Criminology - Theses, Dissertations, and other Required Graduate Degree Essays

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The Role of Informal Workers in Online Economic Crime

Date created: 
2021-08-30
Abstract: 

(Context) Online economic crime leverages information technologies (IT) for illegal wealth redistribution, such as banking theft. Such crime requires a series of actions, a scheme, to be successful. Informal workers, individuals whose economic activities escape regulations, can be leveraged to execute various tasks surrounding these schemes. However, what these workers represent for online economic crime organizations, and their impact on the reach and sophistication of the crime, has yet to be uncovered. This thesis focuses on understanding the contexts, motivations, and organizations of those behind online economic crime. While doing so, it assesses the role and availability of an informal IT workforce surrounding the crime organization and its likelihood to participate in such criminal schemes. (Methods and Data) This thesis builds on three data sources: (1) 21 semi-structured interviews with experts, (2) a private chat log containing discussions among individuals involved in online economic crime, and (3) two datasets on an informal IT workforce operating on a digital labor platform. A blend of qualitative and quantitative analyses is developed, including inductive thematic analysis, non-parametric statistical hypothesis tests, and group-based trajectory modeling. (Results) The findings illustrate three key contextual factors influencing those behind online economic crime: a lack of legal economic opportunities, a lack of deterrents and the availability of drifting means. Organizations behind online economic crime are found to take various forms, from organized, to enterprise-like, loose networks or communities. They are also characterized by a large sphere of influence given the indispensable workers hired to help with the crime orchestration. Among them, informal workers from the IT sector are found to be particularly important: they represent a pool of potential workers for all legal tasks surrounding online economic crime, and they can be leveraged easily due to digital labor platforms. However, further investigations illustrate that the benefits of hiring informal IT workers may be hindered by high transaction costs, including high hiring, switching, and monitoring costs. Moreover, the likelihood of informal IT workers to participate in crime-oriented spaces is found to be limited. (Conclusion) This study sheds light on the organization of online economic crime and the role of informal IT workers at the periphery. It provides both theoretical and empirical explanations as to why online economic crime is characterized by long reach, in terms of victims, and sophistication. It also offers nuanced concepts (e.g., drifters, informal workforce) to better grasp the organization of online economic crime and the degrees of involvement of those surrounding the crime.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Martin Bouchard
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Procedural justice and the police's use of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-07-20
Abstract: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in new responsibilities for police while also introducing new accoutrements by way of personal protective equipment (PPE). This thesis examines the effects of such changes and the role of procedural justice as it relates to public assessments of police and willingness to cooperate with police during the pandemic. As part of the thesis, participants rated images of a police officer using different items of PPE on the dimensions of procedural justice and then answered survey questions about the police more broadly. The findings indicate that participants’ perceptions of procedural justice are positively related to their assessments of police and willingness to cooperate with police. The findings also indicate that participants’ perceptions of procedural justice can be impacted by the police’s use of PPE. The thesis discusses the important practical implications of such findings for police who must continue to manage public perceptions while providing service.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Rylan Simpson
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

There is no going back: The case for starting over with conditional sentences

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-06-28
Abstract: 

The life of conditional sentences of imprisonment in Canada has been, to say the least, turbulent. Introduced in 1996, it was not long before restrictions were placed on their use—first in 2007 and then again in 2012. To add insult to injury, the sanction was found to have essentially failed in meeting its primary objective (of prison reduction) in two studies released in 2019. In many people’s minds, this less-than-stellar performance as a prison alternative signaled the inevitable end to this sentencing option. Yet, despite the many challenges, recent (2021) developments suggest that predictions of its imminent death may have been premature. Indeed, a resurrection of sorts may be on the horizon, brought about either through jurisprudence (Sharma) or legislation (Bill C-22). Having said this, any hope of long-term salvation will require serious analysis of its failings and deep reflection of workable remedies. This study proposes to carry out this task. To this end, it employs a mixed-methods design (quantitative court and survey data as well as qualitative interviews with judges) to explore the use of conditional sentences in British Columbia, the province that appears to have had the least success in terms of using the sanction as a true prison alternative. The many challenges of conditional sentencing (e.g., flawed statutory construction, lack of public education, inadequate funding, etc.), are highlighted through a thematic analysis of the data. The phenomena of net-widening and circumvention are each explored as possible explanations for the apparent stability of imprisonment rates over the decades, notwithstanding dramatic swings in Canadian penal policy. Most notably, the application of conditional sentences to offenders who would not otherwise have been facing jail is linked to a rejection of the sanction as a term of imprisonment and/or its appeal as a form of “robust probation.” The future of conditional sentencing in Canada is considered and an argument is made that simply removing the restrictions introduced in 2012 fails to acknowledge or address the sanction’s many flaws. Indeed, if the challenges of conditional sentencing are not resolved, there may be little reason to believe that the sanction will fare any better than it did in its earlier (pre-2007/2012) life.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
David MacAlister
Cheryl Webster
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

The Seattle Consent Decree: Excessive or effective force in police reform?

