Changing Profile of Crime and Criminals in Rural Communities


Shahanshah Gulpham*

Research Scholar, Dept. of Sociology and Social Work, A.M.U. Aligarh



One of the least understood topic in the fields of criminology and criminal justice today is that rural crime. The reasons are simples. First, research on rural crime remains sparse. Scholars and researchers have spent most of their efforts trying to understand urban patterns of crime. Second, popularized images of rural and urban areas include stereotypes that contain elements of the truth, yet represent gross exaggerations of reality. The image of rural India today still suggests that small towns, farming communities, and the open country are “crime free.” This perception is not accurate; yet, relation to the problems of some large urban communities, rural areas do look like havens of safety.


The problem in assessing rural crime is that different people look at the same facts and reach very different conclusions. According to a variety of national and state level databases reviewed here, crime levels in rural areas in every region of the country are almost always well below the crime rates of cities. However, looking at rural crime rates over times offers a different view- suggesting that while rural areas today have less crime than their urban counterparts, they also have more crime than they Aid in the past, and their crime problems are serious.


The social force, that shape the character of rural and urban communities are largely the same. There are only two major differences. The first is associated with scale. Informal social relationships- what sociologists refer to as primary group relationships –remain relatively more important for influencing the behavior of individuals who live in rural communities? This influence can serve as a buffer that reduces the impact of societal trends on problem behaviors, but it also can mask recognition that problems exist. The second major difference  is that the economic, social, and cultural forces associated with rising levels of crime, violence, delinquency, and gangs appears first in urban areas and then spread to the hinterlands. Rural communities often lag behind the cities on crime and other social problems. As a result, policymakers often have left rural communities out of resource allocation decisions, because when those decisions were being made, the problems were predominantly urban.


Not only is the nature of crime in Indian society changing, but the ways in which crime problems are addressed also are changing. The 1960s, a time when crimes rates were increasing rapidly, was marked by an increasing estrangement between the police and citizens. In response, the early 1970s saw an increase in the development of a large variety of crime prevention program such as maintaining neighborhood watch programs, providing victim assistance, and placing a renewed value on foot patrols. By the early 1980s, the concept of community based policing had emerged, and it continues to provide the philosophical underpinning for basic functional changes in the way police agencies operates.


Rural crime- history:

less number of studies done in the past time in India but in the letter half of the 17th century found a considerable level of crime in a community of only a few thousands persons founded on strong religious norms. One of the most interesting points is that crime (assaults, arson, fighting and brawling, theft, pickpoketing, robbery, con and fraud, and even murder) began to increase as community become as important trade center. 



The population became more transient and the community began to urbanize and become a city. The lesson to be learned from this study is that these same processes – population mobility, urbanizations, interdependent – identify the same social and economic trends that help us understand crime and violence in rural communities today. The latter half of the 19th century witnessed the rapid growth of crime had been seen in rural areas. This period is replete with the romantic images of cowboy life and lore. It was also a time of cattle rustling; stagecoach and train robberies and the settling disputes with a gun emerge in Indian rural societies. Against, this period was a time of rapid population growth and population mobility popularized images of rural crime through the first half of the 20th century included such phenomena as gangsters and the violence of so-called “backward.” By this period, statistics from the research by various criminologists were stating with certainty that rural crime was minor compared to urban crime. For example the renowned criminologist Marshall Clinard (1944, p-38) noted that incarcerated persons from farm and rural areas “did not exhibit the characteristics of a definite criminal social type,” and they did not associates with delinquency or criminal gangs. Twenty years later, sociologists examining the attitudes and behavior of rural youth stressed the theme of “the myth of a rebellious Adolescent subculture.” The crime free image continued.


It was some how resumed that rural areas would remain immune to the problem and that rural areas experiencing rapidly growing and serious levels of crime could be understood by such nebulas but academic-sounding phrases as “urban spillover,” “urban contamination,” and “urban export.” Few scholars suggested that rural crime could best be understood by factors endogenous to rural areas. Exceptions included the early research of Harting (1965), Feldhusen etc al.(1965), Shukla (1975), etc. Each emphasized that although rural offenders commit less serious crimes than urban offenders and rural crime rates are lower than urban crime rates, neither comparison justifies the conclusion that rural areas are crime-free or that problems of safety and security in rural communities should be ignored.


