Theorists developed several theories to help us understand the concept of crime and its causes. Crime theories can be categorized into two; biological and sociological. Biological theories state that people who commit crimes are born criminals. Sociological theories argue that crime is caused by several external factors such as low-income levels, decaying neighborhoods, and peer pressure.
Biological theories were developed by Cesare Lombroso. After accessing a group of prisoners. He realized that they shared some common physical and mental traits. According to him, their brains were not fully developed and they had sloping foreheads and receding chins. Other biological approaches focus on the impact of genetic inheritance, hormonal conditions, intelligence levels, and neurophysiological conditions on the life and actions of criminals.
There are several sociological theories. These include; rational choice theory, social disorganization theory, and strain theory. Routine activities theory, social control theory, and left realism theory are also sociological theories. The rational choice theory states that people commit a crime when the reward is bigger than the risk of committing the crime and getting caught. They think it is rational to do it and in most cases, they make decisions out of self-interest and greed. They decide when and how to execute the crime. A good example is when government officials engage in corruption and steal public funds.
Social disorganization theory argues that places with people from diverse cultures have different values and are likely to experience high crime rates. Social control theory argues that it is the role of society to control crime. Strain theory states that when there is a gap between goals and means, and the means do not lead to the desired goal. People resolve to use illegitimate means. For instance cars and large sums of money are associated with wealth and riches in society. When a person is not able to get them legally through hard work. They resolve to steal from the others.
Left realism theory is closely related to strain theory. It states that when there is a large gap between the rich and the poor. The poor and the marginalized resolve to commit crimes to enrich themselves. Routine activity theory argues that crime is unavoidable. It analyzes how crime is shaped up by people’s environment, movements and time.
There are several arguments that criticize these theories. Critics of rational choice theory argue that not all actions are free and rational. Some are irrational. There are also arguments that the developers of these theories concentrated more on biological, social and psychological aspects rather than logic. They argue that most of them did not provide enough empirical evidence to support these theories.
Agnew, Robert. “Pressured into crime: An overview of general strain theory.” (2007).
Abadinsky, L. T. Understanding crime: Theory and practice. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2003.
Eck, John, and David L. Weisburd. “Crime places in crime theory.” Crime and place: Crime prevention studies 4 (2015).