"Rational Choice" and Opportunity Theories

"Rational Choice" and Opportunity Theories

Conclusions Regarding Empirical Support Weak empirical support If anything, the certainty of punishment may have marginal effects on crime WHY SO WEAK? Based on weak theoryweak assumptions Limits of deterrence in a democratic society MARGINAL vs. ABSOLUTE 1 Informal Sanctions

Fear of Informal Sanctions is not Deterrence theory. Deterrence derived from classical school (legal reform) Informal social control theory (To be Discussed) However, formal sanctions may kick in informal sanctions. 2 Policy Implications of Deterrence Rehabilitation, (unless painful) wont work,

and may send the wrong message Raising the certainty, swiftness or severity of criminal penalties will work If system cannot be swift, severe and certain enough, then reduce opportunities for offending Incapacitation 3 Neo Classical Theory Part II Rational Choice Theory Routine Activities Theory Situational Crime Prevention

Rational Choice Theory Economics (language, theory) Expected Utility = calculation of all risks and rewards This is much broader than deterrence Includes risks not associated with criminal justice Same core assumption as deterrence theory Human nature = rational, calculating, hedonistic This is because economic theory (supply/demand, rational consumers) has the same classical school roots

Rationality Assumption How RATIONAL is the offender? PURE RATIONALITY = only expected utility (rational calculation of risk/reward) matters Few theories, if any, take this position LIMITED RATIONALITY Information/time limited (quick, rough decisions) Other things matters CORNISH AND CLARKE good example Cornish and Clarke (1986) Crime as a Rational Choice

Criminal Involvement: the decision to engage in crime (versus other activity) Criminal Event: factors that influence the decision to commit a specific crime Criminal Involvement Choices to become involved in crime, to continue in crime, and to desist from crime Each (involvement, continuance, desistence) need separate explanation Involvement decisions are multistage and multifactor, extending over long time periods MOST PEOPLE WANT MONEY/STUFF, WHY DO SOME CHOOSE TO BURGAL (RATHER THAN

WORK) TO GET IT? Example of factors that explain initial involvement: Background Factors temperament, intelligence, cognitive style, sex, class, education, neighborhood, broken home Previous experience Direct and vicarious learning, moral attitudes, self-perception, foresight and planning Solutions evaluated Degree of effort, amount/immediacy of reward,

likelihood and severity of punishment, moral costs Criticisms What happened to our rational offender guided by free will? In their models, rational thinking and free will are very constrained/limited Not much different from other theories of crime Borrow liberally from learning theory, psychology, social control theory At what point does their theory cease to be a rational choice model and start to become a learning, social control, IQ theory of crime?

Example of Continuance in Burglary Increased Professionalism pride in skills, reduce risk (better planning), acquire fencing contacts, skill in dealing with criminal justice system Changes in Lifestyle and Values choose work to facilitate burglaries, enjoy life in fast lane, devalue legitimate work Changes in Peer group lose contact with prosocial friends, labeled as

criminal, quarrels with family... The Criminal Event Focus on predictors of specific crimes, look at immediate (situational) factors GIVEN THAT SOMEONE IS OK WITH BURGLING, WHAT LEADS THEM TO BURGAL A SPECIFIC HOUSE IN A SPECIFIC NEIGHBHOOD? Area Easily accessible, few police patrols, low security Home anyone home?, especially wealthy, detached,

bushes/other cover, dog, security system... The Criminal Event in Drug Smuggling Interviews with Federal Inmates involved in drug smuggling How rational are they? Shipping Insurance Methods for evading detection (high end electronics, study of interdiction methods/patterns, etc.) Still Tendency to overestimate rewards and minimize thinking about risks.

Evaluating Rational Choice Empirical Support? Criminal Involvement Ethnographic research suggests limited (if any) rational reasoning or weighing of costs/benefits. Criminal Event Ethnographic research somewhat supportive, but many crimes suggest limited/crude appraisals. Attempt to evade detection Parsimony and Scope? Policy Implication?

Routine Activities Theory (Cohen and Felson) Crime as the Convergence in Time and Space of Three Factors 1. Motivated Offenders 2. Suitable Targets 3. Lack of Capable Guardianship Scope: Direct-Contact Predatory Crimes Felson in 1990s

extended to white collar crime, drug crime Motivated offenders taken for granted Assumption is that they are always present Criticized for this (really a theory of crime?) Mostly explains victimization or the criminal event Similar to Cornish and Clarke in that respect

Suitable Targets Value ($, ability to fence) Some universal ($) some dependent upon offenders environment Visibility (sights and sounds) Inertia (why autos are victimized, high tech movement) Access (cul-de-sac vs open-ended street, garage parking vs. street parking) Lack of Capable Guardianship Protection from police??

Less emphasis in this over time Informal social control not usually someone who brandishes a gun or threatens an offender with quick punishment, but rather someone whose mere presence serves as a gentle reminder that someone is looking. Strength in numbers Time spent at home Evaluating Routine Activities Theory

Empirical Support WHY DOES PROPERTY CRIME INCREASE DURING ECONOMIC PROSPERTIY? Household activity ratio related to crime Criminal Hotspots within high crime areas Prison Studies (% time outside of cell) Victimization Studies Criticism? Confirming common sense. Policy Implications Deterrence vs. Environmental Crim In deterrence theory, if the CJS (e.g., threat of arrest/imprisonment) is not effective,

the only other option is incapacitation (removing offender from society). This has been the preferred U.S. strategy Rational Choice and Routine Activities Theory suggest that we can remove or limit the opportunity to offend by changing the environment. This has been the preferred strategy in the UK Benefit of this approach over incapacitation?? Examples of Situational Crime Prevention (Ronald Clarke)

Technique Increase the effort for crime Harden targets Control access to facilities Control tools/weapons Examples Steering column locks, tamperproof packaging Electronic access to garages Smart guns, plastic beer glasses in taverns Increase the risks of crime Extend guardianship

Assist natural surveillance Travel in groups at night, carry a phone Street lighting, defensible space Utilize place managers Two clerks in convenience stores Strengthen formal surveillance Burglar alarms, security guards

Examples of Situational Crime Prevention II Technique Reduce Reward Remove targets Identify property Reduce Provocations Reduce emotional arousal Avoid disputes Remove Excuses for Crime Set rules Control drugs/alcohol Examples

Removable car radios, womens refuges Property marking, cattle branding Controls on violent pornography Fixed cab fares, reduce crowding in bars Rental agreements, hotel registration Breathalyzers in bars, alcohol-free events Does crime just go around the corner? Study of police crackdowns and catchment areas

Crime displacement may be less prevalent than expected There may be some diffusion of benefits from crime prevention efforts Review of Neoclassical Approach Roots in classical school (1750-1850) Commonality = humans as rational calculators Renewed interest 1970s-present Fit with conservative ideology Main Flavors Deterrence

Rational Choice Routine Activities Deterrence Theory Formal punishment Swift, Certain, Severe Types Specific vs. General Absolute vs. Marginal Focused deterrence Evidence converges on importance of certainty over severity

Rational Choice Theory Much broader than deterrence What factors to humans consider when choosing whether or not to commit crime? Criminal event vs. Criminal Involvement Most RCT integrate concepts from other theories Common criticism: lots of things in the theory (sex, impulsivity, moral values) that limit free will Routine Activities Theory

Very similar to criminal event decisions in rational choice theory What immediate factors influence whether a criminal event will occur? Target Suitability Guardianship Policy implication = situational crime prevention

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