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Classical Criminology and Present Day Crime Research Paper

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Crime Prevention and the Classical School of Criminology

The notion of the classical school of criminology refers to the period of Enlightenment (18th century). This notion is based on the utilitarian and social-contract philosophical outlooks. The developers of the classical school of criminology believed that humans are calculating animals and there is an indirect dependency between the criminal justice system and the premises of illicit behavior (Marzbali, Abdullah, Razak, & Tilaki, 2012). Nonetheless, it was considered a deterrent only if the punishment was proportional and in line with the severity of the crime. The key focus of this theory is the rationality of the made decision. The outlooks on the severity of the crime and appropriate punishment rely on the subjective views of the decision-makers. This school of criminology also implied that the policies on punishments and rewards should be reviewed constantly. The core idea of the classical school of criminology is that crime prevention is better than punishment activities that take place after the illicit event (Siegel, 2015). The authors of the classical notion of criminology broke explained the crime prevention procedure as a process that depends on several ideas inherent in the philosophy of the classical school of criminology. They pointed out the probability of the crime, the swiftness of the crime and punishment, and how much damage is done to the victim.

The Major Components of the Classical School of Crime Causation

The major components of the classical school of crime causation are the basic principles of criminology. The first principle states that any given individual is in full right to acting by their will and rationality. The second principle claims that the verdict concerning the rationality of the committed crime should be contingent on the evaluation of the outcomes of the illicit activity and the benefits of the crime (if any). The third principle dwells on the fact that the severity of the punishment should be chosen in a way that would deter other wrongdoers and ultimately reduce the occurrence of criminal activity. The fourth principle elaborates on the content of the third principle and expands it by stating that the punishment should be instantaneous to prevent crimes but adequate to comply with the essentials of criminal justice. These four components support the idea that the crimes are committed based on one’s free will and personal choice. Nonetheless, this criminological approach may lead to subjective outcomes that blame the individual and not society en bloc. Even though the majority of people can distinguish between right and wrong, there is almost no evidence supporting the idea that individuals commit crimes due to their rational thinking or free will. Quite contrarily, the desire to get involved in illegal activity can be generated by a hopeless situation or irrational thinking (for instance, “I will not get caught”).

The Specific and General Deterrence

General deterrence is a term that describes the overall influence of lawful punishments on the community. Specific deterrence is a term relating to the influence of the legal punishments on those particular individuals who were detained (Kleck & Barnes, 2013). Nonetheless, there is a more significant difference between the two instances of deterrence. The notion of general deterrence is a summary of the perceptions concerning the enforcement of laws and the risk of punishment (after the event of violating the law). The notion of species is the consequence of real-life experience including detention, court trials, and consequential penalties or punishment. The law enforcement agencies commonly rely on the notion of general deterrence while maintaining a high level of the subjective risk of detention among criminals. The subjective risk connected to the general and specific types of deterrence is dependent on several factors (Crawford & Evans, 2012). These factors include the presence of publicity, the unpredictability of the situation, some various extra (less evident) activities, and the focus on the locations that are exploited by the wrongdoers the most. The application of these factors in practice is challenged by the regional differences and social norms, but the overall effect of both general and specific deterrence is evident.

Discussion of Risk and Rewards about Conventional Crimes and the Rational Choice Theory

Rational choice theory is a far-reaching version of the deterrence theory. Its essentials include not only different types of risks (official and unofficial punishment) but other factors as well. The general assumptions concerning the rationality and self-centeredness of human beings are met in both of the theories. The rational choice theory adepts believe that criminal conduct is triggered by the rewards which cannot be achieved using noncriminal behavior (Wright, Caspi, Moffitt, & Paternoster, 2004). The risk and rationality of the decision are not evaluated by the wrongdoer due to their subjective view of the situation. The rational choice theory is directly linked to the process of reducing crime rates. The core four actions that could be taken to reduce illicit activity are the increase in crime costs, the promotion of noncriminal behavior, the decrease in profitability of the crime, and reduction of the costs of law-abiding conduct. It may happen that the risks and rewards will overlap each other (for example, if we increase the costs of the crime we have to be ready for a decrease in unlawful activity). The basic elements of the rational choice theory can be utilized to evaluate the cause of the crime and prevent similar delinquencies in the future.


Crawford, A., & Evans, K. (2012). Crime prevention and community safety. Oxford Journal of Criminology, 3(44), 769-805.

Kleck, G., & Barnes, J. C. (2013). Deterrence and macro-level perceptions of punishment risks. Crime & Delinquency, 59(7), 1006-1035.

Marzbali, M., Abdullah, A., Razak, N., & Tilaki, M. (2012). The influence of crime prevention through environmental design on victimisation and fear of crime. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32(2), 79-88.

Siegel, L. J. (2015). Criminology: The core (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wright, B., Caspi, A., Moffitt, T., & Paternoster, R. (2004). Does the perceived risk of punishment deter criminally prone individuals? Rational choice, self-control, and crime. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 41(2), 180-213.

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