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Updated Oct 28, 2014

Routine Activity Theory Elements of Crime

The Routine Activity Theory focuses on the opportunity to commit crime. The fundamental argument of this theory is that anyone can become a criminal, especially if there is opportunity to commit crime. In addition, the convergence in the activities of the offender and the victim effectively increases the likelihood of crime. Thus, victimization happens when a person creates or allows opportunity for his victimization.

Elements of Crime based on the Routine Activity Theory

The Routine Activity Theory states that a crime can only occur if the following elements exist at the same time in the same place:

Routine Activity Theory Elements of Crime

The elements of crime based on the Routine Activity Theory. Crime occurs when all three elements exist at the same time and in the same place.

1. A Suitable Target

The target becomes the victim when the crime is committed. The Routine Activity Theory states that the target is a person, object or place. One becomes a target based on attractiveness or vulnerability. For example, a person becomes a suitable target when he/she appears physically weak or handicapped, and unable to use self-defense. An object could become a suitable target when it looks like it is easy to grab and transport. Suitable targets as elements of crime can be easy to identify and influence in crime prevention.

2. An Offender with Motive

In the Routine Activity Theory, a crime can only occur if there is a motivated offender. This means that there must be a motive to start with. This motive varies, based on the objective of the offender. For example, an offender can have the motive to exact revenge on someone by committing burglary or murder. Motivated offenders as elements of crime are not easy to control or foresee in crime prevention.

3. Absence of a Capable Guardian

A guardian can be anyone or anything that creates perceived protection on the target victim. In the Routine Activity Theory, the guardian can be a person, animal or object. For example, an adult can function as the guardian of a toddler to prevent the toddler from becoming victimized. Also, CCTV cameras can function as guardians of a facility. A dog can function as the guardian of a home. The motivated offender is discouraged from committing the offense when he sees or knows that the target victim has a guardian. Thus, capable guardians as elements of crime can be controlled, designed or changed in crime prevention.

References

  • Sampson, R., Eck, J. E., & Dunham, J. (2009). Super controllers and crime prevention: A routine activity explanation of crime prevention success and failure. Security Journal23(1), 37-51.
  • Wortley, R., & Mazerolle, L. (Eds.). (2013). Environmental criminology and crime analysis. Willan.
First published Sep 15, 2013. Updated Oct 28, 2014.