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date: 19 May 2019

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

This volume aims to provide a reasonably comprehensive overview of current knowledge about crime and public policy responses to it. This may not seem an unusual aim, but it is. Other leading works, including Crime, the Handbook of Crime and Punishment, and the Oxford Handbook of Criminology, mostly deal with the operations of the criminal justice system, the causes of crime and delinquency, theorizing about crime and justice, and crime prevention. Those are fine books and important subjects, but they are not sharply focused on understanding why particular crimes occur and what kinds of public policies might best prevent them or minimize the harm they cause.

The premise of this volume, by contrast, is that policy responses to crime are developed crime-by-crime, and that understanding and formulation of public policy need to take that approach. Police and legislators usually develop policies targeted not on violence in general but on domestic violence or street robbery or gang violence or homicide. Regulators typically develop policies targeted not on white-collar crime but on securities fraud or environmental crime or money laundering or tax evasion. One size seldom fits all.

The chapters in this volume examine a broad range of types of crime. Each explains why crimes happen, how often, whether they are happening more often or less than in earlier times, and what we know about efforts to prevent or contain them. It is impossible to cover the full range of crimes that human beings commit, but we have tried to range far beyond the core common law offenses—homicide, robbery, rape, burglary, aggravated assault, motor vehicle theft, and theft—that the FBI calls index crimes, though six of those are subjects of chapters. Another 18 chapters cover an array of other offenses. Some, such as identity theft, Internet fraud, and money laundering, are modern inventions. Others, such as prostitution, gambling, and drug abuse, are as old as mankind. Still others, including domestic violence, child abuse, and environmental crime, are harmful behaviors that until recently received little attention from policy makers or law enforcement officials. A final group consists of crimes whose salience has increased as the world has become smaller and as markets have become global; these include human smuggling, trafficking in cultural artifacts, and cybercrime.

Chapters have been organized into five categories: violent and sexual crime, property crime, transactional crime, transnational crime, and crimes against morality. The first two are straightforward, and subjects have been distributed among them using conventional criteria. The other categories are leakier and (p. vi) more contestable. The closest synonyms for transactional crime are white-collar crime and organizational crime. The central characteristic of offenses classified as transactional is that understanding them requires that attention be paid to the organizational and other structural contexts in which they occur. The central characteristics of offenses classified as transnational are that they often or always involve behaviors that cross national boundaries and that they are better understood in terms of markets rather than of organizations. Some offenses categorized as crimes against morality could have been placed elsewhere; the common characteristic of the crimes listed under this heading is that they involve behaviors that might or might not be criminalized. Their treatment as crimes in particular places and times is as much a commentary on prevailing morality and norms of personal ethics as on the harms they cause.

Books like this require lots of work by lots of people. Writers worked to tight deadlines, prepared successive drafts to more tight deadlines, and responded gracefully to numerous questions and requests. Better than anyone else the writers know that the book would not exist save for the extraordinary care and professionalism of Adepeju Solarin and Su Smallen in shepherding the chapters to completion and the book into production. I'm grateful to them all.

This book has several goals. One is to provide comprehensive, up-to-date, and authoritative surveys of knowledge about the subjects covered. The chapters do that. Their authors are invariably among the handful of most distinguished active scholars specializing in the subject. A second goal is to provide comprehensive bibliographies of classic and contemporary specialized literatures so that readers new to a subject can quickly identify the important foundation sources and make a running start at turning themselves into experts. A third is to provide accessible, easy-to-read introductions to subjects so that readers can quickly come to grips with each. A fourth is to provide a textbook for courses on criminal justice, crime control policy, and narrower subjects. Those are not small ambitions. Whether they have been achieved, readers will decide for themselves.