Defining the Crime of Larceny

“Crime is a wide and complex subject. It is understood by very few people. And it influences different parts of a society in different ways.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

The criminal justice system is a highly complex and adaptive system. It interacts with an economic system in ways that are not very well understood; it interacts with a political system in ways that are not very well understood; and it interacts with a social system in ways that are not very well understood. In addition, all of these other systems are highly complex and adaptive systems in their own right.

Minnesota Statute 609.52
Minnesota Statute 609.52

But within the criminal justice system, there exist the definition of crime. In addition, not only is crime defined within a criminal justice system but the criminal justice system also defines different types of crime with different types of conditions that satisfy the manifestation of a particular crime; and then the criminal justice system takes it a step further and appoints sentencing that is relative to the particular crime committed.

For example, 2015 Minnesota Statute 609.52 defines theft, otherwise known as larceny, utilizing several sub-definitions, which are also called subdivisions, in the context of property, movable property, value, article, representing, trade secret, services of another, Motor vehicle, and a few others. As the definition of 609.52 illustrates,

(1) “Property” means all forms of tangible property, whether real or personal, without limitation including documents of value, electricity, gas, water, corpses, domestic animals, dogs, pets, fowl, and heat supplied by pipe or conduit by municipalities or public utility companies and articles, as defined in clause (4), representing trade secrets, which articles shall be deemed for the purposes of Extra Session Laws 1967, chapter 15 to include any trade secret represented by the article.

But this is how Minnesota defines theft. Not every state defines it quite the same way, although it should be noted that each law in the United States must be constitutional.

In the case of the Republic of California, theft is defined under larceny as a penal code in Chapter 5 of the California penal code book, specifically penal code (PC) 484, and explained in great depth from PC 484 through PC 502.9. As the penal code book defines larceny in PC 484,

Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.

Crime is a wide and complex subject. It is understood by very few people. And it influences different parts of a society in different ways. In the case of a city like Minneapolis, larceny does not happen at the same rates or numbers within different parts of the city. But perhaps this understanding of what larceny is and where it happens the most can provide some valuable information of the dynamics of the general system of Minneapolis and its respective subsystems.

2015 5th and 13th Neighborhood Crime ComparisonFor instance, although the north side of Minneapolis – the 4th and 5th Wards – experiences the greatest numbers and rates of crime, none of the neighborhoods within those wards are actually the number one neighborhood for total number crimes. That honor belongs to Downtown West which resides in both the 3rd and 7th wards.

How many crimes does Downtown West experience on a monthly basis, a quarterly basis, and an annual basis? What is the type of crime that is most reported? And with some knowledge about that respective subsystem, could that type of crime and its rate be predicted with some certainty? Questions ought to facilitate more questions.

Who are those that commit larceny? Are they residents of the 3rd and 7th Wards or are they residents of other wards? Why do people commit larceny? What type of people commit larceny; that is, what is their economic and social background? Would it be reasonable for these people to come from a stable ward in the south part of Minneapolis or would it be reasonable for these people to come from an unstable ward in the north part of Minneapolis? And what exactly is the make-up of the Downtown West neighborhood?

For more on the topic of criminal justice, see Crime Patterns: Comparing the 5th Ward to Minneapolis and Diversity and Today’s Minneapolis Police Department.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

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