Criminology is the scientific approach to studying criminalbehavior. In their classic definition, preeminent criminologistsEdwin Sutherland and Donald Cressey state:Criminology is the body of knowledge regarding crime as a socialphenomenon. It includes within its scope the processes ofmaking laws, of breaking laws, and of reacting toward the breakingof laws. . . .
The objective of criminology is the developmentof a body of general and verified principles and of other types ofknowledge regarding this process of law, crime, and treatment. Sutherland and Cressey’s definition includes some of themost important areas of interest to criminologists:



Crime as a social phenomenon: Although some criminologistsbelieve that individual traits and characteristics may playsome role in the cause of criminals’ antisocial behavior, mostbelieve that social factors play a role in the cause of crime.Even the most disturbed people are infl uenced by their environment,social interactions, and personal relationships.
The processes of making laws. Sutherland and Cressey’s defi nitionrecognizes the association between crime and the criminallaw and shows how the law defi nes crime. How and why lawsare created and why some are strengthened and others eliminatedis of great interest to criminologists.
❚ Of breaking laws and reacting toward the breaking of laws. Atits core, the purpose of criminology is to understand both theonset of crime and the most effective methods for its elimination.Why do people commit illegal acts, and what can be doneto convince them—and others who are contemplating crime—that it is in their best interests to turn their back on criminality?These concepts are naturally bound together: it is impossible toeffectively control crime unless we understand its cause.
❚ Development of a body of general and verified principles.Sutherland and Cressey recognize that criminology is asocial science and criminologists must use the scientifi cmethod when conducting research. Criminologists arerequired to employ valid and reliable experimental designsand sophisticated data analysis techniques or else losestanding in the academic community.