AUTHOR’S NAME: Juan Jose Hidalgo Huerta, Advocate of the Courts of the Republic of Ecuador, Specialist in Criminal Law and Criminology. Research Institute of Legal Studies, Faculty of Law, Social and Political Sciences of the Universidad Catolica Santiago de Guayaquil.



Demonstrate that crime is caused by cognitive mechanisms of moral displacement, that crime can be reduced in number and aggressiveness, by promoting the practice of moral and ethical values, under which we affirm that these inhibit the more criminal drive effectively than punitive laws, since the body of formalized social control have been ineffective to do, which is shown after the analysis of statistical results on this subject have been made​​.


Methodology of the project are: the compilation of results in workshops, surveys and analysis of crime statistics, compared with the theory behind the crime is caused by anomie of moral and ethical and moral shift cognitive mechanisms.


We observed that although the Ecuadorians have a moral and ethical code more or less structured and common, this code or moral norms usually shift when presented with specific cases by the questions asked in the surveys, although previous questions have been recognized by certain attitudes were not tolerable.
Similarly we see the high crime rates and the ineffectiveness of state institutions in their decline, the high level of impunity under the reduced number of judgments against complaints.
Finally, there are criminal policies and advertising campaigns based on our approach, which would serve as a useful tool for similar programs in our country.


There are ways to reduce crime, with application of some tools that deliver social psychology, even; some have already been implemented in other countries.

KEY WORDS: delinquency, cognitive mechanisms, anomie, law, morality and culture.



Ecuador is a country where crime rates are becoming more and more violent. The institutions responsible for controlling crime every year increase their budgets and staff, have made ​​a series of reforms to the criminal laws, including structural changes are being made at the National Judicial Police and the Ministry of Interior in order to combat crime, however, the problem of crime does not decrease and this is easily verifiable statistics on crime of any serious institutions constantly monitor the issue.

Just to confirm what is stated in the previous paragraph let’s verify some figures.In 2010, a total of 42,269 complaints for various offenses, the principal amount of the crimes reported are those classified as “crimes against persons ” 11,648 complaints and “crimes against property” with 10,231 complaints, representing 51% of the amount of complaints, it is noted that these crimes are mainly those that harm life, which is a worrying figure, since these statistics responds only to the city of Guayaquil.

Insisting on statistics, it is indicated that since this study have been conducted by the College ESPOL Politécnica del Litoral, we see that from 2005 to 2010 the figures increased the number of reported crimes against persons (homicide, murder, aggravated robbery, express kidnapping and rape)[1] in 5022 to 11,648,  a difference of 6,626 complaints in just 5 years only in the province of Guayas.

Moreover, only the National Police have increased tremendously the costs to combat crime[2], so that by 2001 the total revenue of the National Police was $ 6,800,000, while in 2004 this area of Revenue rose to 344,300,000[3] dollars,  an increase of 4,964%, without really having reduced crime rates or reflect the feeling of safety for Ecuadorians.

[4]By the late 80’s and early 90’s homicide rate per hundred thousand inhabitants was in Ecuador 10.3[5], the end of 2010 the homicide rate per hundred thousand inhabitants only in the province of Guayas was 21, 82 per hundred thousand inhabitants.

[6]For 2008 the total was 58,016 deaths nationwide, of which for traffic violations and there were 2,666 assaults (fights, murders and killings), the figure was 3,307, giving us a total of deaths from negligent and intentional violations of 5,973 people, or approximately 10% of deaths occurring in Ecuador in 2008 was caused by criminal acts
[7]American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has reported that there is failure of public security policies in Latin America, where it displaces crime to unemployment as the main concern of people, according to a report in Guatemala.
Given this grim scenario, it is necessary to analyze the causes which crime occurs and we have chosen to have an orientation that social psychology, particularly as crime occurs among other factors, shifts in moral and ethics their promotion, it could, as has happened in other countries, its reduction, for which there has been an analysis of our society.


It has suggested that crime will decrease with increasing penalties, to include new crimes, better equipping the police, prosecutors or criminal courts or building more prisons, moreover, were so wrong that we as a society to recognize the violation of human rights, as was the validity of the arrest became final as a justifiable means to reduce crime rates, ie, mechanisms to combat immorality immoral, as was expected, the answer is that Even if we try, more and more murders, robberies, rapes, etc., and these, are becoming more violent.

