Post No.: 0659
Organised crime is profoundly about serving selfish interests (few thieves are genuine Robin Hoods who steal things for a cause that doesn’t include themselves or their own kin), fulfilling supply and demand (in the case of amongst the underground criminal network), ruthlessness (some thieves may even try to rationalise ‘people getting robbed – well that’s life’), greed, money and in turn building status and power.
So it’s just ‘business’ operating under an environment of self-regulation, or at least the flouting of weakly-enforced external laws and regulations or the exploitation of a lawless land or ‘Wild West’.
Grifting can sometimes beat grafting too. When the cost-to-benefit appears favourable (the temptation of lucrative gains weighed up against a low risk of getting caught and punished heavily) then it’s also about rational efficiency, or getting the most out from the least effort. The profit maximisation from crime for many sure beats doing other forms of work, whether regarding those with few (perceived attractive) opportunities for legal work or those with lots but who never feel that enough is enough.
Some petty crimes are committed out of desperation, coercion or revenge. But organised crimes are committed out of rational self-interested greed, including when done out of the thrill of it. Thieves certainly don’t have much regard or empathy for their victims.
Humans aren’t always rational. But criminals are behaving rationally when they weigh out the odds of committing a crime successfully, the benefits of committing that crime, the odds of getting caught, and the costs if they do get caught. So a particular crime is effectively incentivised if law enforcement in that area is inadequate to deter it and if it can be made worthwhile, such as because what’s being supplied has a low elasticity of demand hence people want it even if it’s illegal and high prices can be charged on the black market for it (like guns or drugs).
If the authorities were to behave rationally in return, they’d understand when the cost of enforcing a particular law outweighs the benefits relative to the opportunity costs (the other crimes where the limited police resources could be directed to tackle instead). Hence some crimes aren’t worth solving. Albeit such considerations shouldn’t just be measured in economic terms alone.
To be clear – barely every extremely poor person steals. But it’s more rational for the very poor to become thieves because stealing even small monetary amounts can change their lives, and the punishment of jail time mightn’t be worse than their current life situation. It’ll therefore seem like the poor need a harsher deterrence to discourage a life of crime as an option. However, to reduce poverty-related crime – farseeing governments would do much better to eliminate poverty, ensure reliable social security, reduce gross levels of inequality, and give the poor more attractive opportunities and prospects for securing rewarding legal work so that life in a criminal gang is less comparatively tempting.
Most small-time thieves or gang members wouldn’t be thieves or in criminal gangs if they perceived better alternative opportunities for themselves. But it’s too politically easy to just blame the poor for ‘having bad genes, bad parents and inherently bad characters’. No demographic is predestined to become thieves – it’s their situation that increases the incentive, or desperation, to commit crime in order to survive and/or gain the respect that money and material wealth apparently afford in this world. The criminals who are truly reprehensible are those who should consider themselves more than wealthy enough but greed is their motivation. It’s similar when it comes to falling for scams – there are the vulnerable, and then there are the greedy who are lured by the promises of immense riches.
Just as a note – in some jurisdictions, finding something that’s unattended doesn’t mean one can keep it. ‘Theft by finding’ is when one finds something and fails to take reasonable steps to track down the owner first before keeping it.
People, relatively rich and poor, without a doubt make a rough sort of calculation when they decide that it’s not worth stealing a CD from a physical store yet feel it’s worth stealing the equivalent music from an online peer-to-peer file-sharing source. For many, the question is ‘is it presently worth it?’ – not ‘is it moral?’ The easier a crime is to commit and the less chance one will get caught and sufficiently punished for it, the more likely the crime will be committed.
It’s hardly just career criminals – otherwise-legitimate businesses flout laws under an environment of weak external regulations or enforcement too. For example, a content subscription service may repeatedly assert that it has a zero tolerance policy on unlawful content posted on its site, and other empty words, yet repeatedly allow the most popular and thus lucrative content creators to carry on posting illegal content for a long time because these accounts make the most money for the site. So if they can get away with it and it pays – otherwise-legitimate businesses are drawn to cheat too. (The above also highlights another example of how the existing popular and rich receive favourable treatment, which makes it easier for them to get even richer.)
Sort of like not needing to be faster than lions but just faster than other people when being chased by lions, but from the lion’s perspective – thieves are looking for the easiest targets, like those not paying attention to their surroundings because they’ve got their headphones on and they’re looking down at their phones, or bikes that aren’t chained to fixed objects or hidden out of sight. Thieves stress over multiple strong layers of security and uncertainty – so stress them out to the point they won’t bother and will turn their attention to easier targets. Instead of quitting the life of crime in the face of great obstacles, the most organised or ardent of criminals will more readily just look for easier targets. So make it less rational for them to waste their time on you or your stuff by not presenting yourself or your possessions as easy targets.
