Different criminologists view their role from different perspectives. As a sociologist, a criminologist may be most interested in the way particular cultures and subcultures define crime, how they produce criminals, and how they deal with them.
As a psychologist, a criminologist may be interested in what leads a particular individual to choose to commit a certain crime, or to choose crime as a life path. A criminologist of this kind wonders what it is in the criminal's background that led to crime, or how the influence of a peer group or a malign environment fostered a criminal.
In either case, a criminologist studies the causes of crime. He or she is interested in the ways people break the law and the reasons that they do so. Finding approaches to stopping criminals is a large part of the field, and so is lessening the effects of crime on society and its citizens.
Some criminologists measure crime with studies or surveys, to try to quantify its effect on a neighborhood, a group, or society as a whole. Statistical studies help law enforcement and social service recognize the scope and location of crime, in order to battle it more effectively.
Others who study crime are most interested in its victims, studying the ways they came to be victimized or the effect that their experience has had on their lives. Helping the victims of crime often doesn't get much public notice, but it is an important facet of the criminologist's work.
All criminologists fight crime. Their role in the fight is to gather and share knowledge about the factors that increase or decrease crime. They try to formulate strategies to make misbehavior less attractive as a life-style. They seek tactics to rehabilitate people already involved in a life of crime.
Criminologists try to protect their society. They work to lessen the impact of crime on non-criminals. They seek to reduce crime as well as reducing its effect. Since crime is apparently always with us, they may also try to institute mechanisms of control to weaken the power and scope of crime, so that it does not overwhelm the larger society.
Crime prevention is a constant concern. Criminologists try to discover and promote factors that discourage crime. Studies may consider improved education, income levels, or changing social norms when they think about discouraging crime.
Criminologists study something that many people do not even like to think about. They sometimes spend time in close contact with people that most would avoid. Whether they are sociologists, psychologists, or academics, criminologists work on the front lines against crime.