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Prior Knowledge of a Crime

Robert was interested in learning about the workings of professional burglars. Several years ago, he made contact with someone who could put him in touch with a professional burglar, although the burglar had retired several years ago. He contacted this person, who forwarded his interest on to the "retired" professional burglar. The burglar agreed to participate in a series of interviews. The first two interviews went fine, but on the third occasion, his subject indicated that he was planning a burglary in a new development. This was to be a one-time event (rather than a return from retirement) involving burglarizing the home of a wealthy resident in this development. Robert promised his subject anonymity and confidentiality at the outset of his research, but he now had information indicating that a crime was about to be committed.

What is Robert's responsibility at this point?
Should he contact the police or warn the people whose house is about to be burglarized?
Is he bound by his commitment to not reveal any of the information he obtained, except in a scientific publication in a journal?
Make sure to include specific material from the sociology Code of Ethics as part of the information you include in your analysis. You may find the Code of Ethics below:

American Sociological Association: Code of Ethics

http://www2.asanet.org/members/ecoderev.html. You should be able to click on the "full copy" which is a PDF file and save it to your desktop. The link is also available under the "External Links" button.

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Research Ethics (Prior Knowledge)

Like any professional ethical code, the ASA's guide and inform the behavior of sociologists in the field and when conducting research. As a standard it is kept for it becomes the model from which moral and ethical concerns are weighed and judged, keeping concerns answered in relation to the ethics of research. Now, Robert was very lucky to have gotten such a contact and have been given such a revelation - the experience of one who has lived that life is invaluable in the criminology and the study of criminal behavior. Robert's responsibility at this point however must be weighed against ASA rules. Naturally, when we talk of integrity we have to look at section 1 of General principles, Principle C: ...

Solution Summary

The solution provides a discussion of the ethical dilemma facing a sociological researcher presented in the original problem in relation to the concept of prior knowledge of a planned crime but the subject in question is bound by ethical responsibilities towards the source of the knowledge as well as the legal and ethical responsibility of preventing the crime from happening informing the authorities. The ASA code of ethics is reviewed in relation to tackling this dilemma in this 607-word discussion. Resources are listed. a word version of the solution is attached for easy download and printing.

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