is a theory of crime events. This differs from a majority of criminological theories,
which focus on explaining why some people commit crimes—that is, the motivation
to commit crime— rather than how criminal events are produced. Although at first
glance this distinction may appear inconsequential, it has important implications for
the research and prevention of crime. Routine activities theory suggests that the
organization of routine activities in society create opportunities for
routine activity theory is that crime is relatively unaffected by social causes such as
poverty, inequality and unemployment. For instance, after World War II, the
economy of Western countries was booming and the Welfare states were
expanding. Despite this, crime rose significantly during this time. According to
Felson and Cohen, the reason for the increase is that the prosperity of
contemporary society offers more opportunities for crime to occur; there is much
more to steal. (Wikipedia).
Routine activity theory is one of the main theories of “environmental criminology”.
The theory states that a crime occurs when the following three elements come
together in any given space and time:
An accessible target
An accessible target can include a person, an object or a place.
The following acronyms have been used to describe accessible
VIVA – Value, Inertia, Visibility, Access
CRAVED – Concealable, Removable, Available, Valuable,
Routine activity theory as a crime prevention methodology
focuses on essential elements that make up a crime. This theory
provides a framework within which to prevent crime through
altering at least one of these elements (the offender, the target or
the presence of capable guardians). The most effective crime
prevention strategies will focus on all three of these elements.
Absence of a capable guardian that could
A capable guardian has a ‘human element’, that is usually a person who, by
their mere presence, would deter potential offenders from perpetrating a crime.
A capable guardian could also be CCTV, providing that someone is monitoring it
at the other end of the camera at all times.
Some examples of capable guardians are:
vigilant staff and co-workers
Some of the guardians are formal and deliberate, like security guards;
some are informal and inadvertent, such as neighbor's.
It is also possible for a guardian to be present, but ineffective. For
example, a CCTV camera is not a capable guardian if it is set up
incorrectly or in the wrong place or is not monitored. Staff might be
present in a shop, but may not have sufficient training or awareness to
be an effective deterrent.
A motivated offender
Routine activity theory looks at crime from an offender’s point
of view. A crime will only be committed if a likely offender
thinks that a target is suitable and a capable guardian is
absent. It is the offender’s assessment of a situation that
determines whether a crime will take place.
Routine activities theory has guided research designed to
understand a range of phenomena, including crime trends
over time, distributions of crime across space, and
individual differences in victimization. In addition,
researchers have considered how opportunities for crime
might exist at multiple levels. For example, the
characteristics of one’s neighborhood and the features of
the home might influence the likelihood of burglary
victimization. Researchers have used various research
methods to meet these different needs. The selection of
research reviewed in the following paragraphs illustrates
the different methods researchers have used to test
hypotheses developed from routine activities theory.
Using Routine Activity to Predict Crime Trends
Using Routine Activities to Predict the Distribution
of Crime Across Space
Using Routine Activities to Predict Differences in
Routine Activities and Multilevel Opportunity
Routine activity theory introduces an important tool in crime analysis,
the crime triangle (which has also been called the problem analysis
triangle). The crime triangle analyses both the elements of crime
(target, location, offender) and potential responses/interventions for
each of the elements of the crime (as depicted on the bigger triangle).