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CRIM 12 Criminology

Published : 07-Oct,2021  |  Views : 10


This week has covered several theories of crime causation including Rational Choice Theory, Trait Theory, and the Developmental Theories; Life Course, Propensity, and Trajectory. Select one of these theories that you feel best describes why crime occurs, and write a well-constructed, essay explaining how this theory applies to crime and criminals. What causes criminals to act and therefore crimes to occur?


The Rational Choice Crime Theory

Over the recent past, crime rates have increased in most nations especially in urban centers. For instance, some Americans based in different cities such as Mexico, Chicago, Alaska, Tennessee, and Nevada expressed their concerns about the rise in crime rates ranging from property crime and violent crime. Notably, the police department has recorded different variations in crime rates from city to city and state to state. However, according to FBI reports in 2015, there has been a decline in crime rates over the past five years in the US. Moreover, other criminal records have been registered in other nations.  

Crime has become a controversial matter in most governments. Evidently, most of the government officials have made crime fighting a priority in their political sovereignty. For instance, the White House and Justice Department in US formulated steps to address crime in America in 2017. Consequently, different cultures have implemented measures to curb criminal activities. There are different ways in which cultures provide punishment to criminals based on the extent of crime and the regulations of the given society. As a controversial subject, it is common to question why criminals engage in crime despite being aware of the consequences. Several theories exist seeking to explain why criminals engage in crime. They include rational choice theory, trait theory, and the developmental theories; life course, propensity, and trajectory. To further address why crime occurs, the discussion will focus on the rational choice theory of crime.

The rational choice theory of crime was developed by Cornish and Clarke in 1986 to explain what causes criminals to act and therefore crime occurs. The theory assumes that human beings are rational and self-interested who are affected by the consequences of their decisions. From this standpoint, the theory explains that criminals are not compelled or forced to commit a crime, rather their criminal actions are controlled by their rational interests. The theory assumes that criminals commit a crime by rational choice and consideration of the benefits and costs of their actions. Consequently, the theory generalizes that an individual will commit a crime based on their self-interests and choices based on the rewards, benefits of the criminal action (Cornish & Clarke, 2014).  The theory argues that criminals commit crime voluntarily based on their deliberate choices on engaging in criminal actions such as car theft, murder, burglary, and assault, just like they choose to engage in other noncriminal activities such as going to school, work in a store or engage in recreational activities. Summing up, the theory assumes that human beings have choices which influence the decisions on whether or not to commit crimes.

Moreover, the rational choice can be further explained by considering a hedonistic calculus example. An intruder breaks into Chris’s apartments and steals expensive electronics. The rational choice theory can explain why the intruder chooses to break into Chris’s apartment and take the expensive electronics. Backing the theory, it is assumed that the burglar opted to break into Chris apartment maybe due to its accessibility and after weighing the costs and benefits of the expensive electronics against the pain from punishment. The intruder may have weighed that the electronics from Chris’s apartments will earn him a lot of money. Furthermore, he may spend money on things or activities that will bring him pleasure. However, if he is caught, he will go to jail which will subject him to pain. Hence, he weighs the possibility of getting caught and landing to jail against the pleasure if he gets way with the crime. Therefore, the intruder makes a rational choice to commit the crime after weighing the benefits of the crime against the consequences of going to jail.

The incident of the intruder breaking into Chris’s apartment and stealing his electronics is a good example of crime supported by rational choice theory. The intruder commits crime after making a logical choice on the costs and benefits of stealing the electronics against the costs of going to jail or not committing the crime. Evidently, the intruder choose the benefits of stealing the electronics and commits theft as a crime. Consequently, the intruder makes a choice to commit the crime based on his self-interests and ignoring the consequences of going to jail.


Cornish, D. B., & Clarke, R. V. (Eds.). (2014). The reasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending. Transaction Publishers.

Latest Crime Statistics Released. (2017). Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved from

The Rational Choice Theory of Criminology - Video & Lesson Transcript | (2017). Retrieved from

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