Burglary and the Rational Choice Theory

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There are numerous theories as to why a crime is committed. Rational choice theory, which is a subset of classical theory, says that before people commit a crime they think about what they are going to do. They weigh the pros and cons before committing the criminal act. The rational choice theory is well suited for the causation of burglary. The support for this theory is that burglars do not commit crime for the fun of it or just because they want to. It is usually because they need money to keep their heads above water. In their situation, they do not see any other way than to steal to make a living. The opposition for rational choice theory is that criminals do not think before they act as they may be incapable of thinking rationally in the first place.

Burglary and the Rational Choice Theory

Crime causation is looking at why people commit crimes. There are many theories that have been developed to explain this. The theories can be grouped into eight general categories of which one is the Classical theory (Schmallegar, 2011, p. 79). A subset of this theory, rational choice theory, will be specifically looked at to explain the crime of burglary. Just as no one causation theory explains all crimes committed, the rational choice theory itself does not completely explain why all burglars commit their crimes. Therefore, the pros and cons of the rational choice theory will be discussed in relation to the crime topic of burglary.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting program defines burglary as “the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft. To classify an offense as a burglary, the use of force to gain entry need not have occurred” (Federal Bureau of Investigation,¶1). Peop...

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...ommit crimes every day just for the sake of committing a crime; in other words, they have periods of no criminal behavior. So, their rational choice is to turn to burglary only when they are desperate for money. In essence, they have chosen burglary as their line of work.

Works Cited

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (n.d.). Burglary. Retrieved from website: /ucr/cius2009/offenses/property_crime/burglary.html

Schmallegar, F. (2011). Criminal justice today, An introductory text for the 21st century. (11th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NY: Prentice Hall.

Sturt, G. (2009). Cognition and crime [HTM document]. Retrieved from Lecture Notes Online Web site:

Wright, R.T. & Decker, S. (1994). Burglars on the job: Streetlife and residential break-ins. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.
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