Applying the Rational Choice Theory on Property Offences in Victoria - Essay Prowess

Applying the Rational Choice Theory on Property Offences in Victoria


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Applying the Rational Choice Theory on Property Offences in Victoria


Over the years, the security agencies have adopted various measures aimed at combating crime within the state of Victoria. Key stakeholders such as the Victorian parliament, the Victoria Police, the public and Office of Public Prosecution have called for the prevention of various forms of crime such as burglary, robbery and theft. One of the most common crimes within the South Eastern state is property and deception offences. The essay seeks to evaluate whether the Rational Choice Theory (RCT) is effective and useful in understanding the property and deception crimes in Victoria. Moreover, the Routine Activity Theory (RAT) has been used to address the limitations of the RCT theory in regards to criminological offences. In most cases, the offenders undertake a comprehensive analysis of the risks and benefits that will be involved within a particular crime. Criminals believe that have a higher chance of benefiting from a specific crime such as property and deception offences. The RAT model on the other hand posits that criminal acts occur due to; the presence of an offender, a potential target and lack of a crime prevention mechanism. The RTC model hence has contributed to the high prevalence of property and deception offences across Victoria.

Prevalence of Property and Deception Offences

Just like other regions within Australia, several criminal activities have been reported across the state of Victoria. Various areas such as Melbourne, Latrobe and Hume have become synonymous with property and deception offences. However, in the past 10 years, crime rates per 100,000 population have reduced in Victoria in terms of frequency and crime rates. The criminal occurrence rate of Victoria decreased by 1.3 percent, for example, according to the Crime Statistics Authority (2021), the crime rate decreased from 6099.4 to 6019 between December 2019-2020. Crimes in Victoria are categorized as: crimes against the individual, property and deception violations, drug offences, offenses of public order and protection and criminal proceedings. Victorian residents such as Mr. Arthur have attested to the prevalence of property offences alongside other crimes such as robbery and aggravated burglary (Mills & Furci, 2018). In the recent years, property and deception offences have been reported both in the rural and urban areas within Victoria. In 2018 for example, the Crime Statistics Agency reported that there were a 7.8% drop-in crime rates. This shows that security agencies have been at the forefront of combating property and deception offences across Victoria. The Victorian parliament, through the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA) has passed laws aimed at combating property and deception crimes in the region.

Moreover, property and deception offenses are divided into activities which lead to loss of property through theft such as carjacking and burglary (Nelson, 2015). Carjacking is the act of using force to rob a car from the owner. However, in a car theft, the offender manages to steal a car without being seen by the driver or the owner. Burglary however refers to forced entry in a particular building with the aim of stealing any property within the house. In the case that burglary occurs with the aid of a weapon, then it becomes aggravated burglary. Both normal and aggravated burglary can occur in residential areas, private business areas such as departmental stores or supermarkets, and public buildings such as schools, hospitals and government offices. In Victoria, criminal cases have been reported to the law enforcement officers. For example, in Cranbourne, a café owner known as Manu experienced burglary both in his café as well as his home (Mills & Furci, 2018). This case highlights the prevalence of property and deception crimes across Victoria. Stakeholders such as the Victoria Police have recognized the need to collaborate with the local communities to find the root cause of theft in the region. Coordination of action among the security agencies, the masses and the government can result in the adoption of effective strategies that can be used to combat the property and deception offences in Victoria.

Theoretical Framework: RCT and RAT Models

The process of identifying the root cause of the property and deception crimes requires the integration of criminological theoretical frameworks. In essence, the Rational Choice Theory can be effectively used to analyze and explore the root cause of the criminal activities in Victoria. According to Bond (2015), the RCT argues that the criminal carries out a criminal activity from a rational perspective. The perpetrator considers the risks and possible benefits that are likely to be achieved from the criminal activity. In most cases, an offender only participates in a crime if the benefits outweigh the risks. For example, a burglar can decide to break into a home when he knows that the owners are not around. In this case, the risk of being caught and prosecuted is highly reduced. However, a thief cannot break into a car in a public place since he is likely to face immediate arrest or even death. Therefore, the risks, costs and benefits of a particular crime plays a great role in shaping the occurrence of an offence. The RCT indicates that the perpetrator examines all three elements and then acts when it is more pleasant to take the risk. This theory is helpful to explain the behavior of individuals and groups in relation to their crime motivation. Security agencies can use the RCT theory to understand the criminal mind and hence adopt effective measures of mitigating the criminal activities. For instance, property theft was Victoria’s most prevalent crime classification in 2019 (Campbell, 2020). The RCT suggests therefore that the perpetrator has already considered all these risks and concludes that the reward for taking such a risk which is becoming the new owner of a stolen property extends beyond the risks of committing the crime.

