Do You Choose Crime, or Does Crime Choose You?

You’re faced with choices every day. The route you take to work, where to eat lunch, or whether you exercise or go to Starbucks. You rationally weigh your options, as well as the benefits and/or costs of your possible decisions, and you have the free will to finalize and act upon your decisions. To that point, there is a traditional theory that explains criminal offending as making a choice just like these scenarios.

Choice theory states that rational individuals exercise their free will to decide to either commit a crime or not. As a result, many of the laws today are based on this theory, and these laws attempt to deter and prevent crime through punishment and increased public safety resources.

Just as you decide to exercise or get a latte, you also do this each time you choose to follow general rules, including the law. But think about this: You can also choose to steal or vandalize if you feel you can get away with it and gain something from it. You might not even fear of the punishment that comes with getting caught. This is the premise of the choice theory of crime.

Choice theory was based on a classical model of crime in that all offenders are viewed as rational-thinking individuals who make a rational choice to commit a crime. In fact, this theory was based on the foundational work of Cesare Beccaria, an 18th century Italian philosopher, who theorized that all offenders are rational beings exercising their free will to commit crimes. The central piece of this classical view of crime relied upon punishment as a deterrent to crime.

Think of yourself as a rational-thinking individual exercising free will to either commit a crime or not. In that decision-making process, you consider the benefits, rewards, risks and costs associated with something like stealing a car versus purchasing one. This includes the potential of an arrest, jail, fines, public humiliation and perhaps the loss of your job. On the other hand, by stealing the car you get an adrenaline rush, a free car, and perhaps a cheap way to take a road trip with little chance of getting a harsh punishment. This is the basis of the choice theory.

On The Other Hand…

Criminal offending has also been linked to biological, psychological and sociological theories of crime. These theories point to influences and factors that lead to crime that is less a choice and more a byproduct or function of certain uncontrollable variables.

For example, you may know an individual that is very impulsive, aggressive, has a low attention span and is very hasty. This person randomly goes into a local store and steals food, drinks and some clothes. Now imagine that this person does not actively rationalize and calculate a choice to steal these things; rather this person has biological, psychological or even sociological factors that cued this crime; which is a type of a reaction or result of these factors. This person may have been born with genes linked to hyperactivity, lower IQ and underdevelopment of the mental capacity to consider consequences of their actions, unlike your or I. This person then does not fully understand or properly judge the implications of this crime. This person may have been born with genetically predisposed personality traits that create the actions of stealing without rational choice based on some type of hormonal imbalance. Even in sociological terms this person could have been conditioned, taught, or even forced into this crime by environmental forces and influences out of their control. Perhaps this person grew up in a poor community with learned behaviors that reinforced the notion if you needed to eat or be clothed properly, you had to steal to satisfy those basic needs.

These are the theories that lean towards crime choosing a person based on their biological, psychological and sociological circumstances.

Specifically, there are risk factors that can directly contribute to criminal offending within these theories.

Individual risk factors are those that are explicitly tied to a person’s biological  and psychological development. More often than not, offenders exhibit aggression, hyperactivity, antisocial behavior, low IQ, low language IQ, attention problems, and impulsiveness in earlier years. These risk factors can be explained by biological correlates such has brain development, hormonal afflictions, or genetically cued personality traits that often lead to aberrant and criminal actions that may continue into teenage and possibly adult years. Hence the term “born criminal.”

Family risk factors are exclusive to parent-child dynamics and interactions within the home. These can include child maltreatment, poor parenting/supervision, home discord, parental conflict, antisocial parents, harsh discipline, aggressive parents, broken homes, and large family sizes. Combine these sociological factors in younger individuals, and they may result in criminal activities in the teen and adult years which were molded, conditioned, learned, and forced upon offenders.

Community-based risk factors are those occurring within the environment of the individual, like gang activity, delinquent peers, severe school punishment, disorganized communities, and high crime areas. Again, these sociological interactions explain how offenders are taught, prompted, or convinced to commit crimes outside a pure, rational, calculated choice.

The point is that the biological, psychological and sociological theories implicate factors outside the direct control of individuals that lead to criminal offending. In other words, these individuals do not choose crime, crime in a sense chooses them.

However, there is some clarity that comes with this question of choosing crime, or crime choosing an individual.

Based on putting these various theories under scrutiny, research indicates that more than likely an individual that engages in crime involves a combination of both uncontrollable factors that lead to criminal offending along with a person making the rational choice to engage in the crime. So, a person may be born with certain genetic biological and psychological traits that provide a set of circumstances that can lead to criminal activity; then the environmental and social factors reinforce and promote the conscious calculation to justify and make the choice to engage in crime. This is coined the “nature versus nurture” argument that has been shown to be interconnected as explanations of crime, without one being the dominant factor over the other in most cases.

Either way, there are certain steps and actions that we in society can take to help those individuals earlier in life that may possess the traits and factors that are combined with the social influences that lead to making the decisions that could contribute to crime. We can put certain measures in place to help prevent, deter and support those that would otherwise engage in crime.

