Routine Activity Theory

Arelys Madero-Hernandez and Bonnie S. Fisher

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Routine Activity Theory

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Crime



“Opportunity makes the thief” is a saying that emphasizes one thing: crime requires not only the presence of a willing offender but also an opportunity. Based on this notion, even the most motivated offender cannot commit a crime unless he sees an opportunity to do so. The concept of opportunity is therefore important in explaining why crime incidents occur across persons and their property. Routine activity theory, proposed by Lawrence E. Cohen and Marcus Felson, offers an account of how opportunities for crime arise through the day-to-day activities carried out by individuals to meet their needs. Individuals have different routines of life—traveling to and from work, going to school or attending religious functions, shopping, recreating, communicating via various electronic technologies, etc.—and these variations determine the likelihood of when and where a crime will be committed and who or what is the victim. This article examines theoretical and methodological issues relevant to testing routine activity theory and reviews major empirical findings from the extant literature.

Keywords: crime; opportunity; routine activity theory; Lawrence E. Cohen; Marcus Felson; routines

Article.  9605 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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