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Chapter 5

WDW101Y1 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Glasser'S Choice Theory, Crime Prevention, Plaintext

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Scot Wortley

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Chapter 5: Choice Theory
-Some criminologists: persistence is a function of personal choice
-Central issue: illegal act is a matter of the individual decision making
-People choose crime because it is rewarding, satisfying and fun
-Desistence is a growing and intense fear of punishment
The Development of Classical Theory Pg. 140
-Classical school of criminology: crime based on the rational decision making of motivated criminals
-Beccaria, Bentham core concepts:
-People choose all behaviour,, including crime
-A violation of another person is a violation of the social contract
-Society must provide the greatest good for the greatest number
-The law shouldn’t try to legislate morality
-People should be presumed innocent until proven guilty, with no torture
-Laws should be written out with punishment prescribed in advance
-Individuals give up some of their liberty in exchange for social protection
-People are motivated by pain + pleasure
-Punishment should be limited to what is necessary to deter people from crime
-Punishment should be severe, certain and swift
-The law must be rational, transparent and just or is itself a crime
-Peoples choices can be controlled by the fear of punishment
-Severity, certainty and swiftness of punishment are more effective in controlling criminal
-Beccaria: punishment must be proportional to crimes
-Inspired: criminals choose to commit crime and that crime can be controlled by the judicious
application of criminal punishments
-Powerful influence on events in the criminal justice system
-Utilitarianism: actions are evaluated by their tendency to produce advantage, pleasure and
happiness and to avoid or to prevent mischief, pain evil or unhappiness
-Punishment has 4 main objectives
(1) to prevent all criminal offences
(2) to convince the offender to commit a less serious crime when it cannot prevent a crime
(3) to ensure that criminal uses no more force than is necessary
(4) to prevent crime as cheaply as possible
-use of torture was largely abandoned in the 19th century
-positivist criminologists focused on the internal and external factors (poverty, low IQ,
poor education, inadequate home life)
Choice Theory Emerges Pg. 141
-positivist criminology: crime caused by social or psychological opportunities, crime rates
reduced by providing good jobs and economic opportunities
-Wilson argued: efforts should be made to reduce criminal opportunity by deterring
would-be offenders and incarcerating known criminals
-Incapacitating criminals should not be the sole goal of the justice system
-Wilson said that unless we react forcefully to crime, those sitting on the fence will get a
clear message “Crime pays”
-Political decision makers focused blame on the individual rather than social conditions
Does Crime Pay Pg.142
-Rational offenders are induced to commit crime if they perceive that crime pays more than they
could earn from a legit job
-Crime pays if the benefits of employment are lower than the expected benefits of theft

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-Wilson and Abrahams: sample of incarcerated inmates to determine their perceived and actual
“take” from crime
-Found that mid-rate burglars on average earn about 32 percent of what they could have earned in a
legit job
-High-rate burglars earn roughly what they would have earned from a job
-Research shows that criminals are more prone to crime if they know someone who’s committed a
crime that has a big pay off
-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 (most criminal actually earn little from crime)
-Why are people committing crime with low payoff?
-Criminals tend to overestimate the money they can earn
-Some criminal believe they have no choice but to commit crime because legitimate work is
-Criminals are most likely to be underemployed than to be unemployed
-Criminals take the short term view rather than the long term
The Concept of Rational Choice Pg.143
-Rational choice: law violating behavior occurs when an offender decides to commit crime after
considering both personal factors and situation factors
-Personal factors: need for money, revenge, thrills and entertainment
-Situational factors: how well a target is protected and the efficiency of the local police force)
-Decision to commit a crime is a matter of personal decision making based on weighing the available
-Another reason: Economic benefits are no longer there or that the risk of apprehension is too great
Offence and Offender Specifications Pg. 144
-Offence specific crime: refers to how offenders react selectively to the characteristics of particular
-Offender specific crimes: refers to how criminals do not usually engage in random acts of antisocial
-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
-(2) attractive and legal income generating opportunities are available
-Fluctuations in the perceptions of risk in a person’s lifetime also influence choice
-Learning and experiences are important elements in the choice of crime
-Agnew: people who choose crime over conformity share similar personal traits
-(1) they feel as if they can do what they want to and perceive a lack of social constraints
-(2) they have less self-control then other people and seem unaffected by fear of punishment
-(3) they are typically under stress of facing some serious personal problems or condition that force
them to choose risky behavior
Structuring Crime
-Decision to commit crime: (1) location, (2) target characteristics (3) techniques available for its
Choosing the Place of Crime
-Middle of long block considered to be best choice; could see everything coming toward them from
both directions
-Dealers often scope area before setting up shop
Choosing Targets
-Rational choice is also used in locating targets

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-Some burglars avoid freestanding building, which are more easily surrounded by police
-Prime time: Sunday at church, weekdays 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Learning Criminal Techniques
-Criminals learn techniques that avoid detection
-Personality, age, status, risk an opportunity influence the decision to become a criminal
-Place, target and techniques help to structure crime
Rational Choice and Routine Activities Pg. 145
-Rational choice theory: micro perspective, maintains that a supply of motivated offenders, the absence
of capable guardians and the presence of suitable targets determine crime trends
-Routine activities theory: macro perspective; predicting how change in social and economic conditions
influences the overall crime and victimization rates
-Overlap; crime rates are a product of criminal opportunity; increase the number of guardians, decrease
suitability of targets
-Reduce offender population and crime rate should likewise decline
-Increase opportunity and reduce guardianship and crime rates should increase
Suitable Targets
-Criminal choice is influenced by 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 lily to drift toward the
centre of the city
-Familiarity with the area gives thieves ready knowledge of escape routes (awareness space)
-The more suitable and accessible the target, the more likely that crime will occur
Capable Guardians Pg. 146
-Capable guardians: deters crime because criminals tend to shy away from victims who are perceived to
be arms and potentially dangerous
-Predatory criminals are aware of law enforcement capability: communities that enjoy the reputation of
employing aggressive “crime fighting” police are less likely to attract offenders
-Guardianship can also involve passive or mechanical devices (security fences)
-Research shown that living in a cohesive community reduces the likelihood of victimization
Motivated Criminals
-Motivated criminals: the potential 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
-Tunnel’s career criminals said they committed crimes because they considered legitimate opportunities
unavailable to people with their limited education and background
-Crime became a choice when legitimate alternatives were absent
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
-Presence of guardians will deter most offenders, rendering even attractive target off-limits
-Environmental factors (physical layout and cultural style) may facilitate or restrict criminal opportunity
-Warr: found that kids who are attached to their parents and spend their weekends at home report little
in the way of criminal motivation
-Hagan: indicates that kids whose family relationships are strained, distant, and unrewarding are more
likely to become attached to deviant peers
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