Increasing the benefits of non-offending decisions and actions can include policies and access to additional educational programs for adults and extra-curricular activities for children supported by the community. Policies, donations and volunteers could lower the cost of non-offending individuals such as free job placement services or programs to supply adequate housing and food resources. Supporting the educational and child care environments with resources and staffing that can closely help juveniles and teens with proper counseling, home life support, and educational advancement.

All in all, we can say that a person can both choose crime and be chosen by crime at the same time to some extent.

10 easy ways you can protect yourself from Crimes that mostly occur at or near your Home.

We all want to feel safe and secure at our homes. Unfortunately, in the new year 62% of all crimes will occur at or near your home. You may not realize this, but you are more than likely to be the victim of THEFT, BURGLARY, TRESPASSING, and ASSAULT at or near your home (i.e. in your neighborhood) than at any other place. In fact, these crimes will occur at a combined rate of 75 homes out of every 1000 in the new year.

In order to add safety, security, and comfort to you and your home, there are a few simple things that can deter and prevent crimes that normally target your residence, and the general area around your residence.

  1. Use a professional monitoring and security service with an alarm and cameras for recording activities inside and outside your home.
  1. Check and Reinforce your locks on your doors and windows. Door and window sensors connected to your security system are a great way to alert you if someone enters your home.
  1. Require delivery services to obtain signatures from an adult at home when delivering online orders, particularly high-priced goods.
  1. Use a locked package dropped box on your porch for online deliveries that can be slid or placed through an opening but requires a key to unlock the box to retrieve the package.
  1. Motion detectors with flood lights or spotlights that automatically turn on around areas of your home that may not normally have good lighting or visibility to the neighborhood to alert when someone is at or near your home.
  1. Use personal protection devices such as mace or a stun gun.
  1. Form relationships with neighbors near your home to work out a plan to look out for one another’s homes and property, particularly when you are away for long periods of time.
  1. Closely monitor and vet the individuals you invite into your home.
  1. Use the buddy system when walking around your neighborhood, particularly in the evening or early morning hours when it is dark.
  1. Learn your neighborhood geography in order to have routes and paths to use in emergency situations.

These are just a few simple examples of ways to protect yourself and your property while at or near your residence. I hope you can find these or other ideas helpful to you in order to maintain a sense of security and peace at a place that we all normally associate these feelings with…your home.

Chances are you will be the victim of THIS CRIME while AT HOME in the New Year.

We all feel safer at home than we do when visiting many other places. Our homes are associated with comfort, security, and familiarity. When we are out about town, are guard is up because some locations and circumstances present certain levels of discomfort, insecurity, and unfamiliarity. Our minds naturally go to a level of fear or anxiety around strangers and strange places while away from home. We even simulate events in our minds of how we would react in emergencies or crimes in these circumstances. How would I react if someone approaches me and demands my wallet? What would I do if a stranger approaches my child in an unusual way for fear that person may try to snatch them away? Is my car parked in a safe location? Is there someone around me that may try to take my purse and run?

These are all anxieties we have thought about and felt when in certain situations and locations away from home.

However, the chances of you being a victim of a crime are higher while at or near your home, opposed to any other location.

 In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2018 National Criminal Victimization Survey, 62% of all recorded crimes occur at or near your home. This is not to say you should fear being at home –  just that you should be more vigilant about protecting yourself and your property at home from those that would intentionally victimize you.

So, then you ask yourself, “what crime will I more likely be a victim of?”

By the numbers ,the top crime that is likely to occur at your home is:

  1. Theftthis crime represents 36% of all crimes – and is a generic legal term referring to an individual that intentionally takes your personal property or belongings without your consent or permission in order to make it their personal property.

In other word’s…this crime occurs when a casual acquaintance takes jewelry while visiting your home or a neighbor taking a package from your porch after its delivered from Amazon, among other examples.

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2018 National Criminal Victimization Survey, theft is the number one crime that will occur at or near your home at a rate of 58 out of every 1000 houses.

But that’s not the only crime that will occur to you while at your home.

There are 7 other crimes that are most likely to occur at or near your residence. In order of the ones most likely to occur to least likely to occur… they are:

  1. Burglary/Trespassing – occurring at a rate of 21.1 for every 1000 homes – involves an individual unlawfully entering your home by force or by circumventing security in order to steal your personal property; trespassing is when an individual enters your property or home without consent with intentions of wrongdoing.

Think of this crime when an individual enters your home through an unlocked window or breaks open a door lock to go into a back door. An individual that enters your property without permission and breaks something of yours can be considered trespassing.

  1. Simple Assault – occurring at a rate of 4.6 per 1000 homes – is the intentional threat or threatening act of physical harm by an offender, that does not result in physical harm or injury but places the victim in fear of harm.

For example, a person confronts you in your yard angered about how you were driving in your neighborhood and balled up their fist and swung it at your face in efforts to hit you but misses you.

  1. Aggravated Assault – occurring at a rate of 1.4 per 1000 homes – is an intentional threat or threatening act of physical harm that does not result in physical harm or injury places the victim in fear of harm or injury with the use of a deadly weapon such as a knife or gun.

For example, the person in your yard angered by your driving in the neighborhood takes out his knife and lunges at your face trying to strike you with the knife.

