The article posted in the Washington Post, titled “Most Thieves are Actually Bad at What They Do,” addresses physical theft crimes based on their frequency and economic impact. According to the report, less than 5% of individuals continue practicing thievery as a trade, whereas the majority of theft crimes could be classified as petty theft (Swanson, 2015). It does not involve any particular skill or drive. It is motivated by targets of opportunity.
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These findings are hard to explain through the use of Sutherland’s differential association theory, which states that criminal behavior is learned from other individuals and that the thief becomes progressively better and more predisposed towards the action with each successful crime that avoids punishment (Cullen, 2011). One of the weaknesses of Sutherland’s theory is that it only addresses the mechanisms of learned behavior without considering the overarching reasons for criminal behavior. While the immediate motivations of petty thieves may include temporary gratification, the overarching racial and socioeconomic reasons for continued behavior are not explored (Laub, 2006). Cullen’s general theory of crime provides better insights on the issue, some of which are considered with personality traits, poor parental upbringing, and education.
Sutherland’s theory does not offer a framework for public intervention against theft, as it is nearly impossible to regulate learned behaviors. It is one of the major points of criticism of differential association theory. However, it is possible to use Cullen’s general theory of crime in order to compose a school-based intervention, which could teach children self-control, respect for the law, and understanding that theft is not a long-term solution (Cullen, Agnew, & Wilcox, 2017). Additional focus should be made on poor families, single-parent families, and children from racially disadvantaged backgrounds.
Cullen, F. T. (2011). Beyond adolescence-limited criminology: Choosing our future –The American society of criminology 2010 Sutherland address. Criminology, 49(2), 287-330.
Cullen, F. T., Agnew, R., & Wilcox, P. (2017). Criminological theory: Past to present: Essential readings (6th ed.). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Laub, J. H. (2006). Edwin H. Sutherland and the Michael-Adler report: Searching for the soul of criminology seventy years later. Criminology, 44(2), 235-257.
Swanson, A. (2015). Most thieves are actually bad at what they do. The Washington Post. Web.