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Routine Activity Theory Essay

This paper will define and explain the meaning of Routine Activities Theory. It will explain how it can effect or change everyday life, lifestyles, and crime involved. It will also show the three factors involved in crime and victimization, and give examples of each of the three factors. It will show similarities between routine activities theory and lifestyles approach. An example of how someone may become a victim to the theory. All information in this report was collected from a series of books required for the Criminal Justice Program at Keiser University of Lakeland. Routine Activities Theory is a basic explanation on why crime occurs.

There are various social theories that are learned through the Criminal Justice program, and how they apply to crime and victims of crime. With all those theories out there that give explanations on why or how to keep crime from being committed, in my opinion, the Routine Activities Theory (RAT) explains it the best. Routine Activities Theory, developed by Lawrence E. Cohen and Marcus K. Felson (1979). Routine Activities Theory defined is the view that victimization results from the interaction of three everyday factors: the availability of suitable targets, the absence of capable guardians, and the presence of motivated offenders. Illustration 1: Routine Activities Theory

Criminology: The Core, Fourth Edition by Larry J. Siegel Page.73 The first condition for crime is that a suitable target must be available. There are three categories of a target. Targets can either be: A person an object a place

No matter how suitable a target is, a crime won’t occur unless a capable guardian is absent and a likely offender is present. The second condition is that a capable guardian who would discourage a crime from taking place is absent. A capable guardian can be anything, either a person or thing, these can be formal or informal. Some examples of a capable guardian would be:

Police patrol
neighborhood watch groups
security guards
good lighting and alarm systems
staff or co-workers
friends and neighbors

When a suitable target is unprotected by a capable guardian, there is a greater risk of a crime will take place. Likely offenders have many different reasons for committing crime and possible reasons why they commit offenses varies. Examples of some of the reasons people may commit crime are:

to feed their drug habit

east to get away and with great rewards
Society/ Experience/ Environment
living where crime is acceptable
peer pressure
thrill or pleasure
lack of education
poor employment or unemployed
family background or history
mental illness
poor housing or community
rebellion against authority
prejudice against certain minority or ethnic groups
belief that crime in general or particular crimes are not wrong as a protest on a matter of principle

An individual may be willing to commit crime if given the opportunity, but if that opportunity never arrives, the crime will not occur. Ones routine may influence the amount of exposure one has with potential offenders, how valuable or vulnerable they or their property is as a target, and how well guarded they or their property may be. Routine activities theory and the lifestyle approach are similar in a number of ways. Agreeing that a person’s living arrangements can affect the risk of being a victim and those who live in unguarded area are at the mercy of motivated offenders. Both the theories rely on four basic concepts:

proximity to criminals
time of exposure to criminals
target attractiveness
and guardianship

here are five important components of lifestyle, identified by research as contributing to opportunities for criminal victimization. Each of these factors has an important influence on crime, the combination of these factors, as indications of lifestyles that may best explain criminal victimization.

social activities
alcohol and drug use
economics status
and structural aspects of communities

In their research, Cohen and Felson found that crime rates increased between 1960 and 1980 during the day because the number of adult caretakers (guardians) at home decreased as a result of the female increase in the workforce. An example of how someone could become a victim, using Routine Activities Theory would be: An individual that lived in a highly populated area, and worked a third shift job. They followed the same schedule everyday and worked Sunday through Friday and left the house every night around eleven o’clock, then returned home every morning around eight o’clock. The neighborhood is by an apartment complex known for criminal activity. The house is unarmed and the streets are poorly lighted.

A motivated offender looking for a score has noticed that this individual always leaves at the same time every night, and returns home at the same time every morning. This making the individual’s home a suitable target and with lack of a capable guardian. In conclusion, Routine Activities Theory is the idea that crimes only occur when three elements are present: motivated offender, suitable targets, and absence of lack of capable guardianship. When these three elements come together in place and time, the chance of a criminal event occurring is greatly increased.


Cullen, Francis T. and Wilcox, Pamela University of Cincinnati Encyclopedia of Criminological Theory, Copyright 2010 by Sage Publications, Inc.

Grant, Heath B. and Terry, Karen J.
Law Enforcement in the 21st Century- Second Edition, Copyright 2008, 2005 Pearson Education, Inc.

Myers, Laura B; Myers, Larry J. and Samaha, Joel
CJUS 2009-2010 Edition, Copyright 2010 Cengage Learning

Siegal, Larry J.
Criminology: The Core, Fourth Edition, Copyright2011, 2008 Wadsworth, Cengage Learning

Taylor, Robert W. and Fritish, Erie J.
Juvenile Justice Polocoes, Programs, and Practices, Third Edition, Copyright 2011 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Wilstrom, Per-Olof H.
Oxford Bibliographies Online, Authority and Innovation for Research, Oxford University Press, Copyright 2011 http://www.oxfordbibliographiesonline.com/view/document/obo-978195396607-0010.xml.

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