  1. Motor Vehicle Theft – occurring at a rate of 2.3 per 1000 homes – is when a person takes or steals your vehicle without your permission by an individual that is not authorized to drive or use your vehicle.
  1. Robbery –  occurring at a rate of 1.1 per 1000 homes – is when an individual takes your property without your permission with the use of force or a threat of force.

For example, a person breaks into your home and holds you at gunpoint directing you to give them your money and jewelry.

  1. Rape/Sexual Assault – occurs at the rate of 1 out of every 1000 homes. Rape is when sexual intercourse occurs through force without consent, and sexual assault is unwanted sexual contact through touching or feeling. Sexual assault can be unwanted groping by an individual without consents in a sexually motivated way, like at a party at your home an acquaintance grabs your inner thigh and leans in to try to kiss you in an unwanted, non-consensual way.
  1. Personal theft/Larceny –  which only occurs at a rate of 0.1 out of every 1000 homes – and is the taking of personal property without permission when the offender does not have direct contact with the victim.

For example, a person takes a drill from your garage without your permission in order to sell it later for money without having direct contact with you.

It is important to remember that crimes can and do occur at and away from home. The implications of crimes occurring at your home are unique in that they create more insecurity, fear, and anxiety at a location you spend most of your personal time at. Therefore, it is imperative that you try to take steps to prevent and deter these types of crimes from occuring at the place you call home.

L. E. Keith

Is It Time to “Ring In” a New Layer of CPTED?

A recent shocking home-invasion homicide, in a normally quiet and safe neighborhood, was solved with the aid of a potentially new element of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). This may have sparked an evolution in CPTED at the home and in neighborhoods.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

CPTED is a unique approach to preventing crime by designing specific features of physical structures and the surrounding environment for the purpose of deterring, reducing and eliminating an offender’s ability and motivation to engage in illegal acts.  This philosophy is aimed at reducing the prevalence and fear of crime, thereby increasing citizens’ overall life satisfaction. This approach relies upon four main principles:

  • Developing a defined territoriality of structures and areas separating public and private, legal and illegal, individuals and activities which is aided by a collective sense of community.
  • Utilizing physical features, structures, actions and people to maximize natural surveillance visibility where individuals have a sense of being seen and watched.
  • Incorporating public and private restrictions and barriers for the natural access control of all forms of traffic.
  • The image and aesthetic care of physical structures through regular maintenance to give the impression that areas and structures are constantly attended to.

The Use of CPTED and CCTV in Residential Areas

CCTV in its traditional form.

The use of closed circuit television (CCTV) is often used in business, commercial or public spheres in order to deter or prevent crime; and even aid law enforcement in apprehending criminals.

CPTED has also expanded into the development of residential communities and neighborhoods, though it is not a relatively new occurrence. CPTED strategies can be seen in the development of street patterns, street lighting and sidewalks to enhance natural access and control. Even family homes and other residences are built with CPTED in mind with the highly visible and well-lit doors for natural surveillance, landscaping for natural access controls and front porches for designating territoriality.

In many cases, CCTV is incorporated into the CPTED strategy in order to enhance and bolster natural surveillance or access control features.

However, there is a newer phenomenon that may change the way in which CPTED is utilized in residences and neighborhoods.

This recent home-invasion homicide was a unique case in the use of CCTV-like technology at residential homes; in that video footage from three neighbors of the victim aided police in a quick arrest and resolution to this crime. But it was the specific video feature used at these homes which is of great interest.

The use of Doorbell Cameras, which have become popular through the evolution of security systems, is a modern version of CCTV. This is the same technology that helped police solve this recent home invasion homicide.

New age technology in crime prevention

A traditional example of the use of CCTV’s in CPTED involves the use of security guards monitoring entrances through live camera footage as part of natural surveillance.  Another popular example aids in the natural access control when potential criminal offenders are deterred by working cameras posted at designated areas. These concepts can now be translated to the residential homes in new ways:

  • Doorbell camera motion detection features can send users instant alerts and recordings of individuals entering their property and approaching the home.
  • Any approved user of these cameras can view live footage of their property through their cell phones anytime they choose, from any physical location.
  • Microphone features in the doorbell cameras allows users’ cell phones to serve as an outdoor speaker system giving them the ability to talk to would-be visitors, whether the user is at home or not.
  • Camera footage can be saved on a cloud drive for future viewing, sharing or examination.

As a result of these features, this unique and relatively newer form of CCTV can potentially enhance aspects of CPTED in residences and neighborhoods. Specifically, natural access control, natural surveillance and territoriality can be bolstered as described below.

Natural Access Control

The doorbell camera enhances natural access control through the speaker features. Users can speak to potential offenders to alert them that they are not welcome and need to leave the premises once they are instantly detected on the property. This form of CPTED can also be enhanced with an illumination feature of the doorbell camera, by which the camera lens lights up on the doorbell once motion is detected. This automatic illumination of the device can serve to deter activity on the property, and possible nefarious actions.

