Why Do People Commit Violent Crimes?

Some explanations as to why people commit violent crimes include personal choices weighed against the possible repercussions of a crime, and the theory that crime emerges as a conflict between different economic classes. Criminology attempts to determine the reasons individuals commit crimes and the behavior that leads to violent crime.

Closely related explanations for crime are choice theory and classical theory. Both of these explanations state that individuals make rationalized choices when committing crimes, considering the advantages of committing the crime against the possible punishment. Both theories derive from the works of philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, who propose that citizens agree to follow government-dictated laws in return for comfort and protection. Individuals who commit violent crimes willingly go against laws in order for personal gain, giving up those benefits.

More modern theories propose that crime arises as a result of social and economic factors contained within society. Conflict theory states that crime is the result of inevitable clash between different economic classes, with different laws and standards of crime resulting as a method for the wealthy to control the poor. This theory accounts for discrepancies in sentencing between poor and rich criminals. For example, poor individuals who commit assault or murder are often punished far more harshly than wealthy factory owners who knowingly allow unsafe work conditions to contribute to employee injuries and deaths.