Opportunities are known to contribute to the commission of criminal offenses. Studies have proved that different type of frauds; including credit card offenses are committed due to the presence of loopholes. Experts are convinced that crime opportunities are highly specific. For instance, bank heists and the robbery of post offices have varying patterns of opportunity. The same applies to the theft of motor vehicles for purposes of joyriding and the theft of automobiles for sale or parts.
To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by University of Cincinnati’s Online Master of Criminal Justice degree program.
Opportunity blocking makes it increasingly inexcusable and less rewarding for offenders to commit the offenses. In addition, the crime prevention method elevates levels of risk while making it less provocative for the potential offender.
On the other hand, the crime opportunity theory assesses and sorts the different patterns and constellations associated with the crimes. This is aimed at ensuring that experts understand the differences in order to implement effective crime prevention strategies. The opportunities are typically concentrated in space and time.
Each geographic zone has its own distinctive characteristics. In turn, crime activities fluctuate considerably by day of the week as well as hour of day. These variations are determined by the availability of opportunities and level of risk involved. To fully understand the concentration of opportunities at specific times and location, one has to delve into two related theories. These include crime pattern theory and routine activity theory.
Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)
CPTED is an approach designed to deter potential offenders by influencing decisions. This is achieved through altering the physical design of premises and communities. Urbanized, built environments are the major targets for this crime prevention approach. The majority of criminal decisions are guided by cues to perceived risk of being intercepted than ease of entry or potential reward.
A considerable risk of being nabbed or certainty forces criminals to abandon their plans. This level and form of deterrence is more influential than the severity of the punishment. For this reason, CPTED principles highlight the need to elevate the perceived risk of detection and apprehension.
CPTED is guided by six key concepts, including target hardening, access control, territoriality, activity support, image or maintenance and surveillance. Security experts recommend implementing all of these strategies to deter criminal activity. Access control and natural surveillance are known to reduce opportunity for potential offenders.
Crime trends and influences
The targets chosen by criminals can shift based on wide-ranging settings, such as leisure, work and school. Burglars typically explore opportunities in the suburbs in the afternoon when the majority of people are at school or work. Meanwhile, pickpockets target crowds roaming the streets in the city center.
Security experts have also discovered that one crime has the capacity to produce opportunities for another. Burglary contributes to the buying and selling of stolen items. It can even create an opportunity for committing credit card fraud. Prostitution and pimping can give rise to robbery and assaults.
Many criminals are attracted to specific products because of their value, visibility or inertia. Diamonds are significantly high in value and can be carried easily and discreetly (low inertia). For this reason, many criminals target individuals or merchants with diamonds or jewelry.
Changes in technological and social trends create new opportunities for criminals. The introduction of technologies like laptop computers and gadgets increases theft when the majority of consumers can afford the items. Laptops still carry significant risk thanks to constant high demand.
Security experts have discovered that the reduction of opportunities does not necessarily translate to the displacement of crime. Evaluations carried out in various areas indicate a minor correlation between situational prevention and displacement. However, focused reductions in opportunities can contribute to considerable declines in criminal activity.
Prevention initiatives in one area have the capacity to create a diffusion of benefits for adjacent areas. In some cases, criminals overestimate the reach of prevention measures.
On the other hand, widespread efforts by the authorities and communities to reduce the number of crime opportunities prevent the displacement of risk from one area to another. This approach can be extended to strategies, such as defensible space architecture, situational crime prevention and problem-oriented policing.
The strategies decrease opportunities for specific classes of victims, areas and targets. Each method deals with a particular type of crime. The strategies are not concerned with making any improvements to psychological aspects. Instead, they focus on blocking crime activity in simple, practical and natural ways without inflating economic and social costs.
Situational crime prevention is the arguably the most developed of these interventions.
Principles of crime opportunity
Security experts are not convinced that a single opportunity factor can be applicable to all crime categories. The opportunities are particularly specific to a given offender subset and offense. Defining an offense in legal terms is inappropriate because offenders do not consider this aspect when making choices.
The criminals engage in activities with different objectives and use the spoils accordingly. While others steal from jewelry stores, some target electronic goods. They may proceed to use the items themselves, offload at second-hand stores or sell to colleagues. The modus operandi differs between the categories along with the strategies for opportunity reduction.
Reductions in opportunity are undoubtedly highly specific since eliminating one opportunity may not affect another. For instance, employing attendants to collect fees at the exit of a car park facility may block the theft of automobiles. However, the approach may have zero impact on the theft of goods left in vehicles, including car radios.
Concentration in time and space
The distribution of property and people across metropolitan areas does not translate to a uniform prevalence of crime. This is because some people and properties are not ideal targets for criminals. In some cases, certain locations do not provide a suitable environment for criminal activities.
The presence of opportunity blocking factors, such as security guards also determines whether an area is ideal for the criminals. Meanwhile, the most likely offenders may be not based in certain parts of the city. As such, the temporal and spatial distribution of people and properties influences the time and place where criminal acts occur.