The Theory of Target Search

Paul J. Brantingham

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 The Theory of Target Search

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Crime


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From the perspective of criminology, crime can be viewed in two ways. The first focuses on understanding an individual's propensity to commit crimes, or what is known as criminality. The second focuses on the criminal event—the convergence in space and time of law, offender, target, and situation—and assumes that this convergence is critical and in fact, creates the criminal event. This perspective emphasizes the importance of understanding how offenders find criminal targets. The process of locating a target for criminal action is termed “target search.” This article examines the theory of target search and considers the fundamental assumptions of crime pattern theory. It then discusses the components of target search theory, revealing four forms of criminal events involving different forms of target search: proximity events, opportunistic events, intelligence-led target searches, and purposive target searches.

Keywords: criminology; crime; criminality; criminal events; target search theory; crime pattern theory; proximity events; opportunistic events; intelligence-led target searches; purposive target searches

Article.  8676 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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