Opportunities for criminal behaviour : Age
- More young people (aged 14 – 25 – the peak ages for criminal activity) live in urban areas which provides more opportunities for crime: more shops, offices, businesses, cars, houses etc.
- Fewer opportunities for serious work-related crimes because young are rarely in positions of authority.
- More opportunities for work-related crime for older people.
- Middle and upper class youth have fewer opportunities for crime because they are more-likely to be in full-time education up to age of 21 / 22 than working class youth.
- Working class youth more-likely to be in low-paid, low skill work (or unemployed). Criminal behaviour may be used as a source of excitement as well as money.
- Women will have fewer opportunities to commit crimes if they have a home / children to look after.
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Opportunity Structures: Age 1
- After age 25 we see a steep drop in criminal activity as people take-on new roles such as wage-earner, parent, spouse etc. The possibility of jail time becomes a relatively more-serious matter because of the impact it will have on the perpetrators life and responsibilities.
- Given that the vast majority of crime is relatively petty, older people may cease to follow a lifestyle (clubbing…) that gives them opportunities for these crimes.
- As people get older they take-on more personal responsibilities (work / career for example) and social responsibilities (children or a partner for example) which makes them consider the effect their behaviour might have on people they love / value.
- Lack of responsibilities might also lead to the opposite happening – more crime being committed because the perpetrator doesn’t have to consider others.
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Opportunity Structures: Age 2
- Young people are rarely in a position to commit major work-related crimes (such as computer fraud) because their work roles are usually fairly low-level and do not involve having authority over others. They are more likely to be managed at work rather than being a manager.
- The lifestyles of the middle-aged and the elderly may be more-focused on the home (watching TV…) than outside the home.
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Opportunities for criminal behaviour: Ethnicity
- Young blacks have higher levels of unemployment than whites which may produce greater temptation for crime.
- Afro-Caribbean’s have younger age profile than ethnic majority (more young men…) which means there are more people at peak offending age (14 – 21).
- Many ethnic minorities live in inner city areas (cheap private housing) and may be drawn into culture of criminality.
- Ethnic minorities more likely to be in the lower classes of society, it is not surprising that we see a greater percentage of their population in trouble with the law (see social class factors.).
- If we control for social class, all ethnicities have a very similar amount of street crime activity in their populations. When ethnic minorities move to "white" neighbourhoods that are lower in crime, their crime
- Rate is the same as the rest of the neighbourhood, while whites living in lower class areas tend to be as criminal as their minority counterparts.
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Opportunities for criminal behaviour: Gender
- Female involvement in criminal activity is not restricted to a few areas. While females do not tend to commit crimes of violence (violence by females tends to occur within the family, mainly as a final response to male violence), they are involved in a wide crosssection of crime.
- Therefore, while, in theory, women have similar opportunities as men to commit crime these may be limited by other factors…
- In terms of the ratio of conviction between females and males, where women have similar opportunities for criminal behaviour in relation to males, their respective patterns of crimes appear to be broadly similar.
- For example, where female crime most-closely approximates to male crime is in relation to shop-lifting and it's no coincidence that in this area of their social lives women have similar opportunities for crime to men.
- Marsh ("Sociology In Focus: Crime", 1986): "In areas where females have similar opportunities to men they appear as likely to break laws".
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Opportunity Structures: Region
- Greater opportunity structures in urban areas – more people performing a variety of work-related roles.
- Opportunity structures are related to social controls in urban / rural areas (for example, rural areas with strong informal social control agencies experience less crime than urban areas).
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Opportunity Structures: Gender
- Where opportunity structures differ, so too does the pattern of crime:For example, burglary is predominantly a male crime and one way of explaining the difference is that this type of crime tends to be a relatively solitary pursuit that takes place late at night.
- A female alone late at night is both more-likely to: Attract attention and / or involve some degree of personal danger.
- Employment related crime: Fewer women than men work, therefore, less opportunity exists.
- Women tend to occupy less powerful positions within an organisation. They are more-likely to be subject to close supervision, have less opportunity for acting on their own initiative, unsupervised and so forth. Hence, they generally have less opportunity for committing "white-collar" crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, etc
Women are more-likely than men to have primary responsibility for child-care, which restricts opportunities for various types of criminal behaviour
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Opportunities for criminal behaviour: Region 1
- Greater opportunities for crime in cities and towns (urban areas) than in villages (rural areas). More shops, offices, factories, cars, homes and people…
- More clubs, pubs, etc. in urban areas (including inner cities). Levels of burglary, vehicle-related thefts and violence in rural areas have been consistently lower than in non-rural areas over the past two decades. However, relative number of burglaries rose more in rural areas over the past two decades compared to both suburban and urban areas.
- Greater numbers of young males (14 – 21 – the peak years for criminal activity) living in urban areas means greater likelihood of crimes being committed.
- It is often assumed that as travel has become easier, offenders must be taking advantage of this fact to travel further to commit crimes. However, research by the Home Office (2000) shows that: The vast majority of offender movements are relatively short.
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Opportunities for criminal behaviour: Region 2
- Much travel associated with crime is not primarily driven by plans to offend but appears to be much more dependent upon opportunities presenting themselves during normal routines.
- When offenders do travel to offend it is overwhelmingly local in nature even when longer-range travel is involved in offending elsewhere it is mainly in places which have strong traditional connections with the offender’s home location e.g. a place the offender goes to shop.
- There was little evidence that offenders travelling to offend was significantly increasing compared with the past or that new travel opportunities were changing traditional travel patterns used by offenders.
- Ease of travel in urban areas makes it easier for criminals to remain relatively anonymous to their victims.
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