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Routine Activity Theory And Rational Choice Theory

1396 words - 6 pages

The study of criminology is why individuals commit crimes and why they behave in certain situations. When you understand why someone might commit a crime, you can come up with ways to prevent or control the crime. There are several different theories in criminology, in this paper I will be discussing Routine Activity Theory and Rational Choice theory. I will be comparing and contrasting as well between the two of these theories.
Routine Activity Theory focuses on situations of crime. This theory was used by Cohen and Felson (1979) to explain the rising crime rates in the United States. Cohen and Felson explained that crime rates could vary without actual changed in the number of potential offenders or offender motivation. The theory has three assumptions; a likely offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a guardian. A likely offender includes anyone with an inclination to commit a crime (Felson, 1983). Examples of a suitable target would be a person, object, or place (Cohen and Felson, 1979). Capable guardians would refer to police patrols, security guards, parents, neighbors, friends, and etc. Cohen and Felson (1979) argued that the same structure of routine activities influences criminal opportunity and therefore affects trends in direct contact predatory violations. Drawing from the human ecological theories, Cohen and Felson (1979) suggested that the structural changes in routine activity patterns can influence crime rates by affecting the convergence in time and space of the three elements that I listed above. Offenders are on the prowl and looking for how alert the victim is, if their alone, and the time of the day. Followers of this theory believe that crime is inevitable, and that if the target is attractive enough, crime will happen. Effective measures must be in place to deter crime from happening. Felson and Clarke (1998) put forth the acronym VIVA to clarify the four elements that influences a target’s risk of being victimized by crime. They are value, inertia, visibility, and access. Value refers to what the target is worth to the offender. Inertia refers to the ability of a target to be taken. Visibility refers to how easily targets are seen by offenders. Access is how easily targets can be accessed by offenders. Each of these elements are important to the routine activity theory and can lead to increases in crime without any change in the offender population (Felson and Clarke, 1998).
Rational Choice Theory concentrates on reasons that an individual thinks through each action, deciding whether or not the crime is worth committing. The goals can be financial, pleasure, or some other beneficial result. The Rational Choice Theory perspective as presented by Cornish and Clark (1985) is based upon three concepts; (one) criminal offenders are rational and make choices and decisions that benefit themselves; (two) a crime- specific focus is required; and (three) there is a distinction between choices related to criminal...

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