Routine Activities Theory


Routine activities theory is a theory of crime events. This differs from a majority of criminological theories, which focus on explaining why some people commit crimes—that is, the motivation to commit crime— rather than how criminal events are produced. Although at first glance this distinction may appear inconsequential, it has important implications for the research and prevention of crime. Routine activities theory suggests that the organization of routine activities in society create opportunities for crime.


Outline

I. Introduction

II. Theory

III. Methods

IV. Complementary Theories, Perspectives, and Applications

V. Future Directions

VI. Conclusion

I. Introduction

Routine activities theory is a theory of crime events. This differs from a majority of criminological theories, which focus on explaining why some people commit crimes—that is, the motivation to commit crime— rather than how criminal events are produced. Although at first glance this distinction may appear inconsequential, it has important implications for the research and prevention of crime.

Routine activities theory suggests that the organization of routine activities in society create opportunities for crime. In other words, the daily routine activities of people—including where they work, the routes they travel to and from school, the groups with whom the socialize, the shops they frequent, and so forth—strongly influence when, where, and to whom crime occurs.

These routines can make crime easy and low risk, or difficult and risky. Routine Activities TheoryBecause opportunities vary over time, space, and among people, so too does the likelihood of crime. Therefore, research that stems from routine activities theory generally examines various opportunity structures that facilitate crime; prevention strategies that are informed by routine activities theory attempt to alter these opportunity structures to prevent criminal events.

Routine activities theory was initially used to explain changes in crime trends over time. It has been increasingly used much more broadly to understand and prevent crime problems. Researchers have used various methods to test hypotheses derived from the theory. Since its inception, the theory has become closely aligned with a set of theories and perspectives known as environmental criminology, which focuses on the importance of opportunity in determining the distribution of crime across time and space.

Environmental criminology, and routine activities theory in particular, has very practical implications for prevention; therefore, practitioners have applied routine activities theory to inform police practices and prevention strategies. This research paper contains a review of the evolution of routine activities theory; a summary of research informed by the theory; complementary perspectives and current applications; and future directions for theory, research, and prevention.