Natural Surveillance

The element of natural surveillance is present with the use of the motion detection features allowing instantaneous alerts of individuals on users’ property, along with the live viewing of activity on the property through cell phones. The use of doorbell cameras can enhance natural surveillance in the community by allowing users to also view their neighbors’ property within the detection range of the camera. In addition, natural surveillance is enhanced in the overall community each time a user’s neighbor adds this security feature to allow more viewing capability of more homes in the neighborhood.


In a more creative sense, these doorbell cameras are sophisticated enough to reinforce territoriality when users set their motion detection features at specific distances, heights and angles in order to detect motion as individuals immediately enter their private domains. For example, users can set their motion detection to begin alerting at their curb, the edge of their driveway or property lines. So, once individuals enter this motion detection zone, users can immediately begin speaking to these persons as a warning to trespassing thus separating private and public areas. Theoretically, multiple residents in a neighborhood and community can build a sense of territoriality by proxy through sharing their video footage on social media and discussing instances and trends of unusual, mischievous and even offending behaviors. This would help create a virtual network of closely-knit communities which can further work to reinforce their private property and structures, and to reduce crime.

Improving Mental and Emotional Health

The use of CCTV’s has been shown to reduce the public’s fear of crime knowing that constant visibility is present to both deter and detect criminal actions. This lower level of fear has been scientifically shown to improve the emotional stability of the community which can also encourage more outdoor activity. As strange as it sounds, CCTV’s can improve the mental and physical health of the residents of the community. Theoretically speaking, the more doorbell cameras that are used throughout neighborhoods and communities; the more a sense of security can be felt which can also lead to the same types of crime fear reduction and increased emotional and physical health.

Evolution of CPTED

As the popularity of these doorbell cameras, along with public knowledge and awareness of them, continues to increase; so too will the ability to deter, prevent and detect crimes in homes and neighborhoods which could reinforce positive emotional and physical health. This could also lead to an evolution in CPTED design, in that builders and architects of residential homes and neighborhoods could begin to include preinstalled doorbell cameras based on their understanding of the overall implications of the doorbell camera’s use and value.

So, to ask the question again…

 is it time to ring in a new form of CPTED through doorbell cameras?

Here’s An Interesting Question. Do You Prefer to be Unobtrusive in Your Research?

Unobtrusive research differs from other more obtrusive survey type of research in that the researcher is not involved, present, noticeable or potentially impactful in collecting data.

Generally, measures used to collect data is important but sometimes may take a back seat to other considerations in research design like whether it is quantitative, qualitative, or mixed. Or perhaps to the type and style of statistical analysis.

Researchers take great care in formulating the best measures to properly and adequately collect data for analysis in order to answer an all-important research question. This typically involves utilizing information collected on or about individuals’ actions, behaviors, opinions, or beliefs to name a few. One of the main differences in collecting this information and data is whether researchers decide to employ obtrusive (i.e. noticeable or involved in a direct way) or unobtrusive (i.e. not noticeable or involved in any direct way) research methods.

Unobtrusive research involves methods of gathering data on subjects of research WITHOUT DIRECTLY interfering, interrupting or contacting the subjects and their natural and normal behaviors and actions. Traditionally, the specific methods of unobtrusive research include indirect measures, historical comparative analysis, content analysis and secondary data analysis. These methods mainly rely upon using a wide variety of sources including books, speeches, records, recordings, publicly available government documents or surveys, previously documented or analyzed information and the informal collection of data through simple observation.

This differs from survey research which involves the DIRECT CONTACT and questioning of research subjects to gain data and information on a specific research topic. Survey research typically takes on the form of a questionnaire or an interview. Survey questionnaires contain a series of pre-determined questions respondents answer via in-person, over the phone, or online either verbally, in writing or electronically. Interviews are concentrated on a more conversational tone where questions may be based on the responses of the subject and can be conducted in person or over the phone.

Unobtrusive research has some advantages over survey research. One major advantage is the elimination of biases introduced by researchers and/or subjects whereby subjects may alter their behavior or responses for researchers, or based on what they believe researchers want to hear or see. In addition, unobtrusive research contains easily repeated methods, it is easier to correct collection errors, it examines actual behavior over self-reported behavior, the data is easier to obtain, and it is generally less expensive.

The disadvantages of unobtrusive research, compared to survey research, may include issues with the validity of the research which can be compromised in that the original intent of the data collection, or the original data itself, may not exactly match the specific needs and requirements of the current research. In addition, researchers cannot control the specific types of information included in, or collected from, the original source or documentation which can lead to limited amounts of data for the current research topic. Furthermore, the methods employed to collect the original data, the original social and cultural context related to the primary source of information, the context of the original research and the potential biases and personal viewpoints of the original researchers collecting the data may impact the validity of data and reliability of the results of the current research study.

So, considering the types of data, the research topic and question you are investigating and the overall design of your research; the type and method of data measures should be an important consideration in your initial research design.

How to Quickly Transfer Data from Excel to SPSS for Analysis

  1. To quickly merge your Excel raw data into an SPSS file, open your SPSS program and go to the FILE option and drop down to IMPORT DATA to select EXCEL data. (Note: you need to ensure your EXCEL data file consists of raw numbers with variable names in the first row to ensure easy transition of variables and data into SPSS.)

