WDW205H Chapter Five Choice Theory Notes

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Woodsworth College Courses
Breese Davies

th September 29 , 2012 Chapter 5 Choice Theory - Choice theory: the view that delinquent behaviour is a rational choice made by a motivated offender who perceives the chances of gain as outweighing any perceived punishment or loss - Classical criminology: the theory that people have free will, choose to commit crime for reasons of greed or need, and can be controlled only by the fear of criminal sanctions - Utilitarianism: a view that believes punishment of crime should be balanced and fair, and that even criminal behaviour must be seen as purposeful and reasonable - Crime displacement: an effect of crime prevention efforts, in which efforts to control crime in one area shift illegal activities to another area - Offence-specific crime: an illegal act committed by offenders reacting selectively to characteristics of particular offences, assessing opportunity and guardianship; relevant to routine activities theory - Offender-specific crime: an illegal act committed by offenders who do not usually engage in random acts of antisocial behaviour, but who evaluate their skill at accomplishing the crime - Rational choice theory: the view that crime is a function of a decision-making process, in which the potential offender weighs the potential costs and benefits of an illegal act - Routine activities theory: the view that crime is a normal function of routine activities of modern living; offences occur when a suitable target is not protected by capable guardians - Macro perspective: a large-scale view that takes into account social and economic reasons to explain how and why things happen; relevant to Marxism and functionalism - Micro perspective: a small-scale view of events, looking at interaction to explain how and why things happen; relevant to interactionist studies of deviance and development - Capable guardians: in routine activities theory, the presence of police, homeowners, neighbours, and others, which can have a deterrent effect on crime - Motivated criminals: the potential offenders in a population. According to rational choice theory, crime rates will vary according to the number of motivated offenders - Instrumental crime: illegal activity, such as the sale of narcotics, committed for the purpose of obtaining desired goods that are unable to be attained through conventional means - Seductions of crime: according to Katz, the visceral and emotional appeal that the situation of crime has for those who engage in illegal acts - Situational crime prevention: a method to eliminate or reduce particular crimes in narrow settings, such as increasing lighting and installing security alarms - Defensible space: the principle that crime prevention can be achieved through modifying the physical environment to reduce the opportunity individuals have to commit crime - Target reduction strategies: methods for reducing crime through the use of locks, bars, alarms, and other devices; based on the routine activities theory and its analysis of potential risk factors - Extinction: the phenomenon in which a crime prevention effort has an immediate impact that dissipates as criminals adjust to new conditions - Diffusion of benefits: an effect that occurs when an effort to control one type of crime has the unexpected benefit of reducing the incidence of another type of crime th September 29 , 2012 - Discouragement: the effect when efforts made to eliminate one type of crime also control other types of crime by limiting access to desirable targets and thereby reducing the value of the criminal activity - General deterrence: a crime control policy that depends on the fear of criminal penalties, such as long prison sentences for violent crimes aimed at convincing the potential law violator that the pains associated with crime outweigh its benefits - Crackdown: the concentration of police resources on a particular problem area, such as street-level drug dealing, to eradicate or displace criminal activity - Brutalization effect: the outcome of capital punishment having created an atmosphere of brutality, which reinforces the view that violence is an appropriate response to provocation - Conflict-linked crime or violence: an expressive crime or an act of expressive violence involving people who know each other and who may be under the influence of drugs - Perceptual deterrence: the view that the perceived risk of being caught or the threat of severe punishments can deter active criminal offenders - Informal sanctions: the disapproval of parents, peers, and neighbours directed toward an offender, which may have a greater crime-reducing impact than the fear of formal legal punishments - Specific deterrence: a crime control policy suggesting that punishment be severe; that individuals can be prevented from committing a crime if cost outweighs benefit - Stigmatization: an enduring label that taints a person’s identity and changes him or her in the eyes of others - Degradation: shaming occurs when the offender is branded as evil and cast out of society through a ritual exclusion, such as school disciplinary hearing or a criminal court trial - Reintegrative shaming: a method of correction that encourages