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The Rational Choice Theory versus The Trait Theory on the Issue of the Reduction or Control of Crime.

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Theoretical schools have long been used in the study of criminal behavior and as guidelines for determining ways to effectively reduce crimes. Two popular theories used in today 's society are the Rational Choice Theory and the Trait Theory. Some argue that the Choice Theory is a more effective way of reducing and controlling crime while others argue in favor of the Trait Theory. After researching both theories, I have come to the conclusion that there are obvious problems with both theories. However, in weighing both theories ' possible effectiveness on the reduction or control of criminal activity, I concluded that the Rational Choice Theory would be more effective.

The Rational Choice Theory is based on the idea of free will and that criminals choose to commit crimes.

"According to this view, law-violating behavior should be viewed as an event that occurs when an offender decides to risk violating the law after considering his or her own personal situation (need for money, personal values, learning experiences) and situational factors (how well a target is protected, how affluent the neighborhood is, how efficient the local police happen to be). Before choosing to commit a crime, the reasoning criminal evaluates the risk of apprehension, the seriousness of the expected punishment, the value of the criminal enterprise, and his or her immediate need for criminal gain." (Siegel, 1992, p.131).

On the other hand, the Trait Theory is based on the concept that certain biological or psychological traits exist in certain individuals, which with the right set of circumstances will cause them to commit crimes. This is not to say that there is such a thing as a "natural born criminal". However, it is entertaining the idea that people can be born with predisposed traits for criminal behavior. After considering the definitions of both theories I concluded that the Rational Choice Theory, in my opinion, makes more sense and would be more effective in reducing crime.

I arrived at this conclusion primarily, but not entirely, on the basis that I do not think that there are any predisposed traits for criminal behavior. Studies have proven time and time again that there is no scientific proof that these traits exist. For example, the extra Y chromosome theory stated that the presence of an extra Y chromosome made a person inherently criminal in nature. However, studies were conducted involving criminals and law abiding, up-standing, moral citizens and members of both groups were found to have an extra Y chromosome. I do however believe that given the right set of circumstances anyone can commit a crime but it is still a matter of choice not something that they are born with.

Furthermore, The Rational Choice Theory provides hope that criminal behavior can be changed and/or deterred where as in my opinion the Trait Theory leaves little room for hope of rehabilitation. I mean if people are actually born with predisposed traits for criminal behavior than once those traits are exposed there is nothing that can be done to change them. If they have no control over their actions and are incapable of resisting temptations than they will inevitably resort to deviant behavior any time they are left unsupervised and without proper guidance. To me the trait theory sounds like a cop out and this theory gives criminals an excuse to blame their actions on someone else or society itself. If people are not willing to take responsibility for their own actions than they will never learn how to correct their behavior. The Rational Choice Theory holds criminals accountable for their actions, which forces them to take responsibility for their actions and in turn recognize that in reality there is no one to blame but themselves.

The Rational Choice Theory provides a basis for analyzing the criminal decision making process. According to Larry Siegel,

"This perspective shifts attention to the act of engaging in criminal or deviant activity. The issue becomes, what can be done to make the act of crime or deviance less attractive to the individual? How can crime or deviant behavior be prevented? "...crime prevention or at least crime reduction may be achieved through policies that convince criminals to desist from criminal activities, delay their actions, or avoid a particular target." (1992, p.133).

Some approaches that can be used to prevent or reduce crime based on the Rational Choice Theory include target-hardening such as installing alarm systems, taking self defense courses, and neighborhood watch programs, and legal deterrents such as increasing the police force, enforcing stiffer penalties, creating mandatory sentencing for all types of crimes, the three-strikes-and-your-out-law and the death penalty. These preventive approaches may not work for all criminal behavior but studies have shown that they have been effective in reducing and preventing some criminal behavior.

References

Keel, R. (2004, August 23), Rational Choice and Deterrence Theory. Retrieved September 16, 2004, from http://www.umsl.edu/~rkeel/200/ratchoc.html

Siegel, L. (1992). Criminology. 4th Ed. New York: West Publishing.

References: Keel, R. (2004, August 23), Rational Choice and Deterrence Theory. Retrieved September 16, 2004, from http://www.umsl.edu/~rkeel/200/ratchoc.html Siegel, L. (1992). Criminology. 4th Ed. New York: West Publishing.

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