Template:CriminTheo In criminology, the rational choice theory adopts a utilitarian belief that man is a reasoning actor who weighs means and ends, costs and benefits, and makes a rational choice.

Rational choice theory has sprung from older and more experimental collections of hypothesis surrounding what have been essentially, the empirical findings from many scientific investigations into the workings of human nature. The conceiving and semblance of these social models which are hugely applicable to the methodology expressed through the function of microeconomics within society are also similarly placed to demonstrate that a sizable amount of data is collated using behavioral techniques which are tweaked and made adjustable in order to ensure compatibility with the spontaneous motivational drives displayed by the consumer.


The theory is related to earlier drift theory (Matza: 1964) where people use the techniques of neutralization to drift in and out of delinquent behavior, and the Systematic Crime Theory (an aspect of Social Disorganization Theory developed by the Chicago School), where Edwin Sutherland proposed that the failure of families and extended kin groups expands the realm of relationships no longer controlled by the community, and undermines governmental controls. This leads to persistent "systematic" crime and delinquency. He also believed that such disorganization causes and reinforces the cultural traditions and cultural conflicts that support antisocial activity. The systematic quality of the behavior was a reference to repetitive, patterned or organized offending as opposed to random events. He depicted the law-abiding culture as dominant and more extensive than alternative criminogenic cultural views and capable of overcoming systematic crime if organized for that purpose (1939: 8). In a similar vein, Cohen and Felson (1979) developed Routine Activities Theory which focuses on the characteristics of crime rather than the characteristics of the offender. This is one of the main theories of environmental criminology as an aspect of Crime Prevention Theory. It states that for a crime to occur, three elements must be present, i.e. there must be:

  • an available and suitable target;
  • a motivated offender; and
  • no authority figure to prevent the crime from happening.

Routine Activities Theory relates the pattern of offending to the everyday patterns of social interaction. Between 1960 and 1980, women left the home to work which led to social disorganization, i.e. the routine of leaving the home unattended and without an authority figure increased probability of criminal activity. The theory is supplemented by the crime triangle or the problem analysis triangle [1] which is used in the analysis both of a crime problem by reference to the three parameters of victim, location, and offender, and of an intervention strategy by reference to the parameters of target/victim, location and absence of a capable guardian with the latter helping to think more constructively about responses as well as analysis.

Situational crime prevention

Crime Prevention Theory, as proposed by Clarke (1995, 1997), focuses on reducing crime opportunities rather than on the characteristics of criminals or potential criminals. The strategy is to increase the associated risks and difficulties, and reduce the rewards. It asserts that crime is often committed through the accident of a practical or attractive opportunity, e.g. that a car is found unlocked or a window left open. Patterns in criminal activity are not simply based on where criminals live, but also reflect a concentration of opportunities for crime constituting "hot spots". For example, theft may concentrate on particular "hot products" and some repeat victims are more likely to experience crime than other people. Shoplifting and mugging may be endemic to identifiable locations. Hence, by using statistical data, enforcement resources can target areas, and education can reduce the number of opportunities. See crime mapping, Chainey & Ratcliffe (2005).

Routine activity theory

See Routine activity theory

Routine activity theory a sub-field of rational choice criminology, developed by Marcus Felson and Lawrence Cohen.

Routine activity theory says that crime is normal and depends on the opportunities available. If a target is not protected enough, and if the reward is worth it, crime will happen. Crime does not need hardened offenders, super-predators, convicted felons or wicked people. Crime just needs an opportunity.

The basic premise of routine activity theory is that most crimes are petty theft and unreported to the police. Crime is not spectacular nor dramatic. It is mundane and happens all the time.

Another premise is that crime is relatively unaffected by social causes such as poverty, inequality, unemployment. For instance, after World War II, the economy of Western countries was booming and the Welfare states were expanding. During that time, crime rose significantly. According to Felson and Cohen, this is because the prosperity of contemporary society offers so much opportunities of crime: there is much more to steal.

Routine activity theory is controversial among sociologists who believe in the social causes of crime. But several types of crime are very well explained by routine activity theory :
- copyright infringement related to peer-to-peer file sharing
- employee theft (internal theft)
- corporate crime


  • Becker, Gary. (1968). "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach". The Journal of Political Economy 76: 169-217.
  • Brantingham, Paul J. & Brantingham, Patricia L. (eds.). (1981). Environmental Criminology. Waveland Press. ISBN 0-88133-539-8
  • Chainey, Spencer & Ratcliffe, Jerry. (2005). GIS and Crime Mapping. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-470-86099-5
  • Clarke, Ronald R. (ed.) (1997). Situational Crime Prevention: Successful Case Studies. Second Edition. New York: Harrow and Heston. ISBN 0-911577-39-4
  • Clarke, R. V. (1995), "Situational crime prevention" in Building a Safer Society: Strategic Approaches to Crime Prevention, Michael Tonry & Farrington, David (eds.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-80824-6
  • Clarke, R. V. and M. Felson (Eds.) (1993). Routine Activity and Rational Choice. Advances in Criminological Theory, Vol 5. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books.
  • Clarke, R.V. & Eck, J (2003) Becoming a Problem-Solving Crime Analyst. Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science. London: University College London. [2]
  • Cornish, Derek & Clarke, Ronald V. (1986). "Introduction" in The Reasoning Criminal. Cornish, Derek and Ronald Clarke (eds.). New York: Springer-Verlag. pp 1-16. ISBN 3-540-96272-7
  • Cohen, L. E. & Felson, M. (1979). "Social change and crime rate trends: a routine activity approach". American Sociological Review, Vol 44, pp588-608.
  • Felson, M. (1997). "Technology, business, and crime". in Business and Crime Prevention. Felson, M. & Clarke, R. V. (eds.). Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.
  • Felson, M. (1998). Crime and Everyday Life, Second Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
  • Felson, M. & Clarke, R. V. (1998). Opportunity Makes the Thief. Police Research Series, Paper 98. Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.. London: Home Office. [www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/prgpdfs/fprs98.pdf]
  • Keel, R. O. (1997). Rational Choice and Deterrence Theory. [3]
  • Sutton, David. Ronald V. Clark. [4]


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