2. After selecting EXCEL, the file popup appears and you then go to your file containing the EXCEL data or type in the file name in the file name box and then select OPEN.


3. The READ EXCEL BOX then automatically appears and you want to keep all boxes checked, preview how the data looks and then if it appears accurate click OK.

4. The SPSS file then appears with all of your raw data and variables included for your analysis.




Your Best Traits Can Serve The Public Well

Trait theory centers on an individual’s personality, psychological and biological traits, and their impact on criminal activity. This lesson will explore how the impact of trait theory on public policy can be seen in preventative, intervention, and rehabilitative programs.

What is Trait Theory?

Do you ever consider the type of person you are? Would you consider yourself outgoing, risk-taking, honest, intelligent, or disciplined? This is the basis of trait theory. ‘Trait theory’, as applied to criminal justice considers an individual’s personality, psychological and biological traits, and how they are associated with deviant, anti-social, or delinquent behavior. Modern trait theory considers how individuals’ traits interact with their environment, meaning how a person’s physical and social environment (family, peers, school, community) may trigger or influence an individual’s traits which lead to deviant or criminal behaviors. Trait theory has influenced the development of preventative, intervention, and rehabilitative policies and programs.

Aspects of Trait Theory

In order to understand trait theory and the implications for public policy, you need a little background on what it means and the individual parts that make up the theory. To do this, you’ll want to look at the three individual parts of trait theory.


This is simply those individual traits or attitudes that influence how a person will act in certain environments or circumstances.

Which of the five personality categories might you fall into?

  1. Extraversion – sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness
  2. Agreeableness– trust, kindness, affection
  3. Conscientiousness – good impulse control, organized, thoughtful
  4. Neuroticism – sadness, anxiety, moodiness
  5. Openness – adventurous, creative, imaginative.


This focuses on factors like intelligence, learned behavior, and mental development or disorders which contribute to criminal or deviant behaviors.

Think about which of the three main categories you can relate to:

  • Psychodynamic – this is when childhood experiences and development leaves individuals frustrated or angry; this outlook limits a person’s ability to follow socially acceptable practices. Lack of affection from your parents leaves you angry and prompts you to break normal rules and vandalize property.
  • Behavioral – consider that an individuals’ learned experiences shape behavioral responses to events or circumstances. You may model your own behaviors after observed behaviors from family, friends, or media in aggressive and deviant ways like reacting violently to events and situations.
  • Cognitive – this focuses on how individuals perceive the world around them and how they process events from moral and informational perspectives. You may process the event of stealing as morally justified based on the information process that it is okay to disregard rules and doing what is ‘right’ to get what you want.


This centers around a person’s biological make-up and how it interacts with their social environment. Try to conceive how major biological traits influences your own behavior:

  • Genetic – inherited traits
  • Hormones – testosterone or progesterone
  • Brain/cognitive development – IQ, reasoning, logic
  • Physiological – functioning of parts of the brain and chemicals in the brain

Realize that you may contain some biological features which interact with your social environment to shape your behaviors, both positive and negative.

Implications of Trait Theory on Public Policy

Trait theory can aid the understanding and prevention of deviant behaviors. This has led to the development of preventative and rehabilitative policies within communities and the criminal justice system. These policies have influenced the development of programs, associations, clinics, and centers devoted to addressing the mental health, behavioral, decision making, and personality issues that lead to or sustain deviant criminal acts. These resources can be grouped into one of the three main areas; ‘primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention, intervention, and rehabilitation’.

  1. ‘Primary preventative measures’ – these are policies that focus on preventing an individual, primarily a child, from ever exhibiting deviant behaviors that may lead to crime or offending.
  2. ‘Secondary preventative/intervention measures’ – these are policies that focus on reducing the risk of an individual entering the criminal offending pattern or who are in situations or circumstances that tend to lead to such offending. These are individuals, mostly children, that are already displaying attitudes and behaviors that are deviant.
  3. ‘Tertiary preventative/rehabilitation measures’ – these are policies that focus on preventing re-offending and rehabilitating those individuals that are already in the criminal justice system.

Programs Developed from Trait Theory

‘Primary Personality Programs’

  • Child services programs to monitor a child’s development
  • Parenting programs to educate and improve child care
  • Parenting skills programs to improve bonds
  • Educational programs to help improve child development and skills.

‘Secondary Personality Programs’

  • Cognitive problem-solving skills training
  • Anger control training
  • Social interaction training to improve relationships and emotional responses
  • Multi-dimensional family-based, school-based, and community-based therapy to improve the dynamics of relationships and reactions.

‘Tertiary Personality Programs’

  • Family therapy
  • Foster care therapy
  • Cognitive based treatment programs designed to reduce recidivism and offending through decision-making and behavior adaptations.

‘Primary Psychological Programs’

  • Life skills training
  • Decision-making skills training
  • Parental skills training
  • Behavior management programs
  • School and community-based education and relationship activities

‘Secondary Psychological Programs’

  • Family and parent training
  • In-home visits
  • Multi-dimensional programs including community, school, government, and family resources.
  • Moral reasoning treatment/therapy
  • Problem-solving treatment/therapy
  • Thinking skills treatment/therapy.