Certainly social scientists, the law enforcement community, school officials, politicians, journalists, and citizens did not anticipate that the image of crime-free rural areas would be shattered so dramatically by recent media stories of violence, drug use, and the emergence of gangs.


Trends in rural crime-

One of the most important sources of national data on rural crime comes from the NCRB, which comprise the four violent offenses of murder and non-negligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravation assault, and the three property offenses of burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft. The crime index contains the numbers of crimes from the records of law enforcement agencies for each of these seven crime types divided by the population of the area. Hence, the crime index lists”  “crimes known to the police” –that is, events reported by citizens, victims and law enforcement officers and recorded and counted by the police agency as a crime. By the NCRB, it also count other criminal event that are perceived by the general public to be serious, including vandalism, driving under the influence, drug arrests, and property crime offenses are below respective urban rates.

No matter how extensive the data, some questions can never be answered definitively. However, it is possible to speculate and suggest why some places have more crime than others. Historical anecdotes show that the underlying cause of crime do not change: (1) a weakening of society’s institutions that define and reinforce appropriate or law-abiding behavior- in particular the family, the school, and religion, and (2) a strengthening of groups that encourage and reinforce law- breaking behavior only the particular change from one historical period to another.


During the present historical period, these six factors help us understand why some rural communities already have high crime rates or are experience a rapid increase in crime:

(1)    Culture: traditional rural areas, most affected by the local culture.

(2)    Poverty: like many urban neighborhoods, rural area with persistent poverty over several generations can exhibit higher levels of crime.

(3)    Urbanization: rural areas may have higher crime rates, especially property- related incidents, if they (a) are located near interstates or large cities and other urban developments,(b) are suburbanizing, (c) are the location for second or seasonal homes or other tourist developments moving out of the city.

(4)    Rapid change: some rural areas are subject to economic and population change that is very rapid, and regardless of weather the change represents an increase or decrease in population or an increase or decrease in jobs or per capita income, rapid change can weaken local community norms that reinforce lawful behavior.

(5)    Organized crime: some rural areas are location for organized crime activities, which may include activity ranging from farm equipment or drug production or drug trafficking gangs, and their presence can increase crime especially violent crime.

(6)    Urban export:  the movement of urban criminal to rural areas will increase crime, but this phenomenon is relatively rare, although it is a common explanation voiced by long time members of rural communities. The vast majority of people arrested by rural law enforcement are residents of the area.


(7)    It is probably that the rural –urban crime difference exhibited in to some extent. A weakness of database is that the rate of crime is based on the resident population. In a highly mobile society, this approach presents problems. Most incorporated places, whether urban or suburban large, or small, are the locations for factories, offices, retail establishments, medical facilities, shopping malls, restaurants, and places of entertainment. Hence there are more rural residents who travel to urban centers for work, shopping, and various professional services than urban residents who travel to rural areas. If a crime occurs to a rural person while in an urban location, the report of that crime is registered by the law enforcement agency for that jurisdiction. It is all a matter of definition. Should rural crime be examined solely from the point of view of geographic areas, or should it include the crime experience of rural residents, no matter where the crime may have occurred? Another and more glaring weakness of the crime record bureau reports is that they count only crimes knows to the police. Unfortunately, many crimes that rural and urban residents experience are never reported.

