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Six Reasons People Commit Crimes
Friday, 15 January 2021

Understanding the root of crime is an essential way to stamp it out. While many people advocate for a "tough on crime" method, this simplistic approach often looks at the problem after it has occurred as opposed to figuring out the conditions that led to such crimes in the first place.

The thought process behind any criminal act can be a complex web of intersecting issues, but to understand the reasons that people commit criminal acts, we have outlined six key problems below. Often it's not so much about what people do, but what is counted as a "crime" and how the numbers can be inflated by systemic societal failures as opposed to the errors of the individual. We hope that by truly understanding those issues, we can all find ways to reduce crime and create a better society for everyone. Read on below to see which six issues we have identified as the most prominent.

Mental Health Issues

People with incorrectly treated mental health issues can often find themselves running afoul of the law. According to research by the Treatment Advocacy Center, it is estimated that around 20% of prisoners have serious mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or a psychotic disorder. While it would be wrong to stigmatize people with mental health issues by incorrectly labeling them as criminals, the inability to cope with mental health issues can lead people to commit criminal acts.
People with mental health issues often find themselves committing these acts without truly knowing what they are doing, and due to a lack of proper education, medication, or rehabilitation, they may find themselves behind bars. It is also worth considering that prisoners with mental health issues often have difficulty in prison, leading them to spend a longer time in jail for perceived bad behavior, and often putting them at much higher risk of suicide.

Substance Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse can be a leading factor in certain types of crimes such as robbery and burglary. Often intersecting with an inability to fund their spiraling drug habit, addicts turn to crime to make up the necessary funds to purchase drugs.
Additionally, as a variety of drugs remain illegal in the vast majority of countries (with the exception of cannabis in parts of the USA and across Canada), drug addicts can find themselves pushing drugs to fund their habit, further associating themselves with criminal elements. This means that even people without an innate criminal impulse can find themselves constantly on the wrong side of the law.


Poverty is probably the leading factor that leads to crime as it intersects with so many issues. While rich people are more likely to commit white-collar crimes and get away with them, the types of violent crimes that end up in court are more likely to involve poor people. The numbers are staggering. According to QZ, boys born to the bottom 10% of earners are twenty times more likely to end up in prison than those raised by the top 10% of earners.
This is because while rich people are more likely to use financial means to resolve problems, people in genuine poverty often have no other option than to resort to criminal means as a way to provide for themselves and their families.

Peer Pressure

This issue is particularly prevalent in young people, who are far more susceptible to the influence of their contemporaries. If everyone in a community seems to be engaging in a criminal lifestyle, then it provides a huge social incentive to young people to join in criminal activities.
This is especially true when it comes to gangs, which prey upon young people's vulnerabilities and convinces them that a gang lifestyle can help them with a variety of issues, including personal, economic, and romantic fulfillment. The numbers are quite amazing, with 47% of juvenile prisoners already belonging to a gang. This isn't helped by the fact that prisons themselves are also a hotbed for gang violence, often recruiting new members as they arrive at prison facilities.

Distrust of Authority

If people grow up in a community where they do not respect figures of authority such as the police, and the authorities in turn resort to harsh measures that are perceived to be unfair, this can easily breed a criminal atmosphere.
Recent developments in 2020 across the world with the Black Lives Matter movement have shown how this conflict can be escalated, especially when it comes to the relationship between the police and an ethnic minority, who may be tempted to commit crimes when they believe that those who have been tasked with policing them are institutionally racist. Additionally, petty crimes such as public drinking and loitering are more likely to be criminalized in these types of areas, meaning that the police themselves are driving up the crime count as opposed to prosecuting anything meaningful.
Ultimately, officer education is one of nine ways to reduce crime outlined by Laurier Online Academy. You can learn more about nine different ways to tackle criminality by clicking on the link here.

Family Upbringing

A difficult childhood can often leave people resorting to crime as an outlet for both frustration and trauma. A lot of gangs and criminal conspiracies often start with the family too; if you are born into a life of crime, or one of your parents is incarcerated, you are more likely to be incarcerated as well.
According to research, the likelihood of being imprisoned is six times higher if your mother or father has already been through the penal system. This in turn creates a vicious cycle of crime that trickles down through the generations and can often take a vast amount of government resources to overturn. The numbers are completely different for people who have grown up in loving and affluent families, as this means that they are given the resources to succeed in life instead of thinking that crime is the only option.
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