‘Tertiary Psychological Programs’

  • Behavioral skills training and treatment
  • Family therapy
  • Martial therapy
  • Functional family therapy
  • Community and school-based therapy
  • Criminal justice monitoring and supervision in the community like halfway houses
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

‘Primary Biological Programs’

  • Home based health and nutrition programs
  • Environmental enrichment programs focusing on health, activity, and education
  • Family and parenting skills training to promote healthy brain and mental health development.
  • School-based programs to boost intelligence, personality functioning, behavior, and decision-making skills.

‘Secondary Biological Programs’

  • Child-centered programs focusing on health-related factors
  • Parent or teacher related counseling to help improve behaviors.

‘Tertiary Biological Programs’

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Drug treatment programs
  • Physical health and well-being counseling and training programs.

Lesson Summary

Trait theory consists of the psychological, biological, and personality traits that interact with an individual’s social environment which can lead to criminal offending behaviors. Many of the initial preventative measures have influenced policies and programs involving children. Whether focused on skills, education, parental, or school-based programs, the intent is to never see an individual exhibit deviant behaviors. If an individual is at risk then the secondary level of prevention and intervention is in place to reduce the deviant behaviors already seen or improve the situation an individual finds themselves in which can lead to criminal offending.

These policies and programs center more on education, counseling, and treatment with families, school, and communities. Once individuals reach the criminal offending stage whether a juvenile, adolescent, or adult, then the policies shift towards more intervention and rehabilitation to desist the criminal offending. A major aspect of this is cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as the anger management, drug treatment, and skills training which are all currently utilized programs.

Surveys Serve as Crime Stoppers

Victim surveys and self-report surveys can help ascertain levels of crime rates and victimization, assist with identifying target populations, and help in the development of successful crime prevention policies and strategies.

What Are Crime Reports, Victim Surveys, and Self-Report Surveys?

Let your voice be heard. Stand up and be counted. Your vote counts.

These are all calls for civic participation when there are important community issues and where individuals have the right, and sometimes the obligation, to voice their opinions and concerns, and to shape the direction of these issues. But what about crime? What if you are a victim of crime? How are you able to be recognized or heard, beyond a local police department or court? And what can public policymakers do to address your concerns in order to prevent crime and victimization in the future? One way is through victim and self-report surveys.

Within the United States there are three main categories of crime surveys that inform, educate, and direct actions about crime. Here are the most widely used and recognized examples from those categories:

  1. Crime reports represented by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR)
  2. Victim surveys identified with the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
  3. Self-report surveys (SRS) most associated with the National Youth Survey (NYS)

Crime Reports

The UCR is a long standing mechanism to formally collect information about crime incidents that are recorded and voluntarily provided by local and state law enforcement agencies. The UCR provides general tendencies in crime statistics categorized by the type of crime in localized jurisdictions in order to give overall pictures of crime trends across the United States. Crime reports such as the UCR lack specific information on offenders, methods, circumstances, and victims, as well as unreported or inaccurately described crimes. To combat this, more formalized victim and self-report surveys have been instituted in order to supplement crime reports and provide more detailed information on specific crime trends.

Victim and Self-Report Surveys

The NCVS is a victim survey wherein households across the United States are surveyed regarding crimes of which they’ve been a victim, or simply observed. In contrast to the UCR, the NCVS collects crime information for crimes not reported to police. The survey collects detailed ‘ ‘victim, offender, and situational context of crimes,’ ‘ such as the time, place, weapons used and actions taken during the crimes. This detailed information provides a more clear, realistic, and detailed view of representative crime rates and circumstances.

Self-report surveys (SRS) are unofficial criminological surveys of individuals who may or may not have engaged in crimes. Generally, these surveys are administered to juveniles who can be accessed through schools or correctional institutes. The NYS is the most well-known SRS; it specifically gauges a wide array of criminal acts and intentions, from drug use to assault. This has provided a more realistic understanding of how pervasive criminal activity is within the youth of the United States.

The Use of Victim and Self-Report Surveys

The NCVS and SRS question individuals directly and collect specific details on offenders, as well as victims and non-victims involved in the crimes. This allows for comparison and analysis of the characteristics that link offenders, victims and situational factors of crime and victimization. The most valuable statistics include:


  • Gender
  • Age
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Socioeconomic status/income
  • Marital status
  • Education level
  • Home ownership/residence location


  • Age
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Victim-offender relationship
  • Presence of drugs/alcohol


  • Location
  • Time of day/month of the year
  • Use of weapons
  • Injuries
  • Economic impacts
  • Victim defensive actions utilized and outcomes
  • Property type lost

Similar to victimization surveys, an SRS will also collect detailed information regarding comparable demographics of offenders. Specifically, there is increased focus on youths’ involvement in crime, allowing juvenile delinquency to be tracked and classified in more useful ways.

