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The Development of Rational Choice Theory - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Choice Theory. Development of Choice Theory Concepts of Rational Choice Rationality of Crime Choice Theories of Crime Eliminating Crime and Policy Implications of Choice Theory. The Development of Rational Choice Theory.

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Choice Theory

  • Development of Choice Theory

  • Concepts of Rational Choice

  • Rationality of Crime

  • Choice Theories of Crime

  • Eliminating Crime and Policy Implications of Choice

  • Theory

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The Development of Rational Choice Theory

  • Roots in the classical school of criminology developed by CesareBeccaria.

    • Beccaria called for fair and certain punishment to deter crime

    • Beccaria argued against marginal deterrence which refers petty offenses being subjected to same punishment as more serious crimes

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The Development of Rational Choice Theory

  • The Classical Theory of Crime

    • Jeremy Bentham (1748-1833) 

      • Believed people choose actions on the basis of pleasure and avoid pain

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People choose

all behavior,

including criminal


People’s choice

can be controlled by

the fear of


The more severe, certain and swift

the punishment, the greater its ability

to control criminal behavior.

Core Concepts of Choice or Classical Criminology

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When it cannot prevent a crime, to convince the offender to commit a less serious one.

To prevent all

criminal offenses.

To prevent a crime

as cheaply as possible.

To ensure that a criminal

uses no more force than

is necessary.

Four Utilitarian Objectives of Punishment

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What does it mean to be rational? commit a less serious one.


What do others say?

Are Choices Rational?

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Are there different commit a less serious one.

definitions of


Is Crime Rational?????

  • Street Crime

  • Drug Use

  • Violence

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Choice Theories

  • Rational Choice

  • Routine Activities Theory

    Crime Elimination Strategies

  • General Deterrence Theory

  • Specific Deterrence Theory

  • Incapacitation

  • Situational Crime Prevention

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MAJOR PREMISE commit a less serious one.Law-violating behavioris an event that occurs after offenders weighinformation on theirpersonal needs and thesituational factors involved in the difficulty and risk of committing a crime.

STRENGTHSExplains why high-risk youth do not constantly engage in delinquency acts. Relates theory to delinquency control policy. It is not limited by class or other social variables.

Choice Theories: Rational Choice

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Concepts in Rational Choice commit a less serious one.

  • Marginal Deterrence

  • Offense specific crime vs. offender specific crime

    • Crime vs. Criminality

  • Structuring Criminality

    • Economic Opportunity

    • Learning and Experience

    • Knowledge of Criminal Techniques

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Rational Choice Concepts cont’d commit a less serious one.

  • Structuring Crime

    • Choosing the type of crime

    • Choosing the time and place

    • Choosing the target

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Rational Choice and Routine Activities commit a less serious one.

  • Routine activities provides a macro view of crime, rational choice theory provides a micro view of why individuals offenders decide to commit specific crimes. The connection between the two theories:

    • target vulnerability is a consideration

    • presence of capable guardians may deter crime

    • crime rates correspond to the number of motivated criminals.

  • The strength of this approach is that it can explain fluctuations in crime and delinquency rates and shows how victim behavior can influence criminal choices

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Routine Activity Theory commit a less serious one.

  • “people make choices, but they cannot choose the choices available to them.” (Felson, 1986:119)

  • Some people are more likely than others to confront situations where the rewards of crime are high and the risks are low.

  • For a crime to occur: a motivated offender, must come into contact with suitable targets in the absence of capable guardians.

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Routine Activity Theory commit a less serious one.

  • Takes motivated offenders as a given.

  • Explains variation in crime as a function of availability of suitable targets.

  • Suitable targets are the benefits of crime

  • Capable guardians are the costs of crime

  • Discuss changes in routine activities as either increasing or decreasing suitable targets or increasing or decreasing capable guardians.

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Routine Activity commit a less serious one.

  • Quite different from other theories. Most theories focus on the factors that motivate offenders. Routine Activity suggest that motivated offenders are a given and focuses on opportunities for crime.

  • Findings are generally supportive of this perspective.

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Routine Activities Theory commit a less serious one.

  • Cohen and Felson (1979) define routine activities… “recurrent and prevalent activities which provide for basic population and individual needs…formalized work, as well as the provisions of standard food, shelter, sexual outlet, leisure, social interaction, learning, and childbearing.” (593)

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Routine Activities Theory commit a less serious one.

  • In addition to guardians such as police there are informal social controls.

  • Change in any of the elements effects crime

  • Have researched suitable targets and absence of capable guardians

  • Cohen 1981 renamed it Opportunity Theory.

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MAJOR PREMISE commit a less serious one.People will commit crime and delinquency if they perceive that the benefits outweigh the risks. Crime is a function of the severity, certainty, and speed of punishment.

STRENGTHSShows the relationship between crime and punishment. Suggests a real solution to crime.

Eliminating Crime:General Deterrence

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Studies of General Deterrence commit a less serious one.

  • There is little clear cut evidence that the perception or reality of punishment can deter most crime

  • The certainty of punishment seems to have a greater influence on the choice of crime than the severity of punishment

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MAJOR PREMISE commit a less serious one.If punishment is severe enough, criminals will not repeat their illegal acts.

STRENGTHSProvides a strategy to reduce crime.

Eliminating Crime:Specific Deterrence

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Specific Deterrence commit a less serious one.

Instead of deterring crime, could punishment cause more?

Would it be better to stigmatize offenders?

What do they mean when they say we should use reintegrative shaming?

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MAJOR PREMISE commit a less serious one.Keeping known criminals out of circulation will reduce crime rates.

STRENGTHSRecognizes the role opportunity plays in criminal behavior. Provides solution to chronic offending.

Eliminating Crime:Incapacitation

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Increasing Perceived Effort commit a less serious one.1. Target hardening

2. Access control

3. Deflecting offenders

4. Controlling facilitators

Increasing Perceived Risks

5. Entry / exit screening

6. Formal surveillance

7. Surveillance by employees

8. Natural surveillance

Reducing Anticipated Rewards

9. Target removal

10. Identifying property

11. Reducing temptation

12. Denying benefits

Inducing Guilt or Shame

13. Rule setting

14. Strengthening moral condemnation

15. Controlling disinhibitors

16. Facilitating compliance

Eliminating Crime:Situational Crime Prevention