offenders to confront their misdeeds, experience shame, and then be reincluded in society - Selective incapacitation: the policy of creating enhanced prison sentences for the relatively small group of dangerous chronic offenders - Just desert: the philosophy of justice that asserts that those who violate the rights of others deserve to be punished, with severity commensurate with the seriousness of the crime - Blameworthy: the amount of culpability or guilt a person maintains for participating in a particular criminal offence Introduction - Some criminologists believe persistence is a function of personal choice. The decision to violate the law is made for a variety of personal reasons, including greed, revenge, etc - The illegal act is a matter of individual decision making, a rational choice made after weighing the potential benefits and consequences of crime - People choose crime because they find it rewarding, satisfying, easy, or fun - Desistence is explained by a growing and intense fear of punishment The Development of Classical Theory - Theories of crime based on the rational decision making of motivated criminals can trace their roots to the classical school of criminology th September 29 , 2012 - Classical criminology was based on the works of Beccaria, Bentham, and others - The core of classical criminology are the following concepts: o People choose all behaviour, including crime o Society must provide the greatest good for the greatest number o Individuals give up some of their liberty in exchange for social protection o People’s choices can be controlled by the fear of punishment o Etc (see page 142) - Beccaria saw people as egotistical and self-centred, needed to be goaded by the fear of punishment - He believed that punishments must be proportional to the crimes, otherwise people would not be deterred from committing more serious offences - The belief that punishment should fit the crime and that people should be punished proportionately for their criminal acts was widely adopted throughout Europe and North America - Jeremy Bentham helped popularize Beccaria’s views in his writings on utilitarianism o Actions are evaluated by their tendency to produce advantage, pleasure, and happiness, and to avoid or prevent mischief, pain, evil, or unhappiness o Bentham believed the purpose of all law is to produce and support the total happiness of the community it serves o Punishment has four main objectives:  To prevent all criminal offences  To convince the offender to commit the least serious crime possible  To ensure that a criminal uses no more force than is necessary  To prevent crime as cheaply as possible - A prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments was incorporated into the Charter section 12 “everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment of punishment” Choice Theory Emerges - The classical approach began to enjoy a resurgence of popularity in the mid-1970s - Several criminologists produced books on the theme that criminals are rational actors who plan their crimes, fear punishment, and deserve to be penalized for their misdeeds - James Q. Wilson debunked the idea that crime is caused by poverty and can be altered by government programs. He argued instead that efforts should be made to reduce criminal opportunity by deterring would-be offenders and incarcerating known criminals o Those people likely to commit crime lack inhibition against misconduct, value the excitement of breaking the law, have a low stake in conformity, and are willing to take greater chances than the average person o If they can be convinced that their actions will bring severe punishment, only the totally irrational will commit crime Does Crime Pay? - Rational offenders are induced to commit crime if they perceive that crime pays more than they could earn from a legitimate job - Research shows that criminals may be motivated to commit crime when they know of others who have made “big scores” and who are quite successful at crime th September 29 , 2012 - Crime does not pay, but small significant subset of criminals actually enjoy earnings of close to $50,000 per year from crime, and their success may help motivate other would- be offenders - Crime profits are reduced by the costs of a criminal career: legal fees, bail bonds, the loss of family income, and the psychological cost of a prison sentence o Most criminals actually earn little from crime - Reasons why criminals commit crime: o Criminals tend to overestimate the money they can earn  Criminals’ estimates were more than 12 times higher than a realistic assessment of their earning potential o Some criminals believe they have no choice but to commit crime because legitimate work is unavailable o Criminals believe eventually everyone is caught and punished, but they are overly optimistic about getting away with each individual crime The Concepts of Rational Choice - According to the rational choice approach, law-violating behaviour occurs when an offender decides to commit crime after considering both personal factors (need for money, revenge, etc) and situational factors (how well a target is protected, the efficiency of the police) - Before choosing to commit a crime, the reasoning criminal evaluates the risk of apprehension, the