Causes of Crime in Kenya

Anthony M. Wanjohi>

Crime rates in Kenya have been having an upward trend since Kenya attained independence. With the numerous efforts by the government and the private sector being geared towards reducing these rates, it has become paramount for the government to address the causes of crime. This article expounds the known causes of crime, namely Poverty, Low levels of Education, Easy access to fire arms, Drugs and alcohol, Peer influence and Urbanization and Child abuse.


PovertyPoverty exposes individuals to anti-social behaviors. When an individual in impoverished, they will tend to look at criminal activities as the only means to an end. Therefore such individuals will commit crimes in order to take care of their needs. The society that we live in has numerous demands that need to be met; therefore poor people do anything including crime to satisfy their needs (Bowlby, 1988).


Low levels of EducationA survey of inmates in 2003 in state prisons in Kenya showed a very low level of education. Due to their poor educational backgrounds this inmates were subject to long periods of unemployment and low income me jobs. Individuals who are poorly paid usually enter into a life of crime, because of the prospect of profitable criminal activities that will enable them provide for their basic needs (Renzetti, 2001).


Easy access to fire armsCriminologists consider the availability of guns as a key factor that leads to rising crime rates in Kenya. The availability of fire arms provides a simple means of committing a crime by providing the offender some detachment from the victim. These fire arms are readily available in Nairobi among other parts of the country in the black market.


Drugs and alcoholDrugs and alcohol are one of the social factors that lead to crime. The urge to commit crimes by drug addicts and alcoholics is motivated by the desire to support their habits. Drugs and alcohol impair some one’s judgment and reduce someone’s inhibitions leading to greater courage. Criminologists estimate that 30 to 50 percent of crimes committed are due to the influence of drugs and alcohol (Renzetti, 2001).


Peer influence and UrbanizationAn individual’s peer’s have a strong influence on their decision to commit a crime. Criminologists argue that the delinquent peer influence can be explained by the cultural transmission theory of crime. Juveniles who mix with delinquent peers are more at risk of getting in involved in crime. This is due to the fact that the juveniles communicate deviant attitudes and values which make them to develop into criminals (Fleisher, 1995).


The relationship between urbanization and crime can be explained from three perspectives. First of all, returns on crime are likely to be high in urban arrears than in rural areas, because of the availability of wealthy victims, secondly the chances of arresting a criminal in urban areas is slim because large cities spend less on law enforcement. And finally large cities have a high potential of criminals (Lombroso, 1968).


Child abuse In 1980’s Cleckley’s ideas on sociopath were adopted to explain the cycle of violence found in families. This cycle of violence is where people who grow up abused or antisocial environment are more likely to abuse their children and adopt a life of crime. Many inmates on death row were found to have been abused by their parents in their childhood (Cleckely, 1982).



Lombroso, C. (1968).  Crime: Its Causes and Remedies. Montclair.

Fleisher, S. (1995) Beggars and Thieves: Lives of Urban Street Criminals.University of Wisconsin Press.

Renzetti, C. (2001). Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice,Los Angeles: Roxbury.

Cleckely, H. (1982). The Mask of Sanity, New York: New American Library.