Implications of Crime Surveys

Having more accurate information about the volume, depth and nature of crime allows us to focus more on the sub-groups involved in crimes. Victim and self-report surveys highlight such sub-groups as:


  • Juvenile delinquents
  • Gang members


  • Elderly
  • Ethnic minorities
  • Females
  • Suburbanites/urbanites

Understanding the specific characteristics of the sub-groups, individuals, and circumstances involved in all types of crimes allows criminologists and public policy makers to construct new ways to explain, understand, and prevent crimes. This knowledge can also help us develop theories to explain how and why crimes occur.

For example, surveys provide data on victim’s routine activities related to location, time and distance from offenders; this information led to the routine activities theory. This theory was tested and supported the premise that, with a lack of proper guardians (such as the police) at a certain time and location, opportunities for crime and victimization increase. Testing this theory also showed that offenders target individuals who are similar to themselves.

Specific factors that correlate to crime and victimization can also be analyzed to map out strategies to reduce crimes. Public policies such as tougher penalties for specific crimes, police focusing on ‘hot spots’ where most of crimes take place in a city, and using foot patrols or creating neighborhood watch programs all emanated from survey information. In addition, survey data has led to the growth of situational crime policies in which cities increase street lighting, patrols, guards, alarms, and CCTVs at locations identified in survey data pinpointing where and when crimes and victimization occur.

Lesson Summary

Crime reports began by categorizing crimes and crime incidents to give police and public policymakers general information on trends and crime to analyze the use of resources and manpower. Because the of lack of specific information about crimes, offenders, and victims in these reports, and the underreported statistics of crimes, surveys of the individuals involved in crimes have come to supplement these reports.

Victims surveys and self-report surveys unveil the true nature of crime by providing understanding of the actual depth of crime and victimization incidence. Specifically, surveys like the NCVS and NYS provide better information and understanding of how much more crime exists and the sub-groups of the population that are the offenders and victims of specific crimes. Furthermore, the specific characteristics of sub-groups and situations of crimes and victimization allow for factors to be identified that can limit and prevent crimes, leading to theories of victimization and situational crime prevention techniques.

How do Juveniles Become Delinquent?

Who are juvenile delinquents? What are their common characteristics or surrounding environments? What are the most common characteristics of juvenile victimization? This post covers the correlating factors and patterns of all these questions.

Origins of Juvenile Delinquency

Ever wonder what factors might lead to a child committing a crime? Would it surprise you that delinquency can begin before children are even born?

There is some evidence indicating that prenatal nutrition, mothers that smoke, or complications at birth are factors contributing to delinquency. Now of course, not all children in these circumstances become juvenile offenders, but it’s important to weigh these factors when they do.

Considering juvenile delinquency can begin early in a child’s life, let’s looks at the characteristics of children engaged in this type of delinquency.

Who Are They?

Picture Tom, a 17 year old, white teen, living in a high crime, poverty-ridden area of town. He’s just been arrested for theft. This is the picture of the most commonly arrested juvenile offender.

Recent arrest statistics for juvenile delinquency indicates offenders are typically between the ages of 13 and 17, with 17 being the most common. Most are males, though the number of female offenders is on the rise.

Most juvenile offenders arrested are white, however, black juveniles are arrested at higher rates than other races for violent crimes.

Now that you know the characteristics of juvenile offenders, you may ask yourself what causes them to offend.

The Correlates of Juvenile Delinquency

There are specific risk factors that correlate to the onset of juvenile delinquency. A consensus of research has consistently pointed towards the following:

Individual risk factors are those that are explicitly tied to an individual’s development and personality. More often than not, juvenile offenders exhibit aggression, hyperactivity, antisocial behavior, low IQ, low language IQ, attention problems, and impulsivity. These risk factors are most likely associated with substance abuse, risk-taking behaviors, and poor school performance.

Family risk factors are exclusive to parent-child dynamics and interactions within the home. These can include child maltreatment, poor parenting/supervision, home discord, parental conflict, antisocial parents, harsh discipline, aggressive parents, broken homes, and large family sizes.

Community-based risk factors are those occurring within the environment of the juvenile, like gangs, delinquent peers, severe school punishment, disorganized communities, and high crime areas.

However, there’s some hope. The majority of juvenile offenders that exhibit these traits or are exposed to many of these risk factors desist in late adolescence and early adulthood.

Chronic Juvenile Offenders

There is a small minority of offenders, however, that are considered chronic offenders. Chronic offendersare those that repeatedly commit serious or violent crimes such as theft, burglary, robbery, drug involvement, assault, rape, and murder.

Happily, as of 2015, juvenile arrests for violent crime are lower than they have been in 30 years. Perhaps it is partly because of our growing knowledge of the factors involved.

Children that display poor temperaments in early years are linked to chronic offending. Chronic juvenile offenders typically display three critical features early and often. In order of significance they are:

  1. Serious conduct disorders – in other words, antisocial behaviors.
  2. Poor personality/behavioral issues – poor learning skills, impulsivity, risk taking, aggression, a lack of empathy, poor attachments.
  3. Antisocial beliefs – negative attitudes towards police, teachers, or other authority figures; negative perceptions and distorted information processing.

There is also an established link between juvenile offending and child victimization. Child maltreatment is the most significant factor in this link.

