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When Crime Waves

When Crime Waves

May 2005 | 224 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
Despite its wide usage, the concept of the "crime wave" has rarely been given explicit and detailed attention by criminologists. It is important that we understand where they come from, how they develop and what their consequences are. When Crime Waves offers an in-depth exploration of a large number of social issues involved in the study of crime waves. Issues such as how and why crime rates change over time, why some types of crime and not others come in waves, and the role played by the mass media, politicians, and interest group leaders in the promotion of crime waves are discussed to help students develop analytical skills and apply them to real-world situations.

Key Features:
  • Critically examines the phenomenon of crime waves in an engaging fashion
  • Provides multiple perspectives via historical and contemporary examples throughout the book
  • Delves into the role played by politicians and the media in creating the perception that a crime wave has occured
  • Presents themes of myth-making, cultural imagery, and social constructionism
When Crime Waves is intended to be a supplementary text for undergraduate criminology and sociology courses including Introduction to Criminology and Criminal Justice, Crime & Media, Crime & Society, Crime & Punishment, Sociology of Crime, Sociology of Deviance, Social Problems, and Criminal Behavior.  

Vincent Sacco is a professor in the department of sociology at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. His research interests are in criminology and urban sociology, which relate to the study of criminology, as well as the study of public perceptions of and reactions to crime. In approaching criminology, his work emphasizes the study of "criminal events" and investigates why some people are more likely to be victimized by crime; when and where crimes occur; and what contributes to the views on crime held by the police, lawmakers, and members of the general public.

Chapter 1: What are Crime Waves?
Defining Crime Waves

Social Constructionism

The Criminal Content of Crime Waves

The Nature of Waves

Some Uses of Crime Waves


Chapter 2: Why do Crime Rates go Up and Down? Dislocation, Diffusion and Innovation
The Demography of Offending

Social Dislocations




Chapter 3: Crime Waves by the Numbers
Numerate and Innumerate Consumers

The Statistics of Crime Waves

Statistics in the Raw

Emergent Problems

Statistical Record Keeping as a Social Process

Statistics in the Media


Chapter 4: Mass Media and Crime Waves
Importance of Crime to Mass Media

How Do the News Media Cover Crime?

Why Do Media Cover Crime as They Do?

How Do Media Generate Crime Waves?


Chapter 5: That's the Rumor
Talking About Crime

Rumors and Legends

The Rumor Process

The Social Implications of Talk


Chapter 6: Being Afraid
The Meaning of Fear

What Are We Afraid Of?

Who Is Afraid?

Do Rising Crime Levels Cause Fear?

Does Fear Cause Rising Crime Levels?

The (Ir)rationality of Fear

When Fear Goes Wild


Chapter 7: Crime Waves and Public Policy
The Political Context

We're Going to War

Policy and Problem Image

Searching for the Panacea

When Social Control Becomes the Problem


Chapter 8: Crime Waves: A Skeptic's Guide
Are Crime Rates Really Going Up?

What Causes the Sudden Shifts in Crime Levels?

Can We Really Trust Crime Statistics?

Are My Own Experiences (And Those of My Friends) A Useful Guide as to Whether Crime Levels Are Increasing?

What Are We to Make of the Media Obsession With Crime?

These Stories I Have Been Hearing From so Many People Have to be True, Don't They?

The Fear of Crime is Irrational, Right?

It's Fear that Drives the Justice System Response, Isn't It?

A Rising Crime Level is A Simple Problem with A Simple Solution, Right?

When Interventions are Followed By Falling Crime Levels, Can We Assume Cause and Effect?

About the Author

"Vincent Sacco has written and intriguing little book on the complex phenomenon called "crime waves." Relying primarily on case studies and historical accounts, he paints a fascinating picture of crime waves as they are constructed and perceived by society. The ultimate value of Sacco's book may be that it helps one to appreciate the futility of simple, quick-fix solutions to complex, of even worse, illusory problems. This is a very readable and engaging work aimed at undergraduate students in the social sciences."

J. Stephen Wormith

This text will be useful to students in understanding the context of what they do, particuarly those working in the field of policing/ criminal justice.

Ms Helen Poole
Social Science , Coventry University
July 15, 2010
Key features
  1. Only book to critically examine the phenomenon of crime waves in an engaging fashion for undergraduate students.
  2. Crime waves are often discussed in a wide variety of courses in the criminal justice curriculum, but there has not been a book to address the topic.
  3. Historical and contemporary examples drawn primarily from the U.S.. International examples will be threaded thoughout the book for a comparative perspective.
  4. Will examine the role the media and politicians play in creating the perception that a crime wave has occurred.
  5. Length and price make it an ideal supplementary text for a variety of course settings.

Sage College Publishing

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