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Situational Crime Prevention

1. The Role of Situation and Opportunity in Crime

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About this Lecture


In this lecture, we think about the role of situation and opportunity in crime, focusing in particular on: (i) fundamental attribution error (Ross 1977), the tendency for people to underemphasise situational and environmental explanations for an individual's observed behaviour while overemphasising dispositional and personality-based explanations; (ii) rational choice theory (Cornish and Clarke 1986), the idea that the people who commit crime are reasoning actors who weigh up means and ends, costs and benefits, in order to make a rational choice; (iii) routine activity theory (Cohen and Felson 1979), the theory that crime only occurs when three elements converge: a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian; and (iv) crime pattern theory (Brantingham and Brantingham 1993), which considers how people's everyday activities influence their awareness of spaces, including how offenders choose where to offend, and why some areas are crime 'hotspots'.

– P. L. Brantingham and P. J. Brantingham, 'Environment, Routine and Situation: Toward a Pattern Theory of Crime' in R. V. Clarke and M. Felson (eds.) Routine Activity and Rational Choice: Advances in Criminological Theory, Volume 5 (1993), pp. 259-94.
– L. E. Cohen and M. Felson, 'Social Change and Crime Rate Trends: A Routine Activity Approach', American Sociological Review 44 (1979), pp. 588-608.
– D. Cornish and R. V. Clarke, The Reasoning Criminal: Rational Choice Perspectives on Offending (1986).
– L. Ross, 'The Intuitive Psychologist And His Shortcomings: Distortions in the Attribution Process' in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 10 (1977), pp. 173-220.


In this course, Professor Kate Bowers (University College, London) explores the theory and practice of situational crime prevention (SCP). In the first lecture, we think about the role of situation and opportunity in crime, including the important concepts of rational choice theory and routine activity theory. In the second lecture, we think about the five principles of SCP – increasing the effort, increasing the risk, removing excuses, reducing provocations, and reducing rewards. In the third lecture, we look at three situations in which one or more of these principles have successfully been applied. Next, we take a step back from SCP to think about how entire spaces can be designed with the minimisation of crime in mind – a concept known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). In the fifth lecture, we consider some of the criticism of SCP.


Kate Bowers is a Professor in Crime Science at the UCL Department of Security and Crime Science. Kate has worked in the field of crime science for over 20 years, with research interests focusing on the use of quantitative methods in crime analysis and crime prevention Her most recent interests are big data approaches and the use of innovative data in understanding crime data. She has published over 100 papers and book chapters in criminology and in journals such as Criminology, the Journal of Quantitative Criminology and the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Bowers, K. (2021, August 23). Situational Crime Prevention - The Role of Situation and Opportunity in Crime [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Bowers, K. "Situational Crime Prevention – The Role of Situation and Opportunity in Crime." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 23 Aug 2021,

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