Yes it’s the moral wrong of a criminal, or bully, or offender of any kind – yet it’d be wise and furry street smart to not flash your cash, not flash your body, not get drunk, to install your security updates, use strong passwords, lock your doors, etc.. There’s little point being morally in the right when you’re the one being harmed.
If faced with a robber – although it’s easier said than done (hence practise it) – mentally note the appearance and details of the person(s), such as their skin colour, hair colour and style, gender, age, height, weight, face shape, physique, gait, clothes worn and artefacts held, plus the surrounding location and time. Try not to be fixated on just the main source of threat (‘weapon focus’). If a robber really wanted to kill you then you’d have been attacked already, so stay calm and don’t do anything rash to push them. Don’t block their exits otherwise they’ll be forced to go through you. But if the opportunity is right and you decide to strike – then surprise, speed and swift, decisive, aggressive resolution is the goal.
But before any danger occurs – although one shouldn’t be constantly hypervigilant – be alert and aware at all times, such as by not being constantly occupied by your mobile phone in public places. And look out for each other. Woof!
When it comes to active and indiscriminate aggressors in public spaces – run. Leave your belongings but take others with you if you can. Then call the police when it’s safe to do so. Keep your hands visible to law enforcement in case they mistake you for the/an aggressor. If you cannot run, then hide. Then silence your phone. If you cannot hide, then fight as a last resort if your life is in danger. Improvisable weapons could be found around you. And again before any danger occurs – plan ahead, such as knowing where the entrances/exits and escape routes are in a building. And look out for each other.
When choosing whether or not to get your fangs out and attack a potential aggressor, it can be a tricky dilemma because you want to protect yourself but don’t want to spark needless violence, or escalate any violence if they’re not immediately knocked out. Thieves – more than murderers or terrorists – want to apply the minimum effort to get what they want, thus if they don’t need to physically stab, shoot or maim their victims then most won’t. They just want the goods. So don’t put yourself in greater danger just for the sake of protecting some material money or goods. Showing force might discourage future ideas of trying to rob people again because the criminals don’t want to get hurt either… or it might alternatively encourage them to be more heavily armed, to operate in groups, or to be proactively physically violent from the outset.
We’ve got to be aware that incidents where the victims are successful in defending their own material possessions against armed intruders are salient and so will get reported in the media if they’ve been recorded on video. (And we can all have a great big laugh at the witless criminals!) But they’re only salient and newsworthy precisely because they rarely pull off and without injury. We’ll far less likely see the gruesome videos of when these defensive acts didn’t pull off for the victims. Out of respect, we don’t normally show the severely injured or dead bodies of victims in the news. But this presents a reporting skew. (It also highlights the often fine line between comedy and tragedy.) But we might take our chances because, after all, we don’t want to send a message that it’s easy for thieves to seize what they want.
In places where firearms are common, many thieves won’t even contemplate attempting a store robbery without one. And even if a store owner carries a firearm as well, the thief is more ready to point his/her weapon, and more critically has the first-mover advantage i.e. the thief decides when and where to attack so even if you possessed a firearm, even on your person, you’re not going to get it out before them in a one-on-one situation, and they’ll chose the surprise timing of that one-on-one situation.
Now if ‘it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun’ then if a ‘good guy’ tries to get this first-mover advantage and pre-empt an attack then they’ll logically become the bad guy themselves for pointing their gun at someone else first! (Plus this attitude is why nations, that view other nations that possess nuclear armaments as the bad guys, want their own nuclear armaments too.)
Therefore to protect one’s own possessions or family and genuinely be the good guy – one needs to be chiefly proactive in defensive forms of defence, such as utilising greater passive security, like hiding and locking valuables away and installing visible cameras, rather than proactive in offensive forms of defence like carrying knives or guns.
…In summary of the main points – if it’s less costly to steal than buy something then it’d be rational to steal it. It should be unsurprising that scammers frequently target old, defenceless pensioners, especially if law enforcement is too feeble or unaware. Criminals seek the easy targets so don’t make yourself one. And protect the vulnerable. They’re primarily looking for money or other valuable assets, just like people in business are. Thieves and robbers are different to honest businesspeople but the difference isn’t in their rationality or self-interests – it’s in which opportunities and threats they perceive and tolerate. It’s similarly not solely about their inherent dispositions but the situations they find themselves in, whether desperations or temptations.
Woof. You can share what you think about the similarities and differences between criminals and business opportunists by smashing the Twitter comment button below.