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Understanding the "triangle of crime"

Updated December 23, 2009

There are three major components that are necessary for the completion of any given crime: the criminal, the victim and the opportunity. Without all three of these components, no crime can occur.

The criminal

Unfortunately, the number of criminals is staggering. There are currently more than 175,000 inmates in the custody of the California Department of Corrections. This does not include those being held at the county or municipal level. In Los Angeles County alone, that figure exceeds 20,000. Also to be considered are the many individuals on parole or probation.

Incarceration can sometimes serve as a training ground for criminals. Inmates may share information on police response procedures, how to select victims, how to commit crimes, and how to avoid detection. Upon release, many criminals return to the streets. Unfortunately for society, when one criminal is identified and taken off of the streets, there are many more to step up and replace him.

Most criminals are calculating and leave their homes with a specific crime and method in mind to achieve their goals. Many will act upon impulse as the situation presents itself. In the Triangle of Crime, eliminating the criminal from the equation is realistically impossible.

The victim

For every crime committed, there is a victim. It is very common for a criminal to have multiple victims. There are direct victims, such as those robbed at gunpoint, and indirect victims. An example of indirect victims are those who suffer higher insurance rates due to fraud. The number of potential victims is even larger than the number of criminals.

The opportunity

Opportunity is the third component of the Triangle of Crime, and the one we have the most control over in our quest to reduce crime. The opportunity to commit a crime is what we as victims present to a criminal. Criminals, while either calculating or acting on impulse, must have an opportunity in order to commit a crime.

There are simple steps that can be taken to reduce the opportunities presented to criminals. The steps include: not leaving items of value in the passenger compartment of your vehicle where they can be seen from outside; parking your vehicle in the garage at night; checking that all windows and doors are locked before leaving home; installing hardware in sliding glass windows and doors to keep them from moving vertically or horizontally when closed; making sure that exterior doors are of solid core construction and have deadbolts; installing an alarm system and posting alarm company signs in front of your home; avoiding the use of ATMs at night; walking in pairs (street robbers rarely approach multiple victims); and using a steering wheel locking device in your car as a visible deterrent to avoid theft.

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