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-06-16
Abstract: 

The main objective of this research project was to evaluate and critically analyze the United States Department of Justice’s (USDOJ) effort to reform the Seattle Police Department through the use of a “Consent Decree,” pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. Section 14141. By examining the history, origin and use of Section 14141 with respect to other jurisdictions in general and Seattle in particular, an understanding of the effectiveness of this externally mandated reform effort emerged. Data compiled from interviews, court filings, public reports and media accounts support the conclusion that substantive, sustainable reform has been achieved as a result of the adoption of the federal Consent Decree between the City of Seattle and the USDOJ, at least as it relates to updated policies and practices involving police use-of-force, “stop and frisks,” and biased policing, as well as investigations of uses-of-force and reviews of those incidents. However, questions remain as to the long-term effectiveness of the reform effort on the culture of the Seattle Police Department and its ability to sustain the reform efforts into the future. Further, the data support that there is great potential for future DOJ externally-imposed reform efforts to be successful if the USDOJ enhances its efforts to engage in a holistic approach to police reform and if the DOJ uses police use-of-force theory in its application and enforcement of Section 14141 investigations, findings and litigation efforts. The research also indicates benefits to USDOJ reform efforts through the creation of a new “Police Reform Section” within the Civil Rights Division to replace the USDOJ’s reliance on its Special Litigation Section to enforce Constitutional policing on a systemic level within the United States.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
David MacAlister
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Capital gains: Examining the role of gang members personal networks and criminal careers

Author: 
Date created: 
2021-04-21
Abstract: 

Gang membership has been labeled a snare in the life-course. Research has established gang members have greater odds of participating in crime, especially violent crime, and have a greater risk of violent victimization. Additionally, due to the criminogenic nature of gangs, gang members are often disconnected from prosocial peers and institutions. As such, gang members tend to be involved in the criminal justice system longer. Yet, what remains to be unclear is the role of personal networks on the criminal trajectories of gang members. The social structures individuals are embedded in are influential on their behaviors. A key criminological finding is the influence of peers on deviant behaviors. Gangs are first and foremost social groups made up of interconnected members. Therefore, ignoring the social world members embed themselves in, we are missing pieces of information to answer key questions regarding gang membership. In this dissertation, the personal networks of gang members are examined in order to determine whether the size and structure of their networks influence their criminal trajectories. Gang membership brings with it more opportunities to participate in criminal activities, co-offenders, and a “brotherhood”. As a result, there should be an increase in social capital associated with gang membership. Social capital is the resources obtained through social relations. The more social capital gang members have access to, the more advantageous their position within the network. Results revealed during active periods of gang membership, gang members’ networks did have a significant increase in social capital. How members built their networks was related to the length of their gang careers. In addition, by using networks, this dissertation moves beyond the gang label and examines how being embedded within a prison gang may influence the criminal careers of non-gang associates. It was found proximity to prison gang members increased the criminal career length for non-gang associates. Further, network measures were found to have a greater impact on the length of criminal careers than the label of gang member. These results were used to conceptually develop and propose a social capital theory of gang membership.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Martin Bouchard
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.

Alone together: Exploring community on an incel forum

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-16
Abstract: 

Incels, or involuntary celibates, are men who are angry and frustrated at their inability to find sexual or intimate partners. This anger has repeatedly resulted in violence against women. Because incels are a relatively new phenomenon, there are many gaps in our knowledge, including how, and to what extent, incel forums function as online communities. The current study begins to fill this lacuna by qualitatively analyzing the incels.co forum to understand how community is created through online discourse. Both inductive and deductive thematic analyses were conducted on 17 threads (3400 posts). The results confirm that the incels.co forum functions as a community. Four themes in relation to community were found: The incel brotherhood; We can disagree, but you’re wrong; We are all coping here; and Will the real incel come forward. The four themes elucidate that incels most often exchange informational and emotional support.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Garth Davies
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Information trolls vs. democracy: An examination of fake news content delivered during the 2019 Canadian federal election and the generation of information warfare

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-04
Abstract: 

