: the scientific study of crime as a social phenomenon, of criminals, and of penal treatment
Scientific study of nonlegal aspects of crime, including its causes and prevention. Criminology originated in the 18th century when social reformers began to question the use of punishment for retribution rather than deterrence and reform. In the 19th century, scientific methods began to be applied to the study of crime. Today criminologists commonly use statistics, case histories, official records, and sociological field methods to study criminals and criminal activity, including the rates and kinds of crime within geographic areas. Their findings are used by lawyers, judges, probation officers, law-enforcement and prison officials, legislators, and scholars to better understand criminals and the effects of treatment and prevention. See alsodelinquency, penology.