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