If somebody truly wants to adhere to the teachings of a religion then yes, it's likely that it will make somebody less prone to commit crimes. It's really a matter of if somebody is fully committed to a religion or only point to it for guidance when it's convenient for them. The latter is far more common.
Yes, I think that religion can be a deterrent against criminal behavior. Those people who strongly prescribe to a major religion seem to be less likely to commit crimes, and will have a strong moral compass than those who choose not to participate in a religion and not have a core values system.
Yes, I do believe that religion can be a deterrent against criminal behavior. Religion promotes love, justice and peace and surely all of that can deter criminal behavior. Religion teaches people to be calm and to look to the scriptures for guidance. All of this promotes better people in society who will not become criminals.
Although there are numerous cases where someone with a professed religious belief has committed crimes, there are also untold situations where religion has prevented criminal activity. One of the problems with this question is that it seems to equate morality with criminality. In many countries, morality is closely related to criminal behavior - however something that is moral is not always legal, and something which is illegal is not always immoral. Religions, and any form of morality code, serve to help individuals interact with society (along the same morality codes), and drive behavior (positively or negatively). A result of this moral authority that religion has for some individuals has caused many individuals to "think twice" about their actions before partaking in them - leading, in many instances, to cases where religion has deterred crimes.
I am an atheist, but even I can see the use in religion to control people's behaviors. If people believe that sinful behavior will land them in hell, they will be less inclined to sinful choices. This is a reason why religion has always been linked to power: it is mind control.
Given that criminals have generally worked it out in their heads why it is 'OK' for them to do criminal things, and the church proffers forgiveness of such transgressions, it is unlikely that the church has any real influence on crime rates.
Realistically, some of the most crime ridden, atrocity ridden areas of the world are actually some of the ones with the highest base of bible believers. Not that being faithful causes crime, more that it doesn't seem to be a deterrent.
Many awful criminals identify as religious, many atrocities have been committed in the service of religion. We have good and numerous examples of people killing in the name of god. What is lacking, is good evidence of people not committing such acts because, and solely because of religion. We struggle to document evidence of incidences of a persons otherwise bent on murder, rape or any other generally accepted awful thing, not doing so because of their religion. Yet we have many examples of justification and rationalization on the other side of things. Millions have been killed over religious differences, from the crusades to the inquisition to the Holocaust. There is very strong evidence to show that religion results in violence, what does anyone have to show to contradict me that it has prevented an equivalent amount of injustice or furthermore acted as a deterrant to human wrongdoing?
If religion prevents or stops crime then why has crime been around forever? Clearly in earlier times religion played a very prominent role in government, in society, and in the home. There was still a substantial amount of crime in medieval and early societies, even with all their religiosity. So, no I don't think it is.
A few years ago, it came out that many Catholic priests had been sexually molesting young boys in their parish. This case made me think of my mother's stories of surviving Catholic schools in her home country, England. For years, she and other girls were subjected to being hit with metal rulers. My mother still has the scars across her knuckles. The nuns and priests certainly had no problem using physical violence against children.
Things only got worse for children in the U.S. They were raped by religious leaders, people they were told to trust. If these officials who supposedly answer only to God will break such horrifying laws, it's clear that religion plays no factor.