Now- a- days the studies on the path to understand the mode of rural crimes and profile of criminals, in the affect of globalization and technological development. Due to the development of the technology, men become habitual to short cut relief of the life. It increases the communication facilities, electricity, and infrastructure in rural areas. Number of new crimes trends also engaged in rural areas. The technology based crime come in to the light replacing of traditional crime. However, DTH and dish TV facilities great help the increasing the new trends of crime in rural areas. Mobile phones, transport facilities and so many other factors like, link road, migration, export-import etc, help the development of the new crime pattern. Violence between Muslims and Hindus, between upper castes and lower castes, economic conflict, people by impoverished subsistence farmers struggling through alternating floods and droughts are not regarded as a chief crime or criminality, but theft of electricity, electronic devices, mobile, etc are the chief crime recorded in these days. Globalization is being talked everywhere by everyone. Lot of discussion is going on and intellectuals, NGOs, governmental officials and different national and international organization are studying the impact of globalization on various aspects of life in India. Including its impact on Indian culture, value system and employment but the most important aspects being neglected is “has it any impact on rural life,” where more than 60 percent of Indian population resides. International and national organizations are trying to study its impact on various aspects of life in general.


Profile of rural offender-

Changing times, and with it the fast changing profile of the criminal and his mind, has led the police here to take a total re-look in to crime patterns and the ways to deal with them. A massive study, going on for the last three months in the five districts that fall in the Vadodara range—Vadodara (rural), Panchmal, Dahod, Narmada, and Bharuchwill lead to new standards and bench marking in policing in order to effective tackle “the new age criminals,” the profile of a criminal has changed his psychology, his modus operandi. Keeping this in mind the police too need to change its parameters for detecting crime,” says special police IGP (Vadodara range) Deepak Swaroop. Swaroop is now studying detailed profile of persons with criminal background sent to him by superintendents of police from all these five districts. While formulation of the parameters will take some more time, Swaroop has already begun orienting his men towards this new method of policing during crime conferences. “We are also putting this new theory to list as we go about step by step developing it. We are trying this out to detect any criminal act that is taking place now so that it becomes trial and error process,” says Swaroop. “We studied some striking changes in the profile of criminals. First, there has been a shift from the basic factor of poverty being the prime motivating factor for any crime. Second, a shift in modus operandi has also been seen. Criminals now do more clear markers- a person in to house thefts may also commit crimes is not what it was.” Earlier you could find out exactly from where and which community a criminal belonged to by his actions. There is a type of criminals who would have food at the house after committing theft. There are also criminals who would defects after committing crime. The way crime was committed would tell us about the upbringing and social background of the criminals. It is not so now. There has been a change in the static technology they are accustomed to. So, we need a change in policing patterns,” says Swaroop. The police have also noticed introduction of new method like a shrewd planning process and gathering of information. Swaroop is now going through criminal’s profiles to find out details like their marital status, age group, social background from where he believes a “new pattern is emerging.”


The most important fact, that the rural criminals are old age comparison than urban criminals. And in cities, the age of persons arrested becomes even younger. Arrest profiles hardly tell the full story of rural offenders. Self report studies, largely of rural juveniles concerning the commission of vandalism, violence crime, property crime, and use of alcohol and other drugs, adds further evidence to the conclusion that rural crime is a serious problems. These studies show that rural youth are as prone to the commission of delinquent acts as urban youth. The only difference is that rural youth are slightly less likely to commit more serious offenses, a difference that was for greater in the early rural delinquency studies cited near the beginning of this paper. Once again, rural communities are on the “same train” and the caboose is not that for behind the front engine. The rural sector of Indian society is more different from the urban sector. Although rural person have more consistently shown higher rates of membership in religious organizations and are slightly more likely to go to temple, religious relative influence has declined. These trends create a cluster of risk factors that in tern increase the chances that adolescents will associate with peer groups that teach and reinforce attitude and promote behavior that society considers inappropriate, such as using drugs, stealing, destroying property, resolving conflicts with violence, and so forth. The factor listed earlier create conditions in which some rural communities are more likely to exhibit weaker institutions of social control and/ or stronger influences from deviance reinforcing peer and other groups.


Despite the focus of media and researchers alike on urban gangs, some gangs already are operating in rural areas. The problem of gangs in rural areas is emerging rapidly. How gangs emerged in rural areas illustrates the way rural and urban area have become more closely linked and interdependent, as well as how the social forces that explain urban crime can be applied to rural areas. Two main factors as follows-

(1)    Displacement: rural communities near metropolitan areas (often referred to as “Rurban” areas) may experience an increase in gang activities due to the displacement effect.

