Theories and Burglary

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Madeline Hutcherson
Criminology
Writing 1
Theories and Burglary

Routine activities theory is a theory that was created in the late 1970’s meant to explain crime and victimization. The routine activities theory is based off of the assumption made in previous theories such as deterrence and rational choice theory, which offenders rationally think out criminal behaviors before they engage in them. This assumption includes the theory that offenders calculate risks and consequences before committing a crime. The routine activities theory suggests that there are three elements that contribute to whether a crime will be committed or not. In order for a crime to be committed according to theory there must be: a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a guardian.

Motivated offenders are individuals who are not only capable of committing criminal activity, but are willing to do so. Motivation could be the excitement of committing the crime, or committing a crime in order to gain money or other benefits. Motivated offenders have usually already decided on the fact that they are going to commit a crime, and move on to how, when, where, and against who that the crime will be committed.

The term guardian most often refers to members in the community who may potentially witness a criminal act. For example a guardian could be but is certainly no limited to a police officer. Other guardians may be neighbors, friends, family members, or just by standers. They say that there is safety in numbers, and according to this theory, it is true. The lack of a guardian creates a mindset of “no one is watching” which combined with a motivated offender and a vulnerable target, increases the likelihood that a crime will occur.

A “suitable target” can refer to either a person or an object depending on the crime. According to Felson, there are a number of factors that can create a “suitable target.” One factor is the value that a target holds which can be defined by the amount of money a target is worth. Value can also refer to items that are popular at the given time such as ipods, beats, or trendy clothing. Another factor is inertia, which refers to how easily an item or person is to access. For example if an item is lightweight or easy to move such as a bicycle, it is much more likely to be stolen versus a heavy or stationary item. A lightweight object could be a computer, a television, or other valuable but small objects. Visibility is also a factor and refers to how visible the target is to the motivated offender. In the instance of property, if an item or person is “left in plain sight” without a guardian there is a higher chance of criminals act being committed. The last factor is access. Access addresses how easily the offender can go to where the crime will be committed, commit the crime, and exit the crime scene in a non-interrupted fashion.

Routine activities theory better applies to property crime rather than to personal crime. In this instance the routine activities theory will be used to explain burglary. Burglary is defined as the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. Burglary rates for various reasons such as law enforcement, education, and the economy, have fluctuated up and down. With that said there are still victims of burglary every day, and according to research there is a victim of burglary every 15 seconds. Victims of burglary may experience a loss of personal property and, or the loss of a peace of mind inside their own home, or property.

According the routines activities theory, a burglar will first decide to commit the crime through a thought out process, and then will use the same rationality to chose a target. The burglar will weigh both the risks and the benefits of specific targets in order to choose a target that presents the least amount of risk factors that would lead to being caught,...
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