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Criminalization
One can view criminalization as a procedure deployed by society as a preemptive harm-reduction device, using the threat of punishment as a deterrent to anyone proposing to engage in the behavior causing harm. The State becomes involved because governing entities can become convinced that the costs of not criminalizing (through allowing the harms to continue unabated) outweigh the costs of criminalizing it (restricting individual liberty, for example, to minimize harm to others).

States control the process of criminalization because:

Even if victims recognize their own role as victims, they may not have the resources to investigate and seek legal redress for the injuries suffered: the enforcers formally appointed by the State often have better access to expertise and resources.

The victims may only want compensation for the injuries suffered, while remaining indifferent to a possible desire for deterrence.

Fear of retaliation may deter victims or witnesses of crimes from taking any action. Even in policed societies, fear may inhibit from reporting incidents or from co-operating in a trial.

Victims, on their own, may lack the economies of scale that could allow them to administer a penal system, let alone to collect any fines levied by a court. Garoupa & Klerman (2002) warn that a rent-seeking government has as its primary motivation to maximize revenue and so, if offenders have sufficient wealth, a rent-seeking government will act more aggressively than a social-welfare-maximizing government in enforcing laws against minor crimes (usually with a fixed penalty such as parking and routine traffic violations), but more laxly in enforcing laws against major crimes.

As a result of the crime, victims may die or become incapacitated.

Labelling theory
The label of "crime" and the accompanying social stigma normally confine their scope to those activities seen as injurious to the general population or to the State, including some that cause serious loss or damage to individuals. Those who apply the labels of "crime" or "criminal" intend to assert the hegemony of a dominant population, or to reflect a consensus of condemnation for the identified behavior and to justify any punishments prescribed by the State (in the event that standard processing tries and convicts an accused person of a crime).

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