Assignment 2: Digital Crimes Theories
Shawntellia Jenkins
Professor Neal Basta
CIS170: Information Technology in Criminal Justice
August 13, 2018
To have a clear understanding of the meaning of digital crime you must first have some knowledge of digital crime theories. Digital crime (also called computer crime) refers to any form of crime which involves the use of computers and networks and where an unauthorized use of these computers and networks can cause crime in one way or another. There are several major categories of digital crime that are used by a computer, but the four I wanted to discuss are: instrument of crime, crime target, computer as an incidental crime, and crime related to the prevalence of computers. According to Taylor et al., (2015) in Digital Crime and Digital Terrorism, digital crime leads to lack of trust in e-commerce safety and security which inspires fear among consumers who depend on online business transactions. As such, digital crimes act as cause and effect. Digital theories can also be said to be the cause of digital crimes because it answers the question “why” digital crimes occur. Digital crime is usually identified when a person to commit a digital crime, certain measure is put in place to prevent those crimes from happening again. Taylor et al., (2015) explains that the benefits of any society are not distributed equally due to differences in people’s personal profiles. Different groups of people can cope with strain in different ways and thus, certain social environmental factors, psychological factors, biological factors, values and benefits, and official crime control methods interact in different ways to give birth to crime.

In Chapter 3 the two theories that are consider digital crime are: Choice Theory and Deterrence Theory. Routine Activities Theory was also mentioned in this chapter as well. It is consider a theory that is explained in a way that is digital and non-digital crime.

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Choice Theory
Psychiatrist William Glasser first developed the Choice Theory as “Control Theory” but was changed to “Choice Theory” in 1996 to further emphasize that all behaviors are chosen. According to Taylor et al., (2015) in Digital Crime and Digital Terrorism, Choice Theory can be said to occur when a person commits a crime due to his/her rational choice to do so after weighing the benefits and risks of doing and not doing the act (Taylor et al., 2015). Choice Theory can be associated with different reasoning including the fact that the only person whom one can control his/her behavior is himself/herself. Although we can try to influence the behavior of a person to resemble another, it is upon that person to make the choice whether to accept or not. Another reasoning that can influence the Choice Theory is the fact that all the occurrences of the past influences what people do today, and nothing can be done to change the past. People can only satisfy their current needs and those of the future. This is because our past molded what we have now and can also break it.
This theory can be used by researchers to explain the causes of digital crime since the theory teaches that people are motivated by what they need during a moment in their lives. In a sense to determine a person’s actions, or to understand some of the basic concepts such as perception, basic needs, quality world, and total behavior must be understood from those who are consider researchers.

Deterrence Theory
The Deterrence Theory can come go hand and hand with Choice Theory. According to Deterrence Theory, the main purpose of punishment or threat to punishment is to prevent an illegal or immoral behavior. Deterrence Theory states that people are not motivated by deep moral sense to avoid committing crime, instead, they do not commit crime because they fear that they will be caught (CAMERON, 1988). The theory further explains that if swift and severe punishment is introduced, people will dissuade from committing crime. I believe criminals that commit digital crime feel as if they are entitle to the information that out there when that are not. Two categories of Deterrence Theory are: Specific and General Deterrence.
Specific Deterrence imposes a sanction on a convicted offender with the purpose of preventing him/her from committing a crime in future. Most offenders will weigh the potential benefits and risks of committing or making conscious decision on rather or not they should commit crime. While, General Deterrence discourage people who are most likely to engaging in criminal behavior. General Deterrence occurs when those who are vulnerable to engage in crime chooses not to engage in criminal acts because they fear punishment (Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, 2010). Additionally, because of a crime, the life of an offender could be damaged through the experience of punishment and the fear of being labeled.

Specific Deterrence targets an individual while General Deterrence aims at the punishment itself resulting from a crime committed by an individual. An offender or criminal understands that once he/she breaks a law, he/she will face consequences. As a result, that offender will develop a better understanding of the actions and reactions arising from any crime and that for every crime, there is a punishment.

Routine Activities Theory
Routine Activities Theory is considered a digital and non-digital crimes. Around 1979 this theory was developed by Cohen and Felson. Routine Activities Theory requires that for a crime to occur, three elements must be present – a suitable victim or target, a motivated criminal with intentions of crime and the ability to execute these intentions, and absence of an appropriate guardian to prevent the motivated criminal from executing the crime (Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, 2010). All three components must be available around same time and space in order for the crime to occur. Routine Activities Theory can be described as a theory of crime events. Routine activities suggest that when organizing within a society it will open opportunities for crimes. Routine Activities Theory holds that shifts in the presence of available crime targets such as the presence of capable guardians, place characteristics, place managers, handlers can lead to a significant reduction in crime levels. Unlike Routine Activities Theory, other criminological theories state that the factors that motivate the occurrence of criminal activities can be altered by changing the social, economic, and political institutions in a society.

In summary, these discussed theories of crime can be distinguished from other criminological theories which focus on the reasons why criminal activities occur. The three theories above – Choice Theory, Deterrence Theory, and Routine Activities Theory are designed to explain the reasons which makes a person to commit a crime and how to prevent that person from engaging in crime. While it can be argued that some crimes occur because of irrational choices and decisions of an individual person, these theories can deter a person from committing a crime and suffering its consequences.

CAMERON, S. (1988). The Economics of Crime Deterrence: A Survey of Theory and Evidence.

Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services (2010). Chapter 3: Rational Choice and Routine Activities Theory. Online Available at: 30 Jul. 2018.
Taylor, R., Caeti, T., Loper, D., Fritsch, E. and Liederbach, J. (2015). Digital Crime and Digital Terrorism.


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