As the status quo and be clear that the means of social control have failed formalized crime control, it becomes necessary to approach new ways to prevent and control the rising crime, therefore the beginning of this research.

The crime and its relation to morality and ethics:

[8]The basis of the crimes are the flaws in the moral formation of individuals, is the ignorance and lack of practice of virtues.

Virtues are human powers, which forms stable record of performance gain called habits, if they are positive are called virtues, if negative, are called vices. Virtue, so it is a positive quality, which is good habits, bowing to the person to think, speak and act well, people social pros. The moral virtues, protect and perfect the behavior of people, the practice of anti-values​​, or the lack of knowledge of moral values​​, to result in antisocial and their actions are crimes.

[9]Certainly, individuals who live in Ecuador we strive to develop legal codes to protect our individual rights and public. But thelawistotallyinadequateto createinus the awarenessofeviland good. In the words of Baron de Hollbach The man who is only fair, may well ignore all social value.”

[10]In short, the crimes are against the moral vices, they are a sociological phenomenon, psychological, cultural and economic, that have solutions, not just in law enforcement, but in a multidisciplinary set of measures to encourage and promote general practice moral and ethical values, crime as we know it affects the moral first and then the right, the lack of moral values ​​will directly affect the lack of inhibitors of criminal behavior.

Hypothesis / Research Questions

Promoting moral and ethical values ​​can decrease the crime situation as these inhibitors of criminal behavior, given that criminal liability arises from the consciousness and the will?

General Purpose

To demonstrate that crime can be reduced in number and aggressiveness, by promoting the practice of moral and ethical values, under which we affirm that these inhibit the criminal impulse, more effectively than punitive laws.

Specific Objectives

1 .- To demonstrate that the promotion of the practice of moral and ethical values ​​creates a link with the state and society, reducing crime opportunities.
2 .- To assess the actual knowledge of the moral and ethical values ​​of society in general.
3 .- Link to the general public in combating crime from their field of occupational and social development, but this put them at risk and at no great cost in comparison to the resources used by the institutions of formalized social control.



For the development of this research work was based on research conducted by Professor Albert Bandura, based on what he calls the[11]cognitive mechanism of moral disengagement, which are related to the reconstruction of the behavior itself.

[12]Bandura explains how there are many psychological maneuvers by which moral self-sanctions can be disconnected from the human behavior by redefining the harmful behavior as honorable by moral justification, advantageous social comparison (or palliative) and euphemistic language. In conclusion, the moral disengagement are (moral disengagement) those thoughts and judgments that people use to justify their behavior.
Bandura explains that human beings have developed moral standards with which our lives are governed. These standards are those moral principles that we know, which we assume to be valid and we try to follow in our daily behavior, for example, to respect the lives of others or hurt others. These are moral standards because they involve the recognition of the rights of others, and respect for their dignity as human beings. However, humans are able to use many “psychological maneuvers” by which we can put aside these standards and act contrary to them.
Usually, people keep moral self-censorship process, we talk to ourselves about right and wrong of our actions and censor ourselves when we behave improperly or unethically. However, in many cases this moral self-censorship can be disconnected from the correct behavior, so we can take action without self-censorship so wrong.

Bandura proposes the following mechanisms of moral disengagement, which are explained below:

Moral justification, the conduct is made ​​personally and socially acceptable by presenting laudable social goals such as “Let’s kill all the terrorists for the good of society. “

• Advantageous comparison, each behavior is in one way or another depending on how you compare, example, are corrupt but they do work.

• Using the euphemistic language, behaviors may have different appearance depending on how they name, such as my son is not corrupt, just made ​​a mistake.

• Minimizing, ignorance or distortion of consequences, through ignorance or minimizing the effects of behavior, eg nothing happens, if I vote this speck kid.

• Dehumanization, the offender through the perception builds the victim, eg, I have not killed a human being but a poor wretch who deserved it.

• Attribution of guilt, victims are considered guilty of the damage they receive, such as she searched for him for dressing so provocatively.

