Under the laws of the Sentran Empire, crime takes many forms. Any sort of theft is illegal, including "identity theft"—the use of illusion or other magic to impersonate someone with the intent to cause harm. Assault, murder, and fraud will all land someone in hot water. Other activities walk the edge of legality. Gambling and prostitution are legal, but these industries are heavily taxed and regulated. Likewise, smuggled goods include illegal merchandise such as drugs and mystical explosives, but also heavily taxed goods. Slavery is legal and common, especially in an area as densely populated as Sentra.
Although crime occurs throughout the city, it is most apparent in the western side of the Whitestone District. The Imperial Watch has a minimal presence in these wards, which are the easiest places to sell stolen goods or to hire an assassin. Of course, they're also good places to get mugged.
Sentra is home to a large number of minor gangs and independent criminals. Even so, most criminal activities in the city come under the purview of one of the larger criminal organizations: the Cornys Family, Shadowlords, and Hammerfall.
Long-term incarceration isn't a common form of punishment. Most prisons are temporary holding cells, keeping criminals contained until a case can go to trial. If a prisoner is deemed too dangerous to be allowed to roam free, they are usually executed. There is only one situation in which an extended prison sentence would be warranted: If the prisoner cannot be allowed to go free and if his death would have major repercussions, such as the death of a foreign ambassador. A lengthy prison sentence could also occur if a trial fails to resolve doubts about the crime. The typical imperial prison contains ten separate cells, large enough for 8 prisoners each. Spellcasters or other persons considered to be a high escape risk are chained to the wall, and sometimes gagged. For more dangerous prisoners or for holding prisoners for extended periods of time, the Keep of Order is used instead.
Fines are the most common form of punishment used by the Vigilant courts. The fine is based on the nature of the crime, but the magistrate has leeway to raise the amount of the fine to ensure that it actually serves as an effective punishment. If a convicted criminal can’t afford to pay a fine, he is assigned to work off his debt in a chain gang. There are a number of imperial workhouses throughout the city.
Repeat offenders are often marked with a symbol that warns others about their criminal tendencies. In the past, these marks were made with branding irons, but newer arcane knowledge allows the brands to be magically placed. Marks are either placed on the forehead or on the back of the right hand, and guards often demand that suspicious strangers remove their gloves and show the backs of their hands. A criminal that has shown themselves to be an unfit member of society, but not worthy of execution, is branded as an outlaw and stripped of their citizenship. As an outlaw, anyone may do anything they like to him without fear of legal retribution.
The Imperial Watch is the overarching organization that enforces the laws of the city. Unfortunately, the Watch is riddled with corruption, from the commanding officers down to the patrols. There are a few dedicated guards who truly want to protect the innocent. But bribery runs rampant, and the watch has a way of never showing up at the same time as the Cornys Family. And aside from the general problems of greed, cowardice, and corruption, the watch commanders focus their forces on protecting the wealthy and powerful citizens of the city. The less wealthy areas of the city are lightly patrolled, with the patrols only focusing on locations important to the welfare of the city.
The central administration of the Watch is housed at Garrison One in the Wardenhold neighborhood. There are also garrisons in Graywall, Alabaster Heights, and Tradefair. Each garrison has its own commander, and these officers have a considerable amount of leeway in how they interpret policy.
While the Watch is commonly found on the streets, the Vigilants support the courts. The Vigilants also attempt to patrol areas of the city not covered by the Watch, but they do not have the same amount manpower as the Watch. What they lack in numbers, they make up for with specialized units. Some members of the Vigilants are specially trained as countermages to contain and control magic. They may be called upon to look for magic in the use of a crime, difficult interrogations, or dispelling magic. The Vigilant patrols stand above the Watch inasmuch as they have supposed divine support, but this is considered more of a privilege than a guarantee. Unless the higher ups within the Vigilant wish, the Watch is considered the authority during patrols.