Routine Activity Theory and Situational Crime Prevention

Routine Activity Theory and Situational Crime Prevention

Mainstream criminology has been known to traditionally focus on crime offenders instead of criminal activities and criminal events. Furthermore, it is defined by the by the offender’s unique characteristics and motivations. This school of thought mainly states that there has to be something wrong with offenders that continue committing the crime. They may have a problem from the biological sense or social sense. However, studies on organized crime have shown that despite participating in dangerous criminal activities, offenders are normal in many aspects. It has also been found that not all the crimes that are committed are done as symptoms of underlying characteristics. However, Marcus Felson and Ronald Clarke made significant contributions to criminology by shifting the way most criminologists focused on offenders to an analysis of criminal activities and events (Clarke & Cornish, 1985). This paper, therefore, intends on studying the routine activity theory and situational crime prevention to understand their relation to criminology as they are applied in real life situations.

Routine Activity Theory

This is a section of the crime opportunity theory that has its focus on situations that crimes occur in. This theory was a proposal by Lawrence E. Cohen and Marcus Felson as they explained the change in crime rates in the united states in the years between 1947 and 1974 (Osgood, Wilson, O’Malley, Bachman & Johnston, 1996). The theory has since been applied and has gone ahead to be the most quoted theory in the study of criminology. This theory looks at crime as an event. It analyzes crime concerning the environment that it happens in and emphasizes the ecological process that it occurs in. This, therefore, diverts the attention away from the offenders.

This theory works on the logic that criminal activities are relatively not affected by social causes which include poverty, unemployment, and inequality. For example, after the Second World War, the economies of western countries begun to rise and thus the welfare states started to expand. However, during this time crime also rose significantly. Cohen and Felson explained this increase in crime by stating that the growth of contemporary society meant that there was more opportunity for the offense to thrive. For instance, the use of vehicles allowed offenders to move smoothly and freely while at the same time providing them with more targets that they could face.

Over the years this theory has been used in the study of robberies, sexual crimes, cyber crimes, corresponding victimizations, resident robberies among others.  Researchers have also related this theory with the lifestyle theory of criminology. It has in more recent studies been used in analyzing the method of social disorganization and understanding of different neighborhood crimes (Osgood, Wilson, O’Malley, Bachman & Johnston, 1996).

Situational Crime Prevention

This concept started to be recognized in the 1940s when Edwin Sutherland gave the assertion that was either influenced by history or environmental factors that affect the crime (Clarke, 1995). Despite being acknowledged by many criminology professionals, the term situation was ignored for many years until 1970 when its interest was regained. Some studies, for instance, argued that despite criminality being a necessary condition, it is not enough for crime to be committed. It requires incentives from the situation which is made up of opportunity and motivation. Ronald Clarke is also an essential contributor to the theory, and in 1983 he asserted that the immediate social and physical settings along with the societal plan are the core focus and not the perpetrator (“Situational Crime Prevention”, n.d.). He looks at it as an art and science of decreasing the opportunity amounts of crime. This approach was found to be much more comfortable than trying to reform crime offenders. The situational crime prevention concept is founded on the idea that the more opportunities arise, the more criminal activities occur. The concept of this theory is genuinely found and influenced by other approaches. The theory of rational choice, crime pattern and routine operation are some of these theories (Cohen & Felson, 1979). In every criminal activity done, there are risks and benefits that an offender is set to benefit by committing it and thus without adequate controls, these criminals will put their focus on the most suitable targets to hit. While routine activity theory mainly depends on the availability of a motivated offender, a lack of control and a suitable victim, the techniques of prevention will this be aimed at reducing the number of victims that are suitable for these criminal activities and increasing the amount of control at all times to ensure that these crimes are curbed at all costs.

Case Study

In the neighborhood that I come from, crime has always been low since the leadership ensured that security lights are still functional. However, after the last elections, things changed as there was the election of new leaders. Since the community that I come from was mainly in support of the candidate that failed in the vote, the city felt like they would be sidelined when it comes to development. This would not take long to be realized and soon after the swearing in of the new leadership; we realized that the deployment of a security patrol in the neighborhood was withdrawn and there was poor maintenance of the security lighting. A month later there was a new family that came to live a block away from my house. This family was very careless, and they would leave their excess household stuff by the garden. This family was robbed severally, and it took the intervention of the community who approached the family and advised them to keep their household stuff in a more secure place and demonstrations ensued that led to the community leaders reinstating the security patrol cars in the community and the repair of the security lighting by the streets. This meant that the thieves were motivated by the availability of a suitable victim that kept their goods outside the house. Lack of control from the leadership also led to the burglaries that happened. By advising the new family to watch their security, they were no longer targets for crime and the robber’s motivation was withdrawn. This led to reduced crime in the community, and the society was back to its former glory.

This paper has therefore looked at the routine activity theory and situational crime prevention. It has analyzed these theories by looking at situations that these theories apply. It has also found out that these concepts are related to one another and that they shift their focus away from the offender and more towards the situation that a crime is committed on. It also gives solutions to criminal activities that are more about solving these situational factors.

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