Crime Prevention Triangle

December 4, 2015 11:00 AM

The Crime Prevention Triangle
A. Spencer Wilcox

In order for Crime to occur, three elements must be present. These are 

  • Desire
  • Ability
  • Opportunity

These elements of crime are usually depicted in a triangle. 

As with any triangle, if a single leg is missing, a triangle cannot be formed. This holds true in regard to crime as well. If any one of these is missing, no crime will occur. 

The main objective of Crime Prevention is to reduce the opportunity for crime, thereby reducing the likelihood that crime will occur. In our “Elements of Crime” Triangle, by removing any one of the legs of the triangle, one removes the crime. One can remove the desire to commit a crime by educating. One can remove the ability to commit a crime by incarcerating, and one can remove the opportunity to commit a crime by target-hardening. Effective Crime Prevention incorporates all of these things. 

Removing The Ability to Commit a Crime 
There is a great deal of information out there about corrections. However, I think it is becoming more and more obvious that corrections are not the solution to the crime problem. It is currently still vital to the system, and is necessary to have around, yet, it is not the solution to the problem. All it is capable of doing is to remove the ability to perform the crime for a short length of time while the offender is incarcerated. 

  • Incarceration
  • Electronic Home Incarceration

One of the purposes of the local police is to help the community reduce the opportunity to be victimized by crime. 

Removing The Opportunity to Commit a Crime 
There are three ways to do this, these are: 

  • Naturally: By utilizing Environmental Measures to reduce the opportunity for crime.
  • Organized Measures: Neighborhood Watch 
  • Police Patrolling 
  • Crime Prevention Planning 
  • Target Hardening: To decrease the ability of the criminal to physically cause damage by such means as: 

                                               - Improved Doors and Windows 
                                               - Improved Locks 
                                               - Alarm Systems 
                                               - Lighting 

Any of these means may be used in performing Crime Prevention. However, the most important part of Crime Prevention is commitment. It is necessary to devote resources, manpower, and most importantly money when undertaking this project. In fact, many agencies do not do so, and the Crime Prevention program falls flat on its face. 

It is important to recognize that Crime Prevention is by definition the practice of preventing crime from occurring. Often, law enforcement is stuck with the mentality that 

“Our job is to catch the bad guy, and put him in jail.” 

Think about it this way: if the crime is prevented, then it is not necessary to arrest anyone. Unfortunately, in an age that requires statistical fact, it is difficult to measure the number of crimes one has prevented. The only way one can effectively do this is to study the performance of Crime Prevention over a period of several years. If one can determine a noticeable drop in crime either through a noticeable change in the Uniform Crime Reports percentages or through crime analysis conducted interdepartmentally, then one can be fairly certain that the crime rate has decreased. When one provides education and prevention programs to certain crime prone areas, and sees a decrease in crime in those areas, one can be fairly certain what to attribute that decrease to. 
For some other really great sources of information on Crime Prevention check these links:


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