Crimes against Property

Of the almost 1.5 million Americans under some form of correctional supervision, most are there for offenses against someone else's property. In other words, property crimes are much more common than those against persons are. Property crimes reported to the police take place on average once every 2 to 3 seconds in the United States. Every year about one in 20 Americans falls victim to a property crime.

Computer crime

An emerging type of crime involves using computers to “hack” (break into) military, educational, medical, and business computers. Although software exists to thwart sophisticated hackers, it provides only limited protection for large computer systems. Modest estimates state that known computer crimes total some $300 million each year; the amounts could be much higher. Laws dealing with computer crimes are in their infancy.

Victimless crime

In victimless crime, all parties consent to the exchange of illegal goods and/or services. In some cases, victims may exist, but not usually. The list of victimless crimes includes illicit drug use, gambling in most areas of the country, the use of illegal sexual materials, public nudity, public drunkenness, vagrancy, loansharking, and prostitution.

A prostitute is a person who has sex indiscriminately for pay. Prosecution of prostitutes has been inconsistent, primarily because society has trouble making up its mind about prostitution. The vast majority of Americans disapprove of prostitution—61 percent of males and 83 percent of females believe the practice is “always wrong” or “almost always wrong.”

The sheer number of sellers and buyers creates a major problem in trying to arrest and prosecute prostitutes. One conservative estimate says that, at any one time, 5 million American females are engaging in some form of prostitution. Another problem is the criminal justice system's bias toward arresting prostitutes more often than their buyers. Still another is the bureaucratic nature of the criminal justice system, which is excessively time‐consuming and expensive. Even if arrested, most prostitutes are poor and cannot afford legal representation, so the system has to cover the costs. The entire ordeal frustrates everyone involved. Rather than attempting to arrest and prosecute prostitutes, some communities prefer to focus their efforts on ridding themselves of overt prostitution, usually by preventing prostitutes from loitering and soliciting in public.

Some prostitutes have organized into active unions with the purpose of promoting prostitutes' civil rights by legalizing or decriminalizing their profession. Some proponents argue that legalizing prostitution would save enforcement dollars, eliminate the need for pimps, bring in license fees and taxes, and keep prostitutes disease‐free through regular medical examinations. Others argue that decriminalization would allow people to have control over their work, as well as protect the privacy of prostitutes and their customers.

Organized crime

Organized crime refers to groups and organizations dedicated solely to criminal activity. Historically, leaders of organized crime, or “crime families,” have come from different ethnic groups, such as the Italian‐American sectors of large U.S. cities.

Organized crime activities are of three basic types:

  • Legal activities and businesses, such as restaurants.

  • Illegal activities, such as importing and selling narcotics, gambling, and running prostitution rings.

  • Racketeering, or the systematic extortion of funds for purposes of “protection.”

As one might expect, organized crime can be wildly profitable. Current estimates place organized crime as one of the largest businesses in the United States, even ahead of the automobile industry. Although police and governmental officials continue to fight organized crime, most mobsters have tremendous amounts of money to fight back with high‐powered attorneys.