Routine Activities Theory

So you are in the superstore at a place where the CCTV camera can’t detect you and the shop keeper isn’t monitoring you, you have a real chance of committing a crime by stealing one of your favorite snacks. The routine activities theory is based on studying such kind of scenarios. In such a scenario, the routine activities theory would rather blame the environment and surroundings, for you stealing the snack rather than your actual need causing the urge to do so. Seems impractical?

This article is going to impart you with sufficient knowledge about the routine activities theory that will not only make this theory justifiable but will also help you understand how its master piece created way ahead of the time and how does is it affecting us and the people around us in the modern-day.

All of us have various kinds of routines, we travel, go to work, to school, college, some of us put in efforts to stay productive throughout the day whereas some just like to party and hang out with our friends all day long. There are some variations in our routines that make them different from the ones the others possess. These variations in our day to day activities determine when and where a crime can be potentially committed and the person or the thing that is the victim of our crime.

Routine activities theory is a sub-field of crime opportunity theory that was proposed by Marcus Felson and Lawrence E. Cohen. This theory tells us how a normal person like you offers an account of the opportunities or chances you get to commit a crime in your daily activities.

The Development and Need for Routine activities theory:

Need for Routine activities theory

Lawrence and Felson proposed the routine activities theory in 1979 to explain the logical reasons for the changes that occurred in the Crime Rate of the US between 1947 and 1974. During this time, all the other factors responsible for the crime had improved.

The crime rate however still wasn’t affected.  Hence the suggestion that crime should be studied as an event that is occurring at a certain place on a certain time and includes a person or a substance played an important role to firstly study the crime that took place during those years and then, the Routine activities theory and its applications just carried on till the present date because of the functionality and practicality they offer.

Since its proposition, the routine activities theory has been very effective as it still remains “the most “applied theory of criminology throughout the world.

This shows the importance of the Routine activities theory in the present world.

Main focus of Routine activities theory:

Main focus of Routine activities theory

The Routine activities theory emphasizes on the fact that “Opportunity makes the thief”. It says that the motivated criminal can’t commit a crime unless the opportunity is present too.

Routine activities theory helps us in understanding why the “opportunity” itself plays a huge role in the crime episodes that make us and our owned property are a victim.

Different individuals get different opportunities in their routine life that can cause them to commit a crime. Routine activities theory focuses on macro aspects and declares them responsible for the occurrence of crime.

But if this doesn’t help you understand the concept of Routine activities theory in the right way, differentiating it with other criminology theories certainly will.

How is the Routine activities theory different from other criminology theories?

How is the Routine activities theory different

Other theories of criminology emphasize more on factors like poverty, financial inequality, unemployment, family condition, and so on. They are based on making such social causes reasonable for crimes.

The Routine activities theory focuses more on the ecological process of crime. It suggests that the way routine activities are carried in a society forms the basis of creating opportunities for the crime to be undergone in that society.

Routine activities theory studies the crime as a happening or as an event. The basis of the Routine activities theory, which differentiates it from other criminology theories is that it links the crime with the surroundings and the conditions and tries to declare them as the responsible items.

Hence the focus of Routine activities theory remains on studying how the crimes are undergone as an event rather than the reasons that motivate people to commit a crime.

At this point you might be wondering how this kind of difference is any good. The truth is that this technique of studying crime has been used in wide number of implications for research. That research has further lead us to come up with solutions and applications for the prevention of crime.

So in simple words, Routine activities theory gives more importance to the atmosphere and surroundings because if they aren’t supportive, you simply just can’t commit the crime.

Three main components of this theory:

Back in 19th century, when all the other factors responsible for crime were fine, the developers of Routine activities theory suggested that besides all those other factors, a crime basically requires three minimal components for its occurrence.

The first, an offender, a person that is committing the crime or is prepared to commit it.

A target or a victim that can be any live being or a thing.

The third one is the absence of such a guardian who can prevent the crime from occurring.

Are you wondering that why did it have to be these three components necessarily?

Now think of that stealing your favorite snack situation and compare it with these three components. The offender being you, if you weren’t there, the crime couldn’t have occurred. Secondly, even if you were there but your favorite snack wasn’t present, the crime couldn’t have occurred in that situation too. Lastly, even if you and your favorite snack were present but you were being monitored by the shop keeper or a CCTV camera, you could have been able to steal or to commit the crime.

This is what the Routine activities theory states, that had there been any of these three components missing in the crime scene, the crime could have been prevented from happening.

How does the Routine activities theory affect us?

Routine activities theory has been a great proposition and has helped us in numerous ways to prevent crime. The application of this theory to prevent crime includes making sure that either of the three compenets is missing so we can have a crime-free society.

This has been done in almost numerable ways.

To make sure that we don’t have offenders anymore is the hardest task, but thanks to the implications of Routine activities theory, many developments have still been made. For instance, parental guidance from an early age plays an important role in the upbringing of their children and if done the right way, it can stop them from becoming offenders or people who commit crimes.

Then you must have noticed the increase in installing CCTV cameras and monitoring in your areas over the last few decades which is another application of the Routine activities theory. By doing so, the concerned authorities make sure that there is a guardian who can prevent the crime from occurring.

Similarly, you can link the vending machine with the Routine activities theory. When you can’t get your favorite snack unless you’ve paid for it, there is almost no chance for the crime to be committed.

Ending Note

After more than 40 years, the Routine activities theory still plays a significant role in helping us get rid of crime and remains the most used criminology theory helping you and your society in numerous society direct and indirect ways.


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