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ARE VICTIMLESS CRIMES ACTUALLY HARMFUL?

NCJ Number
143897
Journal
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice Volume: 9 Issue: 1 Dated: (March 1993) Pages: 1-14
Author(s)
L Veneziano; C Veneziano
Date Published
1993
Length
14 pages
Annotation
This article reports on the methodology and results of a study that examined public attitudes toward the consequences and decriminalization of some offenses traditionally labeled as "victimless" crimes.
Abstract
A "victimless" crime is traditionally defined as "an illegal act that is consensual and lacks a complaining participant." This study examined whether or not a sample of the public views drug trafficking, drug abuse, pornography, and prostitution (traditional "victimless" crimes) as sufficiently harmful to be criminalized. Study subjects were 178 college students enrolled in introductory social science courses at a medium-sized Midwestern university, as well as 766 high school students, yielding a total sample of 944 subjects. The subjects were selected as reflective of future voters who might significantly impact criminal justice policy decisions. Generally, the study indicates that the majority of the respondents view the four traditional "victimless" crimes as harmful, such that they should not be decriminalized. Ratings of harm varied from a low of 1.15 (between "very little" and "little") for gambling, to a high of 3.68 (between "much" and "very much") for drugs. In terms of the percentage of respondents opposed to decriminalization, the results varied from a low of 36 percent for gambling to a high of 96 percent for pornography. Implications of these findings for theory and policy are discussed. 7 tables and 18 references