• Shifting of responsibility, obscuring or minimizing the agency of the person causing the damage, example, I just following orders, were not my ideas.

• Diffusion of responsibility, accountability is blurred division of labor or collective behavior, example, is not nobody’s fault. All participate.

My opinion is that Bandura’s right and therefore it is necessary to promote moral and ethical values ​​to avoid disconnection of morality, and that through this man will inhibit their criminal impulses, thus achieving prevention and reducing crime.

On the other hand was also taken as a theoretical framework, the behavioral theory of crime, social learning, Merton and anomie of Durkheim, the differential association theory and theories of subcultures. Furthermore, we investigated the results of citizen education program in Bogotá, Colombia between 1995 and 1997, which was based on the harmonization of the Law, Morality and Culture AnthanaMockus, which confirms our point of view, as crime rates declined during this period dramatically.


Design: The experiment was conducted random surveys and workshops.
Population: the case of surveys classify themselves socially (high, medium, low), the workshops were conducted for law students between 18 and 24 years on average.

The environment: the surveys were conducted in different parts of Ecuador, Salinas, Guayaquil, and Pallatanga, Samborondom, only workshops at the Faculty of Law, Catholic University of Santiago de Guayaquil.

Interventions: surveys, workshops and statistical analysis and study of theories.

Statistical analysis: simply random.

Statistical Analysis

[13]The most current report on violence done in Ecuador, is carried out by Professor Phillp Alston, UN Special Rapporteur, made ​​in 2010, the same as a partial transcription: “The homicide rate has doubled in Ecuador the past 20 years. In 1990 was of 10.3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants in 2009 was 18.7 and the estimated date for 2010 suggest an increase to 20. However, estimates provided by government authorities indicate that only 1.3% of deaths reported to police effectively ended in a conviction. And it is almost certain that this rate is overestimated. According to some intelligence estimates, the police received complaints Sucumbíos only every three or four murders in the province. This could lead the overall rate at a level below 1% and would give Ecuador one of the lowest rates of conviction for deaths that I have found in any country. The bottom line is that today in Ecuador the possibility of be convicted for killing a person is extremely low. ” [14]


The survey was conducted in a Universe of 100 people, 61 were in the city of Guayaquil, Guayas Province, 16 in Salinas, Santa Elena, 7 in Pallatanga, Province of Chimborazo, 16 in Samborondon, Guayas Province.

Economic class indicated by the respondents themselves was: as poor class 25, 69 and wealthy, middle class 6.

Reviewers are consulted if they were able to define what was moral, the result was that the 6% replied no, 40% have an idea and 54% said yes.

On the frequency with which people are talking or speaking of morality in their daily lives, 52% indicated that very rarely, 13% never, 18% said many times, always 15%, 2% did not answer.

In Question 3, related to the cognitive mechanism of displacement moral “reasonable justification” were consulted: Should we kill rapists of children? 38 answered yes, 38 responded in some cases and not just 24.

With regard to the mechanism “AdvantageousComparison” it was asked: Would you justify a public official being corrupt as long as he does work for the community? 83 people said no and 17 yes.

On the mechanism “minimization, ignorance or distortion of consequences” found in questions 5 and 6,Do you think that throwing garbage to the street or not crossing the zebra pedestrian lines are actions that really harm society? 91 answered yes, and 9 answered no.

In relation to Question 10: Are you willing to pay an additional value for a procedure to be decided faster? 51 of the respondents answered yes, 44 no and 5 did not want to answer, worth pointing out here that this question also concerns the mechanism of “comparative advantage”

Regarding the mechanism “dehumanization” Do you think all the offenders should be removed because they are bad for society? 40 people said no, 38 said that in some cases, 18 answered yes and 4 did not respond.

On the mechanism “attribution of guilt” was asked: Do you think that a woman who dresses and acts provocatively in an environment where drugs or alcohol are ingested is partly responsible for any abuse against her? 44 people said yes, 36 people can be, 16 said no and 4 did not answer.