This research explores the role of fake news delivered during the 2019 Canadian Federal election. The aim of this study is to understand what impact exposure to fake news may have had on voter’s political ideologies and to examine whether criminal interference was involved. This study employs a survey which was delivered through social media platforms to Canadian voters in hopes to understand whether they were exposed to fake news, if it affected their ultimate voting decision, if they were the recipient of an election-related robocall, and what the nature of the robocall was. The results of four binary logistic regressions using survey data (N = 190) are used to explain how fake news can impact voter’s decisions. Further, this study also employs a qualitative content analysis of known fake news headlines (N = 596) during the time of the election to determine the aim, scope, target, and nature of each news piece. A final qualitative content analysis is conducted to determine the nature of robocalls through survey respondents who were the recipient of an election-related robocall (N = 46). The findings of these studies allow for an in-depth examination into whether Canadian voters were influenced by fake news, if the influence that had an impact on their voting decision, and if criminal interference was involved during the time of the election.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Richard Frank
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

Speaking in stolen voices: Impersonated propaganda and use of Queer and Muslim identities by the Internet Research Agency

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-09
Abstract: 

As part of Russia’s ongoing foreign interference campaign, The Internet Research Agency (IRA) appropriated marginalised identities and created impersonated propaganda, including the Facebook groups LGBT United and United Muslims. Guided by critical theory and informed by feminist, queer, and postcolonial perspectives, this study examined 500 posts from LGBT United and 500 posts from United Muslims, to explore the groups’ content, purpose, and use of marginalised identities. Qualitative content analysis revealed several themes, including (Attempted) Identity Theft (efforts to appear legitimate), A Call to Inaction (discouragement of political engagement), “Us” Against the World (encouraging isolation and anger), and That’s the Thing I’m Sensitive About! (potentially generating antagonism towards the marginalised community). Findings discuss the possibility that these posts are multitarget (intended to influence not only the impersonated community, but groups hostile to it), explore potential danger to marginalised groups, recommend consideration of proactive strategies, and encourage community partnership.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Richard Frank
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

The “I” in ICATs: A closer examination of interagency case assessment teams in British Columbia

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-12-07
Abstract: 

Integrated case assessment teams (ICATs) are a consortium of local agencies that respond to highest risk domestic violence cases using a collaborative approach. The underlying principle of ICATs is the belief that with coordinated intervention, injury or death resulting from domestic violence is predictable and preventable. This exploratory study examines the knowledge and experience of ICATs in British Columbia to better understand the role, functioning, and impact of ICATs in combating domestic violence. The results provide insight as to (i) the who and how of ICATs; (ii) the benefits and challenges to interagency collaboration; and (iii) potential qualitative indicators of success to measure the effectiveness of ICATs. The turnover and burnout of ICAT membership are briefly examined, followed by a discussion comprised of the recommendations from ICAT members on how the overall functioning of ICATs could be improved. Recommendations included training and peer mentoring; increased hours; coordinator positions; and the centralization of data and community education and outreach. Implications of the findings and future directions are also discussed.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
Bryan Kinney
Sheri Fabian
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.

“Obscenity has fallen to the wayside”: The decline of the obscenity provisions amongst law enforcement professionals in Canada

Author: 
Date created: 
2020-10-23
Abstract: 

Since the landmark Butler case in 1992, obscenity, or more specifically adult pornography, has “fallen to the wayside,” in terms of legal consideration. Recent legal consideration has focused primarily on child pornography, and internet-based pornography, in a post-Butler era. Consequentially, the criminal justice system has experienced a shift in priorities; since Butler, only child-related obscene materials are subjected to criminal justice system scrutiny. This study explores the experiences of criminal justice system personnel to learn about shifts in law enforcement priorities since the enactment of the child pornography provision in 1993 and the role of the internet in this shift in priorities. I conducted 16 qualitative semi-structured interviews with criminal justice system personnel, guided by a feminist lens. Participants included current and retired members of the police (municipal and RCMP), Crown counsel, and defence lawyers; five participants had been involved in major court decisions of obscenity and child pornography (Little Sisters, 2000; R. v. Butler, 1992; R. v. Klassen, 2012; R. v. Neil, 2015; R. v. Sharpe, 2001). Analysis revealed a changing definition of obscenity, that material which historically would not have been tolerated for consumption, was now tolerated by the general community. More importantly, the perception emerged that obscenity was readily accessible via the internet, and no longer viewed as a priority for the criminal justice system. Participants identified the internet as a game changer; the availability and accessibility of child pornography online flooded the criminal justice system with depictions of the sexual abuse of real children that necessitated a priority response. As such, the focus and emphasis from the criminal justice system shifted away from violence against women and children, supported in Butler (1992), to child pornography, particularly that which features the sexual abuse of children. This shift in priorities resulted in a decline in law enforcement focus on obscene material, ultimately letting obscenity fall to the wayside. This research concludes with policy recommendations, including educating parents and children early about the issues with obscenity.

Document type: 
Thesis
File(s): 
Supervisor(s): 
David MacAlister
Sheri Fabian
Department: 
Arts & Social Sciences: School of Criminology
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) Ph.D.