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There are many theories of crime some are similar and some are not. In the case of social disorganization, anomie, differential association, and rational theories, there are many similarities as well as, subtle differences. The first theory to look at is social disorganization theory.
The Social Disorganization Theory provides that if relationships in the family and friendship groupings are good, neighborhoods are stable and cohesive, and people have a sense of loyalty to the area, then social organization is sound. When these standards are lacking there is social disorganization. These theory list four key elements that constitute social disorganization. The first is low economic status. The second is a mix between different ethnic groups. The third is highly mobile residents moving in and out of the area. The fourth is disrupted families and broken rates (or epidemiology) of crime and delinquency. This theory explains much of the crime in inner cities. One great example of this can be seen in the case of James Darby. The theory also emphasizes the role of the community in the development of social norms and individual conduct.
This theory explains the development of subcultures and how their values differ from those of mainstream society. This theory, however, does not explain criminals who grew up in communities like the suburbs or in extremely rich sections of towns and still commit crimes. This theory is extremely helpful in given possible ways of helping reduce crime rates (i.e. community outreach programs, neighborhood watches, etc). The basic tenant is the community taken a more active role in their community and its members. On a scale of 1-5, this theory rates a 4. While, it explains a portion of crime it does not explain all crime or give reduction techniques that have proven to reduce crime rates by a convincing number.
The second theory to look at is Rational Theory. This theory hinges on the fact that humans have free will. The concept of humans having some extent of free will was assumed, but not explained in the classical school; it was embraced and uses to explain criminal behavior in the Rational Theory. This theory also took care to note that criminal behavior is the result of various factors. So, while humans have the right and free will to make choices they also are driven by their social environment. This theory emphasizes that individuals are motivated to commit crimes to reach commonplace needs. In order for a criminal to commit a crime they must believe that the benefit of the crime must outweigh the consequences of the crime. This theory also includes those crimes motivated by opportunity to commit a crime.
They saw an “easy target” and acted. The fact still remains when they decided to attack the easy target the benefit of the crime outweighed the consequences. Many criminals can be explained by this theory, any criminal who has robbed a store to get money for their family or shoplifted in order to eat. This theory does not however, explain criminals who know that if they are caught they will spend the rest of life in jail or be put to death (i.e. serial killers, etc). On a scale of 1-5, this theory is a 4. This theory explains criminal behavior for a portion of society; however, it makes no policy recommendation as to the law. This theory does, however, give possible ways to reduce crime (i.e. having people do things that make them less vulnerable to becoming victims.)
The third theory to look at is anomie theory. This theory concludes that most of society submits to a common system of values. This system also highlights goals and the ways at which are approved to reach them. This theory however, states that if the goals and the ways to achieve them are not equally stressed then, anomic conditions exist. In other words, if an agreed goal is wealth and the approved way to become wealthy is through hard work and education. Yet, a person is not able to achieve an education or an equal education to another person there is an anomic condition. Furthermore, a less fortunate person who still believes in the goal of becoming wealth will look for alternative ways of reaching the goals, be it legal or illegal.
This theory also suggests that at times a person may abandon the goal but continue with the action through which to achieve the goal. This is seen when criminals rob banks for the fun of robbing banks. They have already concluded that they will not be rich but still enjoy the thrill of robbing banks. This theory explains many of the drug dealers and gang leaders. They have the goals of having money and power; however, they can not achieve them through legal ways so they achieve them by illegal ways. This theory also shows the motivation or free will a person has when committing a crime. It relates to rational theory in that way. This theory on a scale of 1-5 is a 4. This is because this theory takes care to explain most criminals as well as, the general public. Its explanation of such a large spectrum of criminal however, makes it extremely difficult to play an active role in reducing crime. So, while it does a lot to explain crime it does little to reduce or prevent crime.
The fourth theory is differential association theory. This theory concludes that criminal behavior is learned. Mostly through the interactions of other people (especially those one trust.). This is extremely evident in the perpetuation of crime in the inner city. While, individuals may leave the crime remains. This learning process not only includes becoming a criminal but techniques how to be a criminal. The overall emphasizes of this theory is that a criminal associates more favorable things than unfavorable things to the commission of a crime. This theory also relates very closely with the rational theory, in that a criminal ways the benefits of committing the crime as oppose to the consequences of the crime.
This theory explains any criminal who committed a crime and then was let off and commit the same crime again. An example of this is when a police officer catches a person smoking weed and he apologizes. The officer then releases him and tells him not to do it again. The perp has just gotten off without any punishment and is more likely to commit the crime again. The police officer just reinforced his criminal activity. This theory on a scale of 1-5 is a 3. This is because while it explains some criminals, it reinforces the notion of harsher sentences as a way solving crimes. It however, doesn’t account for individuals who commit crimes without any interaction with crime or individuals who grew learning that crime was evil yet sill go on to commit crimes.