1. Opportunities play a role in causing all crime

2. Crime opportunities are highly specific

3. Crime opportunities are concentrated in time and space

4. Crime opportunities depend on everyday movements

5. One crime produces opportunities for another

6. Some products offer more tempting crime opportunities

7. Social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities

8. Opportunities for crime can be reduced

9. Reducing opportunities does not usually displace crime

10. Focused opportunity reduction can produce wider declines in crime

Rutger’s School of Criminal Justice professors Marcus Felson and Ronald V. Clarke developed Ten Principles of Opportunity and Crime which describes how opportunities, or vulnerabilities, are the root cause of crime.

The first principle, opportunities play a role in causing all crime, implies that security decision makers can design facilities which either encourage or discourage crime.

Their second principle is crime opportunities are highly specific. The specific nature of each type of crime must be analyzed in order to select proper countermeasures, measures that are custom tailored to the crimes in question. Robberies in a parking lot of a grocery store require different security measures than a robbery of the grocery store’s cash handling office.

Felson and Clarke’s third principle is crime opportunities are concentrated in time and space. This principle emphasizes that dramatic differences in crime levels can be found from one facility to the next even when both are in high crime areas. The reason for this is that crime shifts temporally (time and day) as opportunities change.

The fourth principle is crime opportunities depend on everyday movements of activity. Expanding on principle 3, crime shifts are due to criminals and their victims moving about in time (hour of the day, day of the week) doing their routine activities of work, school, home, and recreation.

Principle 5, one crime produces opportunities for another, is of primary concern to security decision makers. Repeat attacks by the same or different offenders leads to major increases in risk to the facility.

Principle 6 is well known to retailers, some products [targets] offer more tempting crime opportunities. Assets high in value and easily accessible are at higher risk than low value or inaccessible assets. Over the counter drugs, for example, are often targeted by criminals in grocery stores.

Social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities is Principle 7. A timely example of principle 7 is the theft of mp3 players, particularly the Apple iPod.

Principle 8 is the basic premise behind vulnerability assessments, crime can be prevented by reducing opportunities. Reducing opportunities is accomplished by increasing risks to would-be offenders and reducing rewards if the crime is successful.

Principle 9 is reducing opportunities does not usually displace crime. Crime displacement means that by blocking crime at one facility, security measures will force crime to another, less hardened facility. While displacement does occur, it is not absolute.

Finally, principle 10 is focused opportunity reduction can produce wider declines in crime. This is the concept of diffusion of benefits. Diffusion is a process where increased security measures at one location may also benefit neighboring facilities.

For more information, see Chapter 8 of Strategic Security Management