Finally the mechanism “that causes minimal agency in the damage it causes” was asked: In your work, by direct order from your boss, would you justify committing a regulatory offense or minor offense? 53 people said no, 16 yes and 27 which can be, 4 people did not answer, also ask for financial need of the Actuary “illegally? 58 percent said no, 32 can be, 6 yes and 4 blank.

[15]Additionally, questions were asked to 10 random people in the city of Guayaquil “if they thought that stealing was wrong? All answered yes when asked whether “knowingly buy pirated movies that damage the property, and that is a crime? All answered yes when asked to explain why the replies were unanimous in stating that they were cheaper.


We conducted a media workshop on formal and informal social control, with my students of the art Special Laws Criminal Regime II, in the period 2010, the tenth cycle (10 people), with a brief explanation of what each meant and sociological and psychological theories of crime and the importance of morality and ethics as inhibitors of criminal behavior reached the following conclusion:

[16]“Overall, we conclude that the deviation is adaptive and is both a threat to social stability and a form of protection.”


The second workshop was held with my students in the first cycle “E”  of the class of Political Law, the workshop discussed the basic concepts of social control as a set of practices, attitudes and values, to maintain the established order in society. The existing means of social control –formal and informal- and the kinds of horizontal and vertical partnerships.

Explaining which are the means of social control and their  importance, we begin to analyze which were more effective in the search for pro-social attitudes, under horizontal and vertical models, so that was asked students how many of you in everyday life talk about morality? Replying to a universe of 35 students, as follows: 11 did so often, 22 rarely, 1 always and 1 never. In turn, we consulted: How many of you believe that individual moral inhibits crime and corruption better than rule of law? Answering 22 yes and 13 no.  How many believe that Ecuador should foster a community model where horizontal ties take precedence over the vertical to reduce crime? Answers for the vertical 2 and for the horizontal 29 and 4 people said that the two should work in parallel.


The first thing we noticed was the increased crime rates, it has been commensurate with the increased police budgets, but should decrease. The effect was totally against increased crime.

Another issue that makes me alarmed, is the high level of impunity, which we knew beforehand that it was high, however, know that less than 1% of murders in Ecuador remain unresolved, the State speech that is irrelevant and even unable, to resolve what is so important and essential as a citizen’s life.

This demonstrates, as has been already indicated, that Ecuador and the control means arranged do not effectively solve crimes, as expected, and that serves to inhibit criminal behavior. If we assume that effectively inhibits an offender committing a crime by the possibility of imprisonment, the high levels of impunity, left it clear that that possibility is less than 1%, now please add to this the mediation of justice and his exaltation of impunity by the public authorities, best thing to do, any chance of inhibition becomes almost nil, since it is presumed, be understood, if I commit a crime to be punished, it is shown that almost never happens and it is established in the minds of offenders, since many are themselves public officials, prosecutors, judges and police who say it publicly and openly. Then clearly it is necessary to find other ways to find answers to why the crime occurs, how to prevent and decrease.

The answer is the ethical and moral values ​​as natural inhibitors of criminal behavior, his lack of discussion as a cause of increased crime, its dissemination as a means of prevention and reduction, and finally as the main cause of the commission of crimes cognitive shift of morality.

From this statement, the result of surveys and workshops are known to the questions and hypotheses that have been answered fully, as in Ecuador morals and ethics are not discussed and if it does, in most cases is not very often.Second, we can also verify this, when we analyzed the responses to each of the questions that were made based on the eight mechanisms of moral disengagement, so that caught my attention, that the question of “comparative advantage” if is justified for a public official to be corrupt if the person works, most answered NO, however, when considering the question 10 whether they would be willing to pay an additional value for a process to be resolved quickly, more than half answered yes, giving the conclusion that when it comes to individual cases they justify the payment of a bribe, knowing it is an act of corruption.

Another thing I noticed was the question that if they thought that stealing was wrong, all answered yes; however, when asked if everyone bought pirated movies, knowing it was a theft of intellectual property all said yes. Also here, when the moral norm is individualized, the overall value not to steal, moves to find a justification, as it is too expensive, or that everyone does, here again we see that the mechanisms of moral disengagement are fully met by Bandura.

