opportunity theory | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Criminology

Opportunity theory is a criminological theory that suggests that crime results from an individual’s motivation to commit a crime and the opportunities available to them to commit that crime.

The theory argues that crime occurs when an individual has the motivation to commit an offense and is presented with an opportunity to do so.

Opportunity theory suggests that criminal behavior is not solely determined by an individual’s personal characteristics or social background, but is also influenced by the environmental factors that provide opportunities for criminal activity. These factors can include the physical layout of a neighborhood, the availability of targets, the presence or absence of security measures, and the effectiveness of law enforcement.

According to opportunity theory, crime prevention strategies should focus on reducing the opportunities for criminal behavior by making it more difficult for individuals to commit crimes. This can involve measures such as improving security, increasing police presence, and implementing community watch programs. Opportunity theory suggests that the overall level of crime in a community can be decreased by reducing the opportunities for criminal behavior.

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Last Modified: 03/10/2023


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