The following is from Unraveled: An Evidence-Based Approach to Understanding and Preventing Crime
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A successful security program or initiative should be rooted in sound crime prevention theory and research and designed for specific crime types. In the security field, opportunities are often referred to as vulnerabilities. There are ten principles of opportunity and crime:
- Opportunities play a role in causing all crime.
- Crime opportunities are highly specific.
- Crime opportunities are concentrated in time and space.
- Crime opportunities depend on everyday movements.
- One crime produces opportunities for another.
- Some targets offer more tempting crime opportunities.
- Social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities.
- Opportunities for crime can be reduced.
- Reducing opportunities does not usually displace crime.
- Focused opportunity reduction can produce wider declines in crime.
(Felson, M., Clarke, R. V. G., & Great Britain. (1998). Opportunity makes the thief: Practical theory for crime prevention. London: Home Office, Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.)
The first principle, opportunities play a role in causing all crime, implies that security decision makers can design facilities that either encourage or discourage crime. The second principle, crime opportunities are highly specific, indicates that the specific nature of each type of crime must be analyzed in order to select proper countermeasures that are custom tailored to the crimes in question. For example, robberies in a parking lot of a grocery store require different security measures than a robbery of the grocery store’s cash handling office. The third principle, crime opportunities are concentrated in time and space, emphasizes that dramatic differences in crime levels can be found from one place to the next even when both are in high crime areas and can shift temporally (time and day) as opportunities change. The fourth principle, crime opportunities depend on everyday movements of activity, expands on principle 3 in emphasizing that crime shifts are due to criminals and their victims moving about in time (hour of the day, day of the week) while doing their routine activities of work, school, home, and recreation (Routine Activity Theory). Principle 5, one crime produces opportunities for another, is similar to the broken windows theory and, likewise, is subject to the same limitations discussed earlier. Principle 6, some targets offer more tempting crime opportunities, is well known to retailers. Assets high in value and easily accessible are at higher risk than low value or inaccessible assets. Over-the-counter drugs and razor blades, for example, are often targeted by criminals in grocery stores. An example of Principle 7, social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities, may be antiquated by the time some readers pick up this book. An example is the ease at which identity theft occurs due to the convergence of social media and access to records containing personally identifying information from third parties, such as credit agencies. Principle 8 is the basic premise behind vulnerability assessments, opportunities for crime can be reduced. This principle should not be confused with the notion that all crimes can be prevented. Even when reasonable security measures are implemented, crime can and does occur. However, the idea behind crime prevention is to increase risks to would-be offenders and reduce rewards if the crime is successful. Certainly, the criminal justice system, even with the slow wheels of justice, can increase risk. Principle 9, reducing opportunities does not usually displace crime, is discussed later in this chapter. Briefly, displacement means that blocking crime at one facility does not mean that crime will move to another, less hardened facility. While displacement does occur, it is not absolute. Finally, Principle 10, focused opportunity reduction can produce wider declines in crime, involves the concept of diffusion of benefits and is also discussed later in this chapter. Diffusion of benefits is a process whereby increased security measures at one location may also benefit neighboring facilities.