seriousness of expected punishment, the potential value of the criminal enterprise, and the need for criminal gain - The decision to commit a crime is a matter of personal decision making, which is based on weighing the available information - When police begin to concentrate patrols in a particular area of the city, crime rates tend to increase in adjacent areas that may be perceived by criminals as being safer (crime displacement) Offence and Offender Specifications - Crime is both offence- and offender-specific - Offence-specific crime refers to looking at the characteristics of particular offences, i.e. burglary might involve evaluating the target’s likely cash yield, the availability of a getaway car, and the probability of capture by police - Offender-specific crime refers to how criminals do not usually engage in random acts of antisocial behaviour o They analyze whether they have the appropriate skills, motives, needs, and fears - Crime is an event; criminality is a personal trait Structuring Criminality - Offenders are more likely to desist from crime if they believe that 1) their future criminal earnings will be relatively low and 2) attractive and legal income-generating opportunities are available - Fluctuations in the perceptions of risk over a person’s lifetime also influence choices o I.e. experienced criminals may desist when they believe the risks are greater than the profit th September 29 , 2012 - Learning and experience are important elements in the choice of crime - Personality and lifestyle also help structure criminal choices o According to Agnew, people who choose crime over conformity share similar personal traits: they feel they can do what they want, they have less self-control than other people and seem unaffected by fear of punishment, and they are under stress or facing a personal problem that forces them to choose risky behaviour Structuring Crime - The decision to commit crime is structured by the choice of 1) location, 2) target characteristics, and 3) the techniques available for its completion - Crack cocaine street dealers choose consider the middle of a long black as the best choice because they could see everything coming toward them from both directions - Rational choice is also used in locating targets o Burglars check to make sure that no one is home before they enter a residence - In Waterloo, recently, “obituary bandits” robbed homes when people were at funerals, after reading the death notices in newspapers - Houses with dogs are usually considered off-limits - Some burglars avoid freestanding buildings, which are more easily surrounded by police; others select targets with cash, such as bars, supermarkets, and restaurants - Burglars prefer working between 9am and 11am and in mid-afternoon, when parents are either working or dropping off/picking up kids at school - Burglars avoid Saturdays, but Sunday during church hours is a prime time - Bank robbers choose city banks over country banks because subway routes and areas with pedestrian traffic make escape easier - Criminals learn techniques that help them avoid detection; crack dealers learn how to stash crack cocaine in undisclosed locations so that they will not have to carry drugs on them - Rational choice involves shaping criminality and structuring crime. Personality, age, status, risk, and opportunity influence the decision to become a criminal; place, target, and techniques help to structure crime Rational choice and routine activities - Rational choice theory dovetails with routine activities theory, which maintains that a supply of motivated offenders, the absence of capable guardians, and the presence of suitable targets determine crime trends - Routine activities theory provides a macro perspective on crime, predicting how change in social and economic conditions influences the overall crime and victimization rates - Rational choice theory provides a micro perspective on why individual offenders decide to commit specific crimes Suitable Targets - Criminal choice is influenced by the perception of target vulnerability - Thieves choose sites that are convenient, familiar, and located in easily accessible and open areas - Criminals are unlikely to travel long distances to commit crimes and are more likely to drift toward the centre of a city th September 29 , 2012 - “permeable neighbourhoods”, those with a greater than usual number of access streets, are the neighbourhoods most likely to have high crime rates - The more accessible the target, the more likely that crime will occur Capable Guardians - The presence of capable guardians deters crime, because criminals tend to shy away from victims who are perceived to be armed and potentially dangerous - Guardianship can involve passive or mechanical devices, such as security fences or burglar alarms, which improve guardianship and limit offender access to targets - Living in a cohesive community reduces the likelihood of victimization o Tightly knit communities have higher levels of informal guardianship, with members more active in intervening in public deviant or criminal activities - Community cohesion was found to reduce robbery and assault committed by strangers near the home Motivated Criminals - Crime rates also correspond to the number of motivated