In order to understand the behavior of people engaged in offences such as property and deception crime, researchers have established and analysed a series of shortcomings of the RCT. Opponents and proponents of the RCT theory have elicited mixed reactions on the effectiveness of the theory in understanding the root cause of criminal activities. Initially, the most fundamental assumption of the Rational Choice Theory is that a criminal act rationally when they commit a crime (Ogu, 2013). Time can prevent or allow a particular criminal activity. Time is an essential commodity during a criminal event. Therefore, thieves rely on their instincts and not necessarily their rational capability. There are various examples that can be used to show the limitations of the rational choice theory. For example, a thief may decide to rob a person walking along the road. However, before he strikes, another person joins the two people in the same direction. The thief most likely will have to abort the mission. Moreover, a carjacker may plan to break into a car in a dark alley. However, when a police patrol car arrives, the thieves will be forced to stop and run away. This can occur even if the police did not know of the impending car theft. The RCT fails to provide a concreate reason why an offender continues with his plan even if the risk increases without the increase in the value of the reward does not justify why the perpetrator takes further chances and snatches the phone successfully.

Among the criminological theories, the Routine Activity Theory can be used to complement the weakness of the Rational Choice Theory. The RAT posits that criminal activities can be undertaken in any place provided there is a motivated criminal, a potential target, and lack of a preventive strategy (Leukfeldt & Yar, 2016). Unlike the RCT which focuses on offender rationality, RAT explores a crime from the offender’s perspective. The availability of an opportunity plays an integral role in the process of committing a crime. For example, when a thief sees a person leaving a bank with cash in an envelope, he sees an opportunity to undertake a criminal activity. The offender therefore looks around is there if a potential threat that can hinder the crime from taking place. If the person enters an isolated alley, thief will eventually acquire an ample opportunity to rob the person since all the underlying factors have been met. It is therefore evident that crime rates have a direct impact on the daily social interactions and events (Payne et al., 2021, p. 8). There are several potential offenders who fail to commit a criminal activity since all the three underlying factors; offender, target and crime-prevention mechanism may fail to occur at the same time. The RAT model therefore argues that crime can occur anywhere at any time provided there is a good opportunity for the offender. Moreover, time plays a great role in the occurrence of property and deception offender.

According to Aumair and Warren, (1994), the theory of rational choice (RCT) argues that criminals are conscious individuals who assess possible consequences before committing a crime. In other words, in the face of a decision, offenders take into account the costs and issues associated with each choice in regards to a particular crime. Prospective criminals then pick the option that brings the lowest risk to the most value. This suggests that criminals choose criminality because the possible reward is greater than the harm. RCT’s strength lies in its simplicity. This is a straightforward and simple idea that is not only simple to understand, but also helps us to assess and accept the decisions of offenders (Cunneen and White, 2011). Perhaps more significantly, people are fair in assessing future consequences. In general, people all make choices at one point another without weighing the costs and benefits of that option. Individuals make decisions because the moment they jump into your mind sounds amazing. The results of this option are not assessed or considered. RCT does not justify these kinds of impulsive behavior.

Firstly, the principle of rational decision is founded on the presumption that the perpetrator is a rational person. The offender is believed to be a person who objectively weighs the advantages of the crime of being caught (White and Sutton, 1995). The possibility of incarceration is the repercussion for a crime in particular in criminological terms. It says that if the impact were sufficiently large, it will prevent someone from committing the act. This is where certain penalties happen that do not always seem to match crime, why do we still have prison time for property-related offenses. Threats of incarceration and other sanctions, including the death penalty, have nevertheless been found to be unsuccessful (Smith et al., 2014). The threat of retribution has little influence on our decisions, since we humans sometimes do not care about the consequences until we take action. The theory presupposes an individual who considers a crime that means that it is premeditated will consider and execute the crime on the basis of the cost, risks and benefit of the action. Partly because of this, premeditated offenses are deemed more severe. And this is why this hypothesis has not actually been proven to be valid. Crimes sometimes happen without thinking.

RCT theory is that it an individualist model that does not integrate the views of the group. That is, if people actually base their decisions on personal profit calculation, why would they ever want to do anything to benefit others more than oneself. The second problem with the principle of rational choice is that it focuses entirely on social norms (Steffensmeier et al., 2015, p. 207). According to opponents of individualistic philosophies, the nature of broader social systems does not have to be adequately clarified or taken into account, because there must be social structures which must not be reduced to the behavior of individuals and thus explained in different terms. In order to effectively understand the root cause of criminal activities in Victoria, there is a need to integrate more than one theoretical framework. For example, the rational choice theory can be implemented alongside the routine activity theory. This enables one theory to complement the other in regards to theoretical weakness. Although RCT’s rationality framework helps in explaining the motivation behind the behavior of property and deception offenders within the state of Victoria, the inclusion of the routine activity theory helps in providing a different perspective on the issue.

