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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

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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
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
the development of rational choice theory3
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
core concepts of choice or classical criminology

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
four utilitarian objectives of punishment

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
what does it mean to be rational
What does it mean to be rational?


What do others say?

Are Choices Rational?

is crime rational

Are there different

definitions of


Is Crime Rational?????
  • Street Crime
  • Drug Use
  • Violence
choice theories and resulting crime elimination strategies

Choice Theories

  • Rational Choice
  • Routine Activities Theory

Crime Elimination Strategies

  • General Deterrence Theory
  • Specific Deterrence Theory
  • Incapacitation
  • Situational Crime Prevention
choice theories rational choice
MAJOR PREMISELaw-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
concepts in rational choice
Concepts in Rational Choice
  • Marginal Deterrence
  • Offense specific crime vs. offender specific crime
    • Crime vs. Criminality
  • Structuring Criminality
    • Economic Opportunity
    • Learning and Experience
    • Knowledge of Criminal Techniques
rational choice concepts cont d
Rational Choice Concepts cont’d
  • Structuring Crime
    • Choosing the type of crime
    • Choosing the time and place
    • Choosing the target
rational choice and routine activities
Rational Choice and Routine Activities
  • 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
routine activity theory
Routine Activity Theory
  • “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.
routine activity theory14
Routine Activity Theory
  • 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.
routine activity
Routine Activity
  • 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.
routine activities theory
Routine Activities Theory
  • 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)
routine activities theory17
Routine Activities Theory
  • 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.
eliminating crime general deterrence
MAJOR PREMISEPeople 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
studies of general deterrence
Studies of General Deterrence
  • 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
eliminating crime specific deterrence
MAJOR PREMISEIf punishment is severe enough, criminals will not repeat their illegal acts.

STRENGTHSProvides a strategy to reduce crime.

Eliminating Crime:Specific Deterrence
specific deterrence
Specific Deterrence

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?

eliminating crime incapacitation
MAJOR PREMISEKeeping 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
eliminating crime situational crime prevention

Increasing Perceived Effort1. 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