Rational Choice Theory in Criminology Essay - Essay Prowess

Rational Choice Theory in Criminology Essay


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Rational Choice Theory in Criminology

The rational choice theory applies to the utilitarian principle in criminology. The theory suggests that human beings are rational creatures. All the people analyze the outcomes of their possible actions. The analysis serves as the foundation for their choices and actions, particularly committing criminal activities (Piquero and Weisburd 123). Every individual is considered a rational actor. People apply their logic to comprehend the circumstances. They also utilize their logic to analyze options and decide the best course of actions (Tibbetts 5). People utilize rationality to evaluate mean and ends. Every decision and choices encompass the evaluation of the means of accomplishing some ends (Einstadter and Stuart 103). The rational choice theory argues that individuals apply reasoning to evaluate what the ends could be. Additionally, individuals also use their reason to contemplate about ways of accomplishing these ends.

Human behaviors are outcomes of pleasure and cost-benefit analysis. When a criminal analyzes options, he or she looks at the benefit and cost, or pleasure and pain. For instance, he or she determines the cost and probable pain of undertaking a certain activity (Tibbetts 15). Besides, they also determine the pleasure and benefits of the outcomes of their activities. In most cases, a criminal chooses the option that offers the least point or cost, and the biggest pleasure or benefits.  Therefore, the government can use rational choice theory to change individual decisions that can affect personal ones. For instance, the administration can initiate tougher punishment for delinquencies and crimes (Einstadter and Stuart 105). Consequently, tougher punishment discourages criminals from engaging in delinquencies or crime. Harsher punishment increases the pain and the cost while pleasure remains the same (Walklate 8).

Rational choice theory argues that criminals weigh benefits and cost, and the rewards and risk of their activities. The theory is essentially concerned on maximizing the self-interest (Vito and Jeffrey 9). Criminal work towards their benefit while avoiding risking their life. Rational choice theory is applied in crime prevention because it focuses on the ways to reduce the opportunities of being a criminal (Tibbetts 19). However, RCT focuses on the average person who applies criminal actions to survive.

Rational choice theory can be applied to residential burglary, particularly in middle-class apartments.  According to Piquero and Weisburd, lawbreakers involved in residential burglary are more experienced and older as compared to those operating on house projects (Vito and Jeffrey 9). However, they are less sophisticated relative to those dealing with wealthier residences.  At the initial stage of criminal development, offenders pass through various decision points (Piquero and Weisburd 123). In addition, they are ready to commit some offenses to meet certain needs for excitement, goods or money. An offender has made a decision that under favorable conditions he would commit these offenses.

The second factor that influences the decision to be involved in crime is the need for money, drinking with friends who propose committing a burglary. In the course of the offense, he or she may consider it an easy opportunity. Consequently, a criminal considers the variables related to illegal event, and its effects after succeeding or failure (Piquero and Weisburd 125). Both choices focus on relatively greater ease of access and escape, and the entire wealth of the final choice. The majority of burglars are involved in offenses during the specific period. The continuous process focuses on different crucial penalties of a long-term criminal career (Einstadter and Stuart 110). Such outcomes will involve criminal sentences and escapes from capture. However, criminal sentences increase the shift from the legal life because the chances get legal jobs decreases. Besides, family ties with the offender weaken. Tibbetts argues that criminals are always looking for opportunities that benefit them with limited harm to themselves.  Criminal records indicate that burglaries in the United States only decreased by 2 per cent from 2010 to 2005 (Tibbetts 5). The reports indicate that a lot of people have always chosen to commit offenses. The government utilizes billions of dollars to handle crimimal activities, but there is no significant change because people chose crime.

The traditional choice theory is applicable in crime prevention. According to Vito and Jeffrey, target hardening involves increasing the efforts an individual must use to commit a crime. He suggested, that by shielding places and defending properties as well as limiting accessibility criminals are less likely to approach the target (Vito and Jeffrey 19). For instance, by fencing a factory with barbed wire, it makes it harder for offenders to enter the firm and what they are intending to steal (Piquero and Weisburd 130). Moreover, it can be reduced by enhancing the offending risks through natural, worker, security guards and police surveillances. Natural surveillance involved eliminating materials that could easily prevent a person’s view and allows a criminal to have more hiding places (Einstadter and Stuart 113).

Furthermore, the government should remove things that are targeted by the criminals. For example, ensuring that no large amounts of money are in one place to reduce the rewards of stealing or robbing it (Vito and Jeffrey 19). In addition, some businesses now have safes where they drop money even if they are attacked, they loss small amounts of money. A study by Piquero and Weisburd indicate that top floor in the Decker buses was more likely to be vandalized as compared to the lower floor. Applying the rational choice theory shows that the risk of stealing from the top floor is much slower as compared to the lower floor (Piquero and Weisburd 29). The underlying reason is that bus drivers cannot watch the area, hence there is no risk of vandalizing. The best method to reduce the risk of crime is by utilizing adequate surveillance so that the risk of being caught is increased than the rewards. These strategies minimize criminal activities because the majority of people will see the risk as higher than the rewards.

The core reason is that if they were caught they would not receive their worth of what they were trying to achieve. The second best strategy is to remove the target since the risk would remain constant by minimizing the benefit of committing crime, then the cost may be higher than the reward (Piquero and Weisburd 139). This approach helps, but in case the risk and benefit is constant, then having to spend more energy would not make sense because the reward is not worth it.


Human being is a rational actor and is able to choose behaviors such as crime and conforming to the law. The main factor in decision-making encompasses cost benefit analyses (Walklate 9). The choices human being does depend on the cost or potential pain versus benefit or rewards. The government is responsible for maintaining law and order, and ensuring there is a common good via different law systems (Einstadter and Stuart 120). The severity, swiftness and punishment influence the kind of behavior peopele will follow.

Works Cited

Einstadter, Werner J., and Stuart Henry. Criminological Theory. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2006. Print.

Piquero, Alexis Russell, and David Weisburd. Handbook Of Quantitative Criminology. New York: Springer, 2010. Print.

Tibbetts, Stephen G. Criminological Theory. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2012. Print.

Vito, Gennaro F., and Jeffrey R. Maahs. Criminology. Sudbury, Mass.: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2012. Print.

Walklate, Sandra. Understanding Criminology. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill/Open University Press, 2007. Print.