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Routine Activity Theory

Sharon Chamard

Subject Sociology » Deviance and Social Control, Sociological and Social Theory

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Routine activity theory is a theoretical approach that explains the components of a criminal incident. It breaks down a crime into three basic elements: (1) a likely offender, (2) a suitable target, and (3) the absence of a capable guardian. It is only when these three elements converge in time and space that a crime occurs. Despite this focus on the crime event, routine activities is considered a macro-level theory, as it concerns how broad changes in society lead to alterations in community life that create new opportunities for crime. Routine activities is one of a constellation of theoretical approaches generally referred to as environmental criminology. These approaches include rational choice, crime pattern theory, situational crime prevention, and explanations for victimization that focus on lifestyles. Routine activities draws upon the work of early human ecologists such as Amos Hawley and members of the Chicago School (such as Parks and Burgess) who looked at the relationship between humans and the environment. Unlike many theories attempting to explain criminal behavior, routine activities does not spend much time trying to explain why offenders do what they do in terms of motivation or preexisting factors that predispose a person to break the law. The assumption is that there is a large group of persons who have the potential, or the likelihood, to be offenders, and crime ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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