Situational opportunity theories of crime

Pamela Wilcox, Francis T. Cullen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Historically speaking, criminological theory tends to pay great attention to identifying the various sources of criminal motivation while downplaying the opportunity to carry out crime in particular situations. However, perspectives that address situational opportunity have gained tremendous traction in the field over the past several decades to the point that there is now a substantial body of theory and research on the issue. This article reviews such theory and research within the context of four overlapping yet distinct lines of inquiry. First, we review scholarship that uses situational opportunity to understand individual victimization. Second, we discuss theory and research that link situational opportunity and high-crime places. Third, we explore scholarship that embraces a multicontextual opportunity perspective to understand crime and victimization events within neighborhood contexts. Fourth, we examine work that integrates situational opportunity into explanations of offending.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-148
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Criminology
StatePublished - 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Law


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