criminals in the population (that is, teenage males, drug users, unemployed adults) - Rational offenders are less likely to commit crimes if they can achieve personal goals through legitimate means, so job availability reduces crime - Criminal motivation increases when the cost of living rises - Criminal motivation can be reduced if offenders perceive alternatives to crime - The perception of blocked legitimate opportunities increases criminal motivation - Crime became the choice when legitimate alternatives were absent - Potential offenders who perceive legitimate alternatives, such as high-paying jobs, are less likely to choose crime Interactive Effects - Motivation, opportunity, and targets are interactive - Motivated criminals will not commit crime unless they have suitable targets and the opportunity to exploit them - The presence of guardians will deter most offenders - Basic approaches to crime prevention: o Primary prevention: actions taken to reduce the occurrence of criminal acts (i.e. neighbourhood watch) o Secondary prevention: detecting early signs of high-risk individuals or situations before a crime takes place (i.e. Mothers Against Drunk Driving) o Tertiary prevention: intervention programs for youth or adult offenders to prevent further offences (i.e. community notification programs) - Environmental factors, such as physical layout and cultural style, may facilitate or restrict criminal opportunity o Motivated offenders living in these urban hot spots continually learn about criminal opportunities from peers, the media, and their own perceptions - Kids who are attached to their parents and spend their weekends at home report little in the way of criminal motivation; lack of opportunity may reduce motivation th September 29 , 2012 - Kids whose family relationships are strained, distant, and unrewarding are more likely to become attached to deviant peers, which in turn helps increase criminal motivation - Adolescents who spend a great deal of time socializing with peers in the absence of authority figures (riding around in cars, going to parties) are most likely to engage in deviance - Teenage boys have the highest crime rate because they are most likely to engage in unsupervised socializing - Opportunity combined with lack of guardianship increases criminal motivation Mapping - Because crime is a rational choice and involves guardianship, opportunity, and motivation, it is predictable and can be mapped - Producing maps based on either police reports or calls for service enables the police to understand where the hot spots are and where enforcement would be most effective - Offenders don’t travel far from home, and the frequency of offending is in inverse proportion to the distance from home (the distance-delay concept) Some crimes are the obvious product of rational and objective thought, especially when they involve an ongoing criminal conspiracy centred on economic gain Are Street Crimes Rational? - Street crimes, such as prostitution and petty theft, are not random acts but are the product of the careful assessment of environmental, social, and structural factors o I.e. serial killers target prostitutes because they think prostitutes are less likely to be missed than others - Auto thieves are highly selective in their choice of targets o If they want to sell the cars or keep them permanently, they choose Mercedes; for temporary use, Buicks are top-ranked - Vehicle selection is based on the cars’ attractiveness and suitability for a particular purpose - Prostitutes make clear choices in their daily activities o I.e. they resist sex practices that compromised their safety, such as sex without condoms, trading sex for drugs, etc - Burglars used an average of four different methods for the disposal of stolen goods o The most common method was trading stolen goods directly for drugs: adults chose heroin, juveniles chose cannabis o Other methods included selling to family and friends, fences, legitimate businesses, pawnbrokers, and second-hand dealers o Selling stolen goods was profitable and low risk - Many goods were stolen on commission and disposed of quickly, often in less than an hour - Burglars obtained 25% to 33% of the new price, earned about $2000 per week, and didn’t think they’d ever get caught Is Drug Use Rational? th September 29 , 2012 - Recreational drug users report that they begin taking drugs when they believe that drugs will provide an enjoyable and exciting experience, which is facilitated when friends and family members encourage drug use and abuse substances themselves - Heavy drug users and dealers use specific techniques to avoid apprehension by police o They scope out the territory to make sure nothing is out of place that may be a potential threat, such as police officers or rival gang members - Drug dealers are also careful about whether they should deal alone or in groups - Research shows dealing drugs is more of a complement to a regular income than a replacement - Dealers that sell on a daily basis sold on average four hours a day, earnings are generally low Can Violence Be Rational? - People who carry guns and are ready to use them typically do so for more rational reasons - Violent criminals are selective in their choice of suitable targets o I.e. robbers