Instances of cyber or digital crime have been on the increase. Some scholars have argued that this was inevitable given the increasingly digital nature of the world in the twenty first century. Various general theories of crime have been used to explain digital crime but none seems to have provided a conclusive explanation. Perhaps this could be because most of such theories were developed in earlier times; times when the world was not as ‘ digital’ as it is now. This submission contends that the ‘ Space Transition Theory’ best explains the cause of digital crime. The theory was advanced by K Jaishankar who felt that there was need for a separate theory of crime to explain digital crimes as the general crime theories did not provide sufficient explanation on digital crime. The space transition theory is premised on the argument that individuals are bound to adopt a different behaviour when they transition from one space to another. Put differently, the theory posits that the change from the physical space to the cyber space could be used to explain digital crime.
The theory is guided by a number of principles. First, the theory posits that individuals who have suppressed criminal tendencies in the physical space have a greater likelihood of committing crime in the digital world or cyberspace. They would not have committed such crimes in the physical space due to various constraints placed on them. Secondly, the theory posits that as individuals move from the physical space to the cyber space, there is a sense of loss of identity in the digital world which was not possible in their physical space. The cyber space creates of feeling of being incognito. This feeling enables such persons to commit crimes which they would otherwise not have committed in their physical space. Thirdly, the theory argues more often than not, there will be a constant exchange between criminal activity in the cyber space and criminal activity in the physical space. Persons who commit crimes easily transition to and from the two spaces in furtherance of their criminal tendencies. Fourthly, the theory posits that individuals from a close knit society have a higher likelihood of committing crimes in the cyberspace as compared to those from open societies. Lastly, the theory posits that there is a conflict between ethos of physical space with the ethos of cyberspace. This conflict ultimately leads to digital or cybercrimes.
The space transition theory could be recognized as the most relevant in terms of being a cause of digital crime primarily because unlike other general crime theories, it was developed with digital crime in mind. Its specific focus is on digital crime. The relevance of the space transition theory also arises due to the fact that is provides clear illustrations of how movement from one space to another ultimately leads to the committing of digital crime.
The space transition theory could also be used to explain other crimes. Examples could be murder and theft. Ideally, the theory argues that individuals commit crimes as they seek to move from one space to another. In this context, space could be construed to mean what the individual thinks could be their ideal world. Thus, an individual who thinks that in his ideal he should be wealthy may resort to stealing so as to move out of his current ‘ space’ into his ideal ‘ space.’ Similarly, an individual who thinks his ideal world would be better off without certain person may resort to murdering them so that he or she can have the ideal ‘ space’.
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Moon, B., McCluskey, J. D., & McCluskey, C. P. (2010). A General Theory of Crime and Compute Crime: An Empirical Test. Journal of Criminal Justice, 767-772.