Routine Activities & General Strain: A Theoretical Examination Of Dr. Patrick

Dylan Brown

CRIM 300W C100

November 8, 2015


Central to criminology is the examining of why individuals commit crime. Gender, age,

as well as economic status, social position, and geographical elements are just a few of the

various components social scientists have observed in attempting to better explain criminality.

Throughout their investigations, criminologists may formulate theories based off their

observations of particular phenomena. In some cases, their findings will build off of previously

established theories to contribute new ways of looking at crime. Cohen and Felson's routine

activities theory, a sub-field of Clarke and Cornish's rational choice theory, and Robert Agnew's

general strain theory, which built off of Merton's anomie theory, are but two examples of this

ideological progression.

For my second essay, I will continue with a theoretical examination of Scenario A.

However, I will now use routine activity theory as well as general strain theory in systematically

investigating the case of Dr. Lonnie Patrick. For the purpose of this essay, hypothetical

information will be introduced into the original scenario. Primarily, this paper aims to provide a

detailed, four-step analysis of Dr. Patrick's situation. Firstly, a comprehensive exploration of the

scenario utilizing both theories will be included. This will be followed by a compare and contrast

section, in which the strengths and weaknesses of each theory will be evaluated. A portion will

also be devoted to addressing theoretical integration. Finally, a segment on policy and practice

implications will outline suggestions and possible solutions to crime posited by each theory.

Theoretical Analysis

Routine Activities Theory

Established by Cohen and Felson (1979), routine activities theory (RAT) demands that

three components be present for a criminal act to occur. These three elements consist of a

motivated offender with criminal intents and the competence to perform on these feelings, a

suitable target, and the lack of a capable guardian who can avert the crime from occurring

(Felson, 2001). These three elements must unite in space and time for a crime to occur (Felson,


RAT provides a macro standpoint on crime that conveys the association between the

patterns of offending to the everyday patterns of social interaction (Miller, 2013). Crime is thus

normal and is conditional on openings to offend (Felson, 2001). If there is an unguarded, suitable

target and there are satisfactory rewards, a motivated offender will commit a crime (Felson,

2001). Due to the nature of the violent offence committed by Dr. Patrick, RAT would shift

attention away from Lonnie and focus it onto the target and the lack of a capable guardian. Dr.

Patrick became a likely offender when a young, vulnerable female patient came unaccompanied

into his office and presented Dr. Patrick with the opportunity to reward himself with immediate

sexual gratification.

In regards to the second requirement of a suitable target, the decision to offend is

influenced by the criminal's observation of the target's defenselessness (Miller, 2013). Indeed,

the more vulnerable the target appears, the more likely it is that an offence will follow (Felson,

2001). Dr. Patrick is a medical professional. Therefore, he holds an elevated position within the

social hierarchy due to his gender, income, wealth, knowledge and occupation. The target in this

case, a young, lower class, uneducated women, is at an immediate disadvantage given Dr.

Patrick's influence and expertise. She is an awkward and vulnerable target, and similar to

rational choice theory, Dr. Patrick thinks not of the retribution of the criminal justice system but

rather of the immediate rewards of the crime situation (Felson, 2001).

Lastly, the existence of capable guardians is believed to deter individuals from

committing offences (Cohen & Felson, 1979). "Guardianship" can be in the form of mechanical

devices, such as video surveillance or security systems, as well as the physical presence of a

person who is able to act in a protective manner (Felson, 2001). These material support and

surveillance methods bound a delinquent's access to suitable targets, in theory deterring the

potential motivation of an offender (Felson, 2001). Dr. Patrick's target, as with most routine

check-ups, entered the medical examination room unaccompanied. In a secluded, unmonitored

examination room, the target was without a capable guardian, thereby enhancing Dr. Patrick's

motivation to offend.

General Strain