One of the things that attracted most attention were the answers to the questions connected “to the attribution of guilt” that warranted where the women are guilty of their own abuse, 44 people said yes and 36 can be, when any abuse against women is totally reprehensible, we see that it once again verifies the moral movement, since obviously the respect for women is part of our cultural morality.

Additionally, another question that shows the movement of the moral is referred to “reasonable justification”. This question raised the possibility to kill all the rapists of children. 38 said yes, and 38 answered that in certain cases. Worth pointing out that at no time raised the possibility that death was a result of a sentence, that they had asked if you agree with the death penalty for child rapists, which suggests that simply be designated and justifies the possibility of a homicide by the quality of the victim or the aggressor.

In conclusion, we can reduce crime with the strengthening of moral and ethical values, they not only inhibit criminal behavior, but also reinforce the common values ​​of society, with this, we believe that in the long term we could reduce crime rates and make appropriate prevention which involves different sectors of society.

It is worth mentioning what happened in Colombia and its plan of civic culture based on the harmonization of the Law, Morality and Culture, which has already been tested and whose main thought: [17]The divorce between the three systems is expressed in illegal but morally and culturally approved, disapproved illegal actions and culturally acceptable but morally judged and illegal actions, recognized culturally and morally unacceptable but tolerated, accepted. And as legal obligations are not recognized as moral obligations or in certain social circles are not incorporated as culturally accepted obligations. “

Ensuring that the law is morally and culturally acceptable is more effective than trying to reduce crime laws only with the example of Colombia could be a good standard to apply in our country, first by the similarity of our culture and second, by their results.

We believe that the next step is to create a program to promote moral and ethical values, broadcasted by public and private institutions to measure their results and thus provide a basis to support a national criminal policy agenda.


[1] 1Worth pointing outthatthisisaclassification made bythepolytechnic institutionforpurposesof the statistical workanddoes not respondto the classification madebyourPenalCode

[2]Consideringthatthe legaland social aspects ofpolice ispublicsafetyandcrimecontrol

[3] fromtheMinistryof EconomyandFinance(2006)Integrated Financial ManagementSystem, Reporttakenfrom thesecuritysectorin LatinAmericaandtheCaribbean2006, “Prepared byFLACSOChile.

[4], theUNreport, CEPAL, ECLAC, Series: Citizen Securityand ViolenceinLatinAmerica: Diagnosisand policiesinthe nineties, for ArrigadaIrmaandLorenaGodoy, sourcesAyres(1998), OPS(1998), PeruInstituteINEI(1998), PazCiudadana(1998) IDB(1998)

[5] 5Majorreported crimesagainstpersonsand property”reported in the Public Prosecutor inthe cityofGuayaquil

[6] Source: INEC .-censusto2001, with projectionsto2008

[7] Source: Diario el Comercio

[8] PUBLIC POLICIES FOR CRIME PREVENTION, Edgardo Torres Lopez,, electronic journal “Contributions to Social Sciences, editor: Juan Carlos M. Coll (CV) JISSN: 1988-7833

[9] The ethics of civil society, Adela Cortina, Chapter 3: The magic formula of moral pluralism. University of Chile, Department of Science degree.Content of Basic Training, Ethics

[10] PUBLIC POLICIES FOR CRIME PREVENTION, Edgardo Torres Lopez,, electronic journal “Contributions to Social Sciences, editor: Juan Carlos M. Coll (CV) JISSN: 1988-7833

[11] Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement. TomadodeBandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities.Personalityandsocialpsychologyreview, 3 (3), 193-209.

[12]Mechanisms of Moral Disengagement.TomadodeBandura, A. (1999). Moral disengagement in the perpetration of inhumanities.Personalityandsocialpsychologyreview, 3 (3), 193-209.

[13] Sources: El Universo:

[14] This report was transcribed with the intention of verifying the current status of the means of social control formalized and their low effectiveness in crime control, prevention and inhibition, as it shows the state of affairs inhibit the possibility of violent conduct “Fear of punishment” is almost zero

[15] Not worth doing more surveys on it because it is a fairly common phenomenon in our country

[16] Conclusion was made ​​with students in Special Laws Criminal Regime II therefore reflects the views of the two courses.

[17] Refersto a systemof regulationof individual behaviorandsocial

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