This can include abuses of physical, sexual, or emotional natures, but also neglect. For example, if Mary allows her 7 year old son Jimmy to cross 5 miles of the city of Chicago by himself to get to school, this is an example of physical neglect. Mary has disregarded the physical safety of her child.

Or, as another example, perhaps Gary doesn’t pay attention to where his daughter Sarah is during the day, and consequently Sarah misses several days of school a week. This is an example of educational neglect.

Lesson Summary

Juvenile delinquency can depend on a number of factors, even those present before birth like in prenatal nutrition or complications. Other risk factors are categorized as

  • Individual risk factors – represented by aggression, impulsivity, and antisocial behaviors and attitudes
  • Family risk factors – takes the forms of maltreatment, poor, harsh, and anti-social parents.
  • Community based risk factors – represented by gang involvement, delinquent peers, and poverty.

Most juvenile delinquents desist upon reaching adulthood, but some become chronic offenders that repeatedly commit serious or violent crimes. These individuals tend to have poor temperaments including antisocial behaviors, behavioral issues, and negative attitudes towards authority figures.

There is also an established link between juvenile offending and child victimization. Child maltreatment is the most significant factor in this link.

The Intelligence of Modern Policing

Intelligence-led policing combines data and information with a top-down business like operational model used to address specific crime issues. Information is analyzed to identify trends, locations and offenders which allows top police executives to efficiently dispatch officers and resources to eliminate serious crimes perpetrated by serious, but small groups of offenders.

When you hear the term intelligence-led policing you might think of some type of covert, spy movie type of surveillance to gather information in a shadowy type of way.

In the world of policing, it means something totally different. Intelligence-led policing can be defined as a policing philosophy that follows a business or managerial model of operating an organization. Intelligence-led policing allows police departments to utilize data and information in order better evaluate crime trends and issues, thus allowing top decision makers to efficiently and effectively allocate resources and develop crime fighting strategies.

In other words, police departments can incorporate a decision-making system where information about crimes, crime trends, and specific groups of offenders is analyzed and then paired with executive strategies to properly direct ground level officers’ actions and resources in a specific, targeted effort for the sole purpose of reducing, eliminating and preventing specific crime issues and offenders.

Origins of Intelligence-led Policing

The origins of intelligence-led policing begin in the United Kingdom within the Kent Constabulary in the 1990’s as a response to budget cuts and growing trends in property crime. Essentially, the belief at the time was that there were a small number of offenders contributing to the vast majority of property crimes. Within this philosophy, less time was devoted to less crime-related calls to service, and more time was devoted to create information gathering units specifically analyzing the property crime issues. Essentially, the Kent Constabulary was most focused on targeting specific property crimes and the offenders responsible for them. As a result, they reduced the property crime rate by 24 percent.

Intelligence-led Policing in the United States

This model was adopted by police departments in the United States soon after the Kent model in the 1990’s. In its evolution within the police agencies, intelligence-led policing has taken root as a top downinformation based system. In a very simple model, crime analysts or analysis units take data from records, databases, and statements to identify trends and patterns.

In collaboration with various units within the police departments, this information is transformed into strategic actionable knowledge. In other words, this intelligence allows proper actions, strategies, and resources to be implemented in a specific way. This results in a targeted plan to combat specific crime issues and offenders that flows back down to the street level investigators and officers within the impacted crime areas.

For example, a police department analyzed crime trends in a popular area of the city. A plan was developed to specifically target socially impactful crimes such as burglaries. Information was gathered through archival data, crime patterns, victim reports, and street informants to produce a crime fighting model prioritizing a select group of offenders responsible for breaking and entering, robbery, and narcotics which ultimately reduced crime in that area.

Model of Intelligence-led Policing

This exemplifies the traditional intelligence-led policing 3-part model as follows:

(1) analysts interpret the crime trends and patterns;

(2) information, or intelligence, allows decision makers to form strategies to impact specific crimes and serious offenders;

(3) the plans and resources flow down to based level officers to disrupt the crimes and offenders.

The base model of intelligence-led policing

Intelligence-led policing has also evolved into the utilization of fusion centers which are large data analysis units solely devoted to constantly collecting information and data from various government, public, and private sources in order to fuse together intelligence for decision makers. This is most widely used in counter-terrorism efforts at the federal, state and local levels. However, it is also a mainstay within law enforcement agencies aimed at combating detrimental crimes perpetrated by serious groups of offenders.

The types of offenders that have been targeted include gangs, mafias, drug cartels, or groups of criminals operating in certain areas revealing a specific set of trends. A real world application can be viewed through an in-state regional fusion center established to coordinate all of the flow of information between various state law enforcement agencies to develop intelligence for executive police managers in order to direct the actions of a select group of ground level police personnel with specific pools of resources, making them available 24-7 to combat targeted crime issues.

Lesson Summary

Essentially, intelligence-led policing is a policing philosophy that takes on a business-like, decision-making, and managerial type of operational model. This top-down model enables information to be collected and analyzed so that specific, targeted crime issues, crime areas, and serious offenders are disrupted and eliminated. The collected data is transformed into intelligence which allows top police executives to make the appropriate decisions and strategies in order to expend the most energy in reducing and preventing the most detrimental crimes committed by a few but serious offenders.