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Criminal Theory on the Street: Analyzing Why Offenses Take Place

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 49 Issue: 5 Dated: June 2001 Pages: 121-132
Ross E. Swope
Date Published
June 2001
12 pages
The successful analysis of patterns of crime can be guided by criminological theory and the evaluation of programs aimed at crime prevention is aided by other criminological concepts.
The opportunity theory is based on an offender’s opportunity to commit a crime and has two aspects: target attractiveness, which includes value and portability; and accessibility, which includes ease of physical access, visibility, and absence of sufficient guardian. The routine activity theory states the probability a crime will occur at any specific time and place might be taken as a function of the convergence of a likely offender and suitable target in the absence of a capable guardian. The central premise in the rational choice theory is that people engage in crime primarily because a good opportunity presents itself. All of the above are criminological theories discussed here. In addition, cognitive spatial awareness, multiple victimization, Wikstrom’s tentative model, social disorganization, community change, broken windows, and relative deprivation theories are outlined. In order to develop and evaluate programs targeted at crime prevention, develop policy, justify budgets, and help to identify and define problems, there are other criminological concepts that are important. These include displacement, social crime prevention, density paradox, intensity of use – critical intensity zone, distance decay, buffer zone, neighborhood permeability, residual deterrent effect, and situational crime prevention. The application of criminological theory to crime analysis helps to avoid the risk of ignoring important connections to the community-based environment. Crime analysis based on criminological theory offers a systematic approach to analysis that may yield more consistent results with a deeper level of explanation.