to think about the circumstances under which the same activity might be seen by some people in society as something that should be a crime, but not by others. In this way, you will begin to see why it can be said that crime is a ‘contested concept’.