Concept of the Month -- March 2008

Does the Criminal "Burn Out" with Age?

I was just recently asked this question when I recently presented a day's seminar at Houston Community College. I wish that society could count on the passing of years to effect significant change. Unfortunately, the criminal personality remains intact, despite aging. It is true that, at age 40, one cannot run as fast as he can at 25. What changes is the form of criminality, not the basic character structure.

I recall Joseph, a 55 year old offender. He told me that no longer was he "rippin' and runnin' in the streets. Due to aging, he had mostly abandoned committing drug-related crimes, property crimes, and other offenses carried out with a firearm. Joseph ceased using "hard drugs" because they impaired his coordination, and he no longer trusted the quality of what he was getting in the streets. However, his consumption of alcoholic beverages increased as did his marijuana usage. Instead of running the streets, he stole from the premises of whatever job he happened to hold. He did a bit of gambling and had his stable of women whom he continued to use for sex and money. His most egregious offense, however, was posing as a minister and praying for families whose members were having serious health problems. (He even had a professional looking card printed designating himself as the reverend of a church whose name he invented.) In return, the distraught but grateful family members would donate to Joseph's "church." Joseph was living very well on the donated funds, furnishings, and other items that he collected.

Joseph likely had more victims at age 55 than he did at 25. His modus operandi had changed, not his character. And so it is with criminals generally. They abandon patterns of behavior that are too taxing physically, too risky, or simply inconvenient to commit.. However, they still have their victims in that they continue mistreating people who are trusting and vulnerable to their ploys.

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