Varying theories such as rational choice theory, trait theory, and social structure theory are commonly used to explain why crime happens. Application of these three theories in discussing the crimes of Richard Speck can help us to better understand which of the theories may apply and perhaps help give us insight into why he committed his crimes. But they are more beneficial when not looking at a single specific crime, but the person and all the crimes they may have committed throughout their criminal careers.
Richard Speck is without a doubt what is considered a chronic offender having been arrested over 40 times prior to committing the crime for which he is best known; the 1966 murder, rape, and robbery of eight student nurses. His victims were female students between the ages of 19 and 24 who lived together on Chicago's South Side. Speck forced his way into their dorm at gunpoint, rounded the women up, and ordered them to empty their purses before tying them up. He then proceeded to brutalize them. The women were robbed, raped, beaten, and then strangled or stabbed to death (BIO, 2013). Cooper and Smith (2011), tell us that crimes of this nature involving 3 or more victims represent less than 1% of all homicides committed each year (p. 24) and crimes of this nature are more likely to be carried out by use of a gun (p. 27). Additionally, young adults aged 18-24 continue to experience the highest homicide rates, but homicides across the spectrum have fallen since the early 1990s (Cooper & Smith, 2011). Fang, French & McCollister (2010) estimated the cost to process a murder for our court systems was $390,352, the crime victim costs were $737,517, and the criminal’s activities other than the homicide itself were $148,555. So each homicide has the potential of costing approximately $1,278,424 (table 3).
Rational Choice Theory
Siegel (2012) explains rational choice theory as boiling down to having made a choice to commit a crime. Before committing a crime reasonable criminals conduct a risk assessment of the crime they are considering to commit. This process includes the risk of being caught; to what extent and the seriousness the punishment will be; the expected gains for having committed the crime; and the necessity of having those gains at the current time. He further explains these type of criminals are selective and systematic in their pursuit of their criminal goals and when determining if they will or will not commit a crime. The evaluation of the risk helps the criminal to decide if the crime is indeed worth the chance of committing. This is based upon their past experiences, the cognitive rewards for having committed the crime, the status they gain from having committed the crime, and the perception of easy gains (p. 106).
The rational choice theory does not seem applicable to the crimes committed by Richard Speck. Speck’s crimes can be more easily attributed to his troubled childhood and young adult...