Application Of Criminology Theories Sociology Essay

¶ … theoretical concepts from parts XII and XIII to the events and actors at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation. Be sure to utilize the different sections in your application. Environmental criminology often focuses on opportunity theory, which is linked with rational choice theory. Opportunity theory suggests that criminal behavior is motivated or prompted by available opportunities to commit the crime. Although the Malheur occupiers were not environmental criminals in the traditional sense of being motivated also by an environmentalist agenda with related ecological goals, the Malheur Wildlife Refuge is a nature preserve. There are also compounding issues related to territoriality, the "extent to which a space conveys a sense of being 'owned' or 'private' and has having clearly designated purposes," (XII, p. 459). Territoriality has been a primary driving factor in the occupation. The occupiers, spearheaded by Ammon Bundy and the Hammond brothers "sought to turn the refuge into a symbol of federal tyranny and spark a broader uprising of ranchers against the government's regulation of cattle grazing on the refuge and other public lands in the west," (Bernton 1)

Applying the principles of opportunity theory and the principle of territoriality can help the Department of the Interior and the Fish and Wildlife Service prevent similar crimes from occurring in the future. For example, opportunity theory would have encouraged the Fish and Wildlife Service to place more impenetrable barriers, more overt signage, and possibly even to redesign the physical property. During the occupation, it seemed little was being done to protect the preserve as Carpenter notes "no police, no federal agents apparent anywhere on the stretch between the refuge and the town of Burns," where the ranches are located (1). Only now, after the incident has occurred and the refuge is back in the hands of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the government has employed some territorial tactics such as armed security guards wearing bulletproof vests (Bernton).

Given the militant tendencies of the occupiers, including their willingness to stash and use weapons, developmental theories of crime might be far more applicable to the Bundy group. Ryan Bundy has said that he is "willing to kill and be killed" for his cause (cited by Carpenter 1). It is possible that regardless of opportunities presenting themselves, the group might have made their way into the wildlife preserve or other federal lands because it was specifically the federal government the group is targeting -- not the Malheur reserve or birds. The group's stated goal is "to overthrow the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States," (cited by Carpenter 1). This "movement" is "nothing new," notes Carpenter, pointing out that the Bundy group belong to a broad social movement that can be viewed as a subculture akin to a gang. Markers of belonging to the subculture include having a strong religious bent (Carpenter 1).

It is possible that had there been tighter boundary controls, the group would have been forced to use a different tactic but would still have managed to penetrate federal property to achieve their specifically territorial goals. The difference between the Malheur occupation and more typically environmental crimes like the liberation of wild horses from a Bureau of Land Management property in 1997 is that the former can be better explained using psychological and sociological theories other than opportunity theory and rational choice. After all, many people in the Burns community who sympathized somewhat with the Bundy anti-government stance disagreed with the occupation and did not themselves commit crimes like arson either. It would be important to examine family of origin issues (such as the fact that the Bundy brothers' father had also committed similar crimes and therefore may have socialized his sons to have criminogenic tendencies) or community-based factors such as the socialization of Christian children into an in-group status that viewed the federal government as oppositional and hostile.

2. How does section XIV relate to other theories we have discusses this semester (section III)? Be specific in your comparison and utilize citations in your analysis.

Section XIV shows that focusing too much on community-level variables and structural explanations of crime such as poverty can obscure a meaningful discussion of race. Being black is a qualitatively different experience, leading to different psychological and developmental variables, than being white. Whereas whites don't "see" race because they have never been forced to address the issue via an experience of discrimination, non-whites encounter race-related stress and strain regularly. In the past, it has been challenging to study race as a variable without making the research itself seem racist, but newer research acknowledges that race produces structural, sociological, and psychological strain. That strain cannot be explained...


561). Likewise, gender would be an "ascribed status." Race is something that is immutable. The sense of powerlessness, loss of control, and frustration that results from being perpetually labeled according to race can be a criminogenic factor, in particular one that leads to anomie and violence. A historical perspective can also shed light on racial disparities in rates of violent crime. There were several conjoining factors that would have propagated disorganized communities prone to crime. For one, after the Great Migration of blacks to northern industrial cities, the industrial economy came to a halt. Job loss was rampant in these industrial cities, trapping the people living within them into a life of poverty as these African-American families could not afford to move or could not find the housing loans available to their white counterparts moving to the suburbs. Thus, poverty became entrenched and poor blacks were systematically disenfranchised as they were segregated. The black communities in American urban centers were "spatially isolated" and "socially isolated," (p. 562). As illegitimate or illegal methods of gaining financial support such as drug or weapons trafficking became prevalent, the norms of the community changed to reflect a tacit support of deviant or criminal behavior. It is not that African-Americans condone criminal behavior so much as African-Americans have been excluded from the dominant culture and have been forced to create a subculture that itself requires the use of self-protective mechanisms for its own survival. Those self-protective mechanisms sometimes involve violence, creating a vicious cycle because the subculture has become strong and entrenched.
Section III, on the other hand, discusses race in terms of the Chicago School, which helped formulate theories focusing less on race and more on structural inequality and social disorganization. Race was considered ancillary to structural inequality and community-level disorganization. Poverty breeds social disorganization for a number of reasons. Residents of segregated and disenfranchised communities lack the motivation or the resources to form community coalitions. Many residents work multiple jobs and lack sufficient time for self-care or for caring for children, let alone caring for neighbors or community organizations. Broken windows theory could also be incorporated into social disorganization theory to show how some environments facilitate anomie and crime. Thus, whereas both of these chapters do discuss structural variables, community variables, and the history and patterns of black migration, Section XIV introduces an additional facet for understanding race differentials in crime: the micro variable of personal experiences with race and racism.

3. Of the perspectives we have studied this semester, which do you prefer and why (section xi: Rational Choice Theory)? Argue how the one you selected is superior to two other perspectives/parts in the book (chart attached).

Rational Choice Theory provides one of the most cogent arguments for why people commit crime. Even when other variables like social strain or institutionalized racism are taken into account, crime is ultimately committed by individuals who make choices. Except for extreme cases of mental illness, most crimes are committed by people with the capacity to make rational choices. I also appreciate the value of rational choice theory in providing adequate explanations not just for violent crimes but also for white collar crimes, which are harmful and yet frequently overlooked by the general public. Rational choice theory can help criminologists suggest changes to public policy and even to urban architecture and urban planning, changes that can adequately deter or prevent crime. Although rational choice theory does build on classical theory, it extends classical theory by allowing discussions about how to mitigate crime and prevent it. I believe that the methods by which crime can be prevented are more practical when they focus on deterrence (raising the costs of crime). In this way, rational choice theory can be linked with opportunity theory because reducing or removing the opportunities to commit crime may also deter a would-be criminal. Routine activity theory can also be connected with rational choice theory, as a person who thoroughly evaluates the situational variables is basically determining when the best opportunity to commit the crime arises, and that opportunity is usually the point at which the benefits/rewards of the crime outweigh the potential costs (such as getting caught).

Rational choice theory differs significantly from other criminological theories. The theories that focus on…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bernton, Hal. "Birds -- and staff -- return to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge." Seattle Times. 27 March, 2016. Retrieved online:

Carpenter, Zoe. "Inside the Bundy Brothers' Armed Occupation." The Nation. Jan 5, 2016. Retrieved online:

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