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Routine Activities Theory Analytical Essay


Elements of the Theory

According to the Routine Activities Theory, people make decisions basing on how advantageous the decisions will be to them and at the same time minimize the disadvantages.

According to the theory, crime usually occur when certain conditions are prevalent, that is, when there is an offender who is motivated, a target that is deemed suitable and the lack of a capable guardian. There must be an individual who has a motivation to carry out a crime.

Then, there must be a target to which the crime is directed. The target value depends on the offender’s judgment and is not dependent on the economic worth. The offender has to be in a position to reach the target, commit the offence and retreat or escape (Gary, 1968).

For any crime to occur, all the three stated requirements must be present and the absence of any of them prevents a crime from occurring. The three requirements may converge during the daily routinely activities that people undertake like those activities done at work, school or in the homestead (Clarke, 1997).

Why Offenders Engage in Crime

Offenders usually engage in crime whenever the three mentioned requirements converge in the same space and time. The theory holds the victims responsible for the crimes that are committed. The victims make themselves the targets of the offences due to their routinely activities that they take part in.

The fact that an opportunity is availed for the offence to be undertaken and the target is available, then the offender will always utilize the chance by committing the offence. The element of the absence of the guardian is also vital for crime to occur.

The guardian may be the person who oversees the activities of the offender or the one in charge of the offender. Whenever the guardian relaxes his or her responsibility over the offender or is absolutely unavailable then the offender is bound to commit the crime against the target.

The security guards and the police could take the positions of guardians and the fact that they are not available in an area could be a motivation towards crime. The target may be aided when the conditions that prevail make it easier for the criminal to commit the offence. A good example may be leaving the gate open when it is supposed to be closed (Cornish, 1986).

It has been established that crime usually increases with the increase in economic growth. This could be attributed to the fact that with economic growth, people become more economically visible and hence become potential targets for the offenders.

Victimization of individuals and/or objects

The fact that some areas do not have enough guardians could lead to the prevalence of offenders and hence commit more assault against the targets. The fact that some people go to night clubs and other entertainment centers at night, provides ideal conditions for the offender and the target to meet hence the targets are victimized.

Basing on this theory, one may become a target just on the basis of that person developing economically as he/she becomes economically visible. This discourages economic development as people become victimized and fear to develop (Cohen, 1979).

Rational Choice and Routine Activities Theory

According to the theory of rational choice, man has his own reasoning capability and he weighs the consequences, the cost as well as the benefits before making a rational choice.

Before committing crime, the offender puts some organization into it. The Routine Activities Theory puts its focus on the crime characteristics rather than the criminal. Before the offender commits the crime, he/she ensures that all the three requirements are available.

The offenders weigh all possible options, for instance, whether the target is accessible, how to commit the offence and the possibility of retreating or escaping. The person ensures that no guardian exists to prevent the crime.

The Routine Activities theory as deemed to a subset of the rational choice criminology. Crime is believed to be committed not because one is experienced in criminal activities but simply because an opportunity is availed. The opportunity may for instance be availed by the target not being well guard (Felson, 1998).

Situational crime prevention

There is a need for different authorities to channel their efforts in ensuring that crime opportunities are reduced. This has not been the case as most efforts have been channeled towards criminal suspects and their characteristics. By increasing the risks that are associated with crime and reducing its benefits the crime is bound to reduce.

It is believed that crime is usually made when an opportunity is availed. Criminal activity patterns are not just based on the criminals residence but the places where opportunities to commit crime are available what could otherwise be termed as hotspots.

It is also common for certain people to be targets for offenders than others. By using statistical data, resources that are meant to reduce the criminal activities can be channeled towards the right target areas. Education also plays a significant role in reducing crime.


Given the fact that crime occurs when there is a potential offender, a target and the absence of a guardian, crime prevention measure should aim at ensuring that the conditions are not met at a particular time or place. 5this will go a long way in ensuring that the root cause of the problem is met and not its characteristics.


Clarke, R. R. (1997). Situational Crime prevation. New York: Harrow and Heston.

Cohen, L. a. (1979). Social Change and Crime Rate Trend: a Routine Activity Approach. American Social Review , 44, 588-608.

Cornish, e. a. (1986). “Introduction” in The Reasoning Criminal. New York: Spinger-Verlag.

Felson, M. (1998). Crime and Everyday Life. Orklands Carlifornia: Pine Forge Press.

Gary, B. (1968). Crime and Punishment: An economic Approach. Journal of Political Economy , 78, 169-217.

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