(2)    Social learning: a rural juvenile or adult offender is incorporated in detention facility or jail and associate with more hardened and sophisticated detainees from the city. The person serves time and then returns to his rural community with more “street smarts” than before. He is able to take over leadership of the local “wannabees” through a combination of intimidation and superior knowledge.


Although information on the recent emergence of gang activities in rural communities is now, it is already apparent that the underlying causes of this development are no difference than those experiences by the difference state. The data show that about 90 percent Indian born terrorist are belong to the rural areas, and they learn something terror activities from interaction by urban community. Criminal born in rural areas but there functional activities move toward the cities because they found more facilities in cities and security.


Implication for prevention-

While rural crime may suggest the effects of urbanization, it would be incorrect to blame rural crime problems directly on the nearest large city. Rural society is changing. One of consequences of these changes is that crime level in rural areas are at historic highs and new problems, such as gangs, Marxism approach of rural youth, delinquency, and drug use by rural youth, have emerged.


The cause of the increase in crime in rural areas can be reduced to three sets of factors. The first can be termed opportunity factors. Transportation system has made rural areas more accessible today. Many rural areas are urbanizing, and with urbanization come the inevitable increase in crime. Lifestyle also has changed. In the past, when most rural people lived on farms and ranches, the place of work was the same as the place of residence. Now, most rural people do not work in agriculture. They commute to work. Rural women have interred the workforce to the same extent as urban women. Children attend consolidated schools and often stay after school for sports and other extra-curricular activities. Rural family has shifted their shopping away from the stores on Main Street to the nearest shopping malls. These lifestyle changes mean that rural homes are often vacant, which provides greater opportunity for burglary and other crimes to be occur. Rural neighbors are less likely to know each other and therefore to provide surveillance of each other’s property. Rural residence spends a greater amount of time in urban locations, such as shopping malls and places of entertainment, where they are at greater risk of victimitization.


The second set of factors represents more basic changes in the social fabric of rural areas. An underlying cause of violence, delinquent drug use, and the emergence of gangs in rural has been the weakened the influence of family, schools, and religious institution on value and behavior. Rural youth, along with there urban counter-parts, are exposed to emerge on television and in the movies that desensitize than to the consequences of violence. Recent report said that television and movies are correlated with increase acceptance of aggressive attitudes and increased aggressive behaviors in children. The family, school and other social institutions become less influence in later adolescence, and the probability of engaging in illegal behaviors is determined largely by association with delinquent peer groups.


The third sets of factors involve the economic condition of poverty found in many rural communities and the impact of poverty on rural families and young people. Dropout rates of student in rural schools are higher than in urban areas. Rural youth are more “at risk” than urban youth.


These risk factors contribute to the volatile mix that includes the influence of the media, delinquency prone peer groups, the mobility of the population, and a growing network of gangs.


What are  the implications for prevention programming of the social demographic, and economic forces that have shaped rural India and contribute to rising rates of crime, violence, alcohol and drug use, spouse and child abuse emergence of gangs, and fear of crime? The first and most obvious implication is that rural communities are highly diverse. Prevention programming needs to be sensitive to this diversity. Success in one rural community is that multi-jurisdiction programming and cooperation of prevention efforts becomes more problematic in rural communities that may be “side by side” but very different in the problems they face. Solution to local problems will depend on the ability of local leadership to identify accurately and respond effectively to local problems. Unfortunately some local rural leaders may be reluctant to admit that a problem exists or is emerging, making prevention planning difficult, if not possible.


Community based policing emphasizes that the operating philosophy of law enforcement is to work cooperatively with a wide range of community groups and institutions to prevent crime and reduce citizens fear of crime. Community based policing emphasizes that traditional police functions of enforcement and apprehension actually can improve as citizens learns one again to trust and cooperate with the police. The police learn to be more responsive to the demands of citizens and to follow services- based philosophy of keeping the customer happy. Solely, but inexorably, this philosophy is transforming police agencies across the country.



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Received on 08.11.2010

Accepted on 26.01.2011     

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