Multilevel Criminal Opportunity

Pamela Wilcox, Brooke Miller Gialopsos and Kenneth C. Land

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Multilevel Criminal Opportunity

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Theories of Crime


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Some people are more likely to break the law than others. This likelihood or propensity to break the law is commonly known as criminality. A place with stronger criminality is predicted to have higher crime levels. However, more and more scholars are questioning this way of explaining crime. They argue that for a criminal event to take place, offenders must not only have criminality or the willingness to break the law, but also the opportunity to act on their desires. Thus, the distribution of crime across individuals and environmental spaces depends on both criminality and criminal opportunity. A number of theories have addressed the importance of criminal opportunity, including lifestyle-routine activities, environmental design, rational choice, offender search, and social control theories. These theories, collectively known as “opportunity theories,” have one thing in common: their overarching premise that offenders make decisions about crime events based on perceived opportunity. This article integrates opportunity theories into a general multilevel opportunity perspective.

Keywords: crime; criminal opportunity; opportunity theories; criminality; multilevel opportunity; rational choice; offender search; social control; lifestyle routine activities

Article.  9918 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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