For instance, RAT introduces the concept of opportunity which allows a crime to be committed. RAR model focuses on the role of the offender, the target and a crime-prevention mechanism on the occurrence and prevalence of various crimes (Narayan, and Smyth, 2004). The Victoria Police for instance can understand the criminal behavior which may help in profiling potential criminals. Profiling of criminals help in crime prevention since the law enforcement officers are able to arrest offenders before they commit a crime. Moreover, the Office of the Public Prosecution can ensure that they prosecute the offenders depending on the nature of their crimes. The property and deception offenses for instance attracts fines and short-term imprisonment. However, in the case of aggravated burglary, the offenders can serve several years in jail. Gaining knowledge and understanding about the criminological theories can also benefit the local communities since they also play a part in crime prevention (Brown, 2015). If the public understand what motivates the offenders, they can easily profile prospective criminals and help the Victoria Police in arresting the offenders. In essence, combating property and deception offences in Victoria requires a collective action among key policy makers, the law enforcement department as well as the general public.


In summary, it is evident that a single theory such as the Rational Choice Theory cannot be effectively used to explain the root cause of criminal activities in Victoria. There is a need for two or more theories since they can complement the weakness of each other. For example, the Routine Activity Theory can efficiently complement the RCT model since it investigates offences from the offender’s point of view. Policymakers such as the Department of Home Affairs (DoHA), the Victoria Police and the Office of the Public Prosecution hence can integrate the two theories in the quest to find an amicable solution to the criminological problem across Victoria. The stakeholders should create a multi-agency taskforce that involves law enforcement, the local communities and the government to establish the most viable strategy that can be used to combat property and deception offences in the region. By understanding the impact of the RAT and RCT models on crime fighting, the stakeholders can undertake effective strategies.

References List

Aumair, M. and Warren, I., 1994. Characteristics of juvenile gangs in Melbourne. Youth Studies Australia, 13(2), pp.40-44.

Bond, M. 2015. Criminology: Rational choice theory explained. LinkedIn. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from

Brown, R., 2015. Explaining the property crime drop: The offender perspective. Trends and issues in crime and criminal justice, (495), pp.1-7.

Campbell, D. 2020. The worst places for Victorians to leave cars unlocked this summer. ABC. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from

Crime Statistics Agency Victoria. 2021. Criminal Incident Rate Per 100,000 Population. Crime Statistics Agency Victoria

Cunneen, C. and White, R., 2011. Juvenile justice: Youth and crime in Australia. Oxford University Press.

Leukfeldt, E. and Yar, M. 2016. Applying routine activity theory to cybercrime: A theoretical and empirical analysis. Deviant Behavior37(3), 263-280. 

Mills, T., and Furci, A. 2018. The problem with Victoria’s crime rate. The Age. Retrieved April 12, 2021, from

Narayan, P.K. and Smyth, R., 2004. Crime rates, male youth unemployment and real income in Australia: evidence from Granger causality tests. Applied Economics, 36(18), pp.2079-2095.

Nelson, P., 2015. Violent and property crime trends: Local and international comparisons. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Issues Paper, 109.

Payne, J.L., Morgan, A. and Piquero, A.R., 2021. Exploring regional variability in the short-term impact of COVID-19 on property crime in Queensland, Australia. Crime Science, 10(1), pp.1-20.

Ogu, M. I. (2013). Rational choice theory : Assumptions , Strenghts , and greatest weaknesses in application outside the western milieu context. Nigerian Chapter of Arabian Journal of Business and Management Review1(3), 90-99

Smith, R.G., Jorna, P., Sweeney, J. and Fuller, G., 2014. Counting the costs of crime in Australia: A 2011 estimate. AIC reports. Research and Public Policy series., p.xvii.

Steffensmeier, D., Harris, C.T. and Painter-Davis, N., 2015. Gender and arrests for larceny, fraud, forgery, and embezzlement: conventional or occupational property crime offenders?. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(3), pp.205-217.

White, R. and Sutton, A., 1995. Crime prevention, urban space and social exclusion. The Australian and New Zealand journal of sociology, 31(1), pp.82-99.


How can the rational choice theory be applied in property offences in Victoria (AU).

Harvard Style, 8 pages, at least 10 references