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Routine Activities Theory

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Cohen and Felson (1979) developed Routine Activities Theory which focuses on the characteristics of crime rather than the characteristics of the offender. This is one of the main theories of environmental criminology as an aspect of Crime Prevention Theory. It states that for a crime to occur, three elements must be present, i.e. there must be:

  • an available and suitable target;
  • a motivated offender; and
  • no authority figure to prevent the crime from happening.

Routine Activities Theory relates the pattern of offending to the everyday patterns of social interaction. Between 1960 and 1980, women left the home to work which led to social disorganisation, i.e. the routine of leaving the home unattended and without an authority figure increased probability of criminal activity. The theory is supplemented by the crime triangle or the problem analysis triangle [1] which is used in the analysis both of a crime problem by reference to the three parameters of victim, location, and offender, and of an intervention strategy by reference to the parameters of target/victim, location and absence of a capable guardian with the latter helping to think more constructively about responses as well as analysis.


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Theories of criminal behaviour and crime prevention

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