Criminology Web Sites: An Annotated "Webliography"

Article excerpt

Criminology, the study of crime, criminal behavior, and its prevention, has been a part of the human condition since Cain murdered his brother, Abel. But the world is far more complicated (and more dangerous) now than it was then. Today the nation state can look like a modern day Cain, pointing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) at any perceived threat--which is no crime as long as you're one of the nations "permitted" to have them. There are also frightening entities called NGOs--nongovernmental organizations, which include the Sierra Club, but also terrorist organizations that stand poised to acquire a WMD (incidentally--terrorists are on the official "not allowed to have nuclear bombs" list). The sheer number of new acronyms is alarming.

While we still struggle with the more prosaic crimes such as murder, rape, arson, and fraud, we now have to worry about chemical and biological warfare, radioactive dirty bombs, cybercrime, cyberwarfare, and nuclear ballistic missile attack from dictatorial goons and extremist groups with deep pockets. Some even claim that the billions of dollars we pour into violent movies, brutal sports, and misogynistic music encourage violence.

And who would deny that violence sells? This world is both a wonderful and frightening place--and ultimately no one gets out alive. But then no one wants to leave it prematurely, either. And, since September 11, everyone--even Americans oceans away from most of the world's inhabitants--has become a potential victim in what we perceive as a new reality--a global terrorist threat. But "global terrorist threat" aside, terror stalks us in our daily lives. What about the terror experienced in a home invasion, an assault, or physical threat? How many of us feel safe walking around our own neighborhoods at night?

The following list may serve as an introduction to the many Web sites devoted to both the prosaic and exotic in the field of criminology.

Government Web Sites and a Commercial Site or Two

Governments around the world have built criminology Web sites devoted to providing not only statistical and social analyses of criminality, but also sites devoted to advising citizens on how to avoid being victimized. Many agencies of the U.S. government have created Web sites that examine most types of criminal activity and with enough statistics to make anyone look over his or her shoulder on a regular basis.

However, the good news is that overall in the U.S. "violent crime rates have declined, reaching the lowest levels ever recorded in 2001," according to the National Crime Victimization Survey at the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) [http:// www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/tables/viortrdtab.htm]. In 1994, there were 51 victims of violent crime per 1,000 people over the age of 12. In 2001, that number dropped by over half, to 24 per 1,000.

The United States Department of Justice [http://www. usdoj.gov/] site covers all aspects of crime and punishment. It also links to the new Department of Homeland Security Web site. There are links to primary information for victims of crime, as well as resources on terrorism, civil rights violations, domestic violence, elder justice, youth violence, and fraud, among others. For example, the link to information on domestic violence includes toll-flee domestic violence telephone hotlines to call and additional information resources on stalking and help for victims of domestic violence. This large Web site also contains a number of useful subpages.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics [http://www.ojp.usdoj. gov/bjs/and http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/aboutbjs.htm] is a department of the U.S. Department of Justice. The BJS compiles data and statistical analysis of "crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government." Looking at some of the statistics, one might almost conclude that it's probably best to simply avoid relationships whenever possible, as "more than six in 10 rape or sexual assault victims said that the offender was an intimate, other relative, a friend, or an acquaintance," according to the BJS. …