San Diego State University Routine Activity Theory Discussion

1) Analyze Cohen and Felson’s routine activities theory. Is this theory able to fully explain all types of crime? Why or why not?

***Use the GCU Library for sources (

***Adler, F., Mueller, G. O. W., & Laufer, W. S. (2018). Criminology. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 978-0-07-814096-9

*** More sources attached

The DQ response must be at least 200 words and should have at least one reference in APA format

2) Write a 100-word response to each student in first person as if you were writing it to the students. Talk about how you agree with their ideas and add your own thoughts. Make sure it’s respectful.

Student 1) According to Lawrence Cohen and Marcus Felson, a crime can occur only if there is someone who intends to commit a crime (likely offender), something or someone to be victimized (a suitable target), and no other person present to prevent or observe the crime (the absence of a capable guardian). Later revisions added a fourth element—no person to control the activities of the likely offender (personal handler) (Adler et al., 2018, p. 195). When a suitable target that is unguarded comes together in time and space with a likely offender who is not “handled,” the potential for a crime is there.9 This explanation is called the routine-activity approach. It does not explore the factors that influence the offender’s decision to commit a crime. Instead, Cohen and Felson focus on the routine or everyday activities of people, such as going to work, pursuing recreation, running errands, and the like. It is through routine activities that offenders come into contact with suitable victims and targets (Adler et al., 2018, p. 196).

Routine activity theory relies on the same rational choice methodology as situational crime prevention techniques. As in any theory, routine activity theory has its criticisms. One of the primary criticisms is the assumption that criminals are rational in their decision-making. They may not use the same rationale as the person implementing the security measures. They may not even be aware of the situational crime prevention techniques put into effect. They may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or, for whatever reason, they may simply not care about the security measures (Miro, 2014, p. 5). In relation to its efficacy, the principal reproach made of the theory is that measures introduced have no real effect in reducing crime, as what really results is a displacement – of the time, place, target, method, or form of the crime. The rationality and opportunity components of the theory have been subject to more criticism by some authors. Critics have also argued that the theory’s basis in the idea of the rational decision makes it only applicable to minor crimes with a smaller emotional component, and never to violent crimes (Miro, 2014, p. 6).


Adler, F., Mueller, G. O. W., & Laufer, W. S. (2018). Criminology. McGraw-Hill Education. ISBN 978-0-07-814096-9

Miro, F. (2014). Routine activity theory. Online wiley library. Retrieved August 20, 2021, from

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