choose victims who are vulnerable and do not pose any threat, avoiding victims who may be armed and dangerous - Criminals are often scared off, wounded, or captured by armed victims - Serial murderers choose victims who are defenceless or cannot count on police protection: gay men, prostitutes, hitchhikers, children, hospital patients, seniors, etc - Even the most violent interactions are motivated by rational thought and not unthinking rage - Even in apparently senseless killings among strangers, the real motive was revenge for a prior dispute or disagreement among the parties involved (or their families) - Homicides can be motivated by the offenders’ desire to avoid retaliation from a victim they had assaulted or to avoid future prosecutions by getting rid of witnesses What Are the Seductions of Crime? - The focus of rational choice theory is on the opportunity to commit crime and on criminals’ decisions to commit crimes because doing so is attractive, brings rewards, excitement, prestige, and other desirable outcomes without lengthy work or effort - Katz talks about the benefits to criminality, which he labels the seductions of crime o These seductions or crime precede the commission of a crime and draw offenders into law violations o Youths want to do something exciting, so they break into and vandalize a school building o Shoplifting and vandalism are attractive because getting away with it is a thrilling achievement - Situational inducements created from emotional upheaval can also structure the decision to commit crime o When an individual is faced with humiliation or ridicule, he is likely to commit crime - People are most likely to be seduced by crime if they don’t fear either losing the respect of their peers or suffering legal punishments Eliminating Crime th September 29 , 2012 - If crime is rational, then it can be controlled by convincing both current and potential offenders that the choice of crime is a poor one and that it will bring not rewards but instead pain, hardship, and deprivation Crime Control Strategies Based on Rational Choice Situational Crime Prevention - Deny the access of motivated offenders to suitable targets - Home security system signals guardianship - Problems are the extinction of the effect and displacement of crime General Deterrence Strategies - Make potential criminals fear the consequences of crime - Operationalization involves mandatory sentences and aggressive policing - Problems are criminals who do not fear punishment; certainty of arrest and punishment are low Specific Deterrence Strategy - Punish known criminals so that they will not repeat their offences - Harsh prison sentences and stiff fines - Problem is that punishment may increase re-offending rates Incapacitation Strategies - Reduce crime by incarcerating motivated offenders - Long prison sentences, placing more people behind bars - Problems are minor, non-dangerous offenders are locked up; very costly strategy Situational Crime Prevention - Crime prevention and crime reduction should be achieved through policies that convince potential criminals to desist from criminal activities, delay their actions, or avoid a particular target - Criminal acts will be avoided if 1) potential targets are carefully guarded, 2) the means to commit crime are controlled, and 3) potential offenders are carefully monitored - Crime prevention can be achieved by reducing the opportunities people have to commit particular crimes, a practice known as situational crime prevention - Oscar Newman coined the term defensible space to signify that crime can be prevented or displaced through the use of residential architectural designs that reduce criminal opportunity, such as maximize surveillance - Despite the claims of many programs, most situational crime prevention efforts have mixed success - Sometimes assuming the rational basis of crime might overestimate the extent to which people consider the legal consequences of their actions o I.e. Neighbourhood Watch programs are popular, but their main effect is probably to improve people’s attitudes about their neighbourhoods, not to reduce crime Crime Prevention Strategies - Several situational crime prevention efforts might reduce crime rates o One approach is to create an overall community strategy to reduce crime in general. This strategy might include these elements:  Shopping areas and schools kept separate  After-school and weekend activities to keep children under adult supervision th September 29 , 2012  Construction of housing to maximize guardianship and minimize illegal behaviour  Etc - These are designed to reduce crime by limiting the access that members of a highly motivated offender group (high-school students) have to tempting targets - Robberies and vandalism occur close to urban high schools - Crime prevention policy and local practice should be based on using what works best - Interventions that are effective in preventing crime: social-skills training for children, face-to-face restorative justice conferences involving victims and offenders, hot-spots policing, etc Targeting Specific Crimes - Crime prevention tactics in use today generally fall into one of four categories: 1) increasing the effort needed to com
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