Crime Opportunity Myth

The myth that opportunity is a cause of crime

Many criminologists,  'crime scientists', national and local government departments and police forces believe that  Marcus  Felson's notion of crime opportunity shows that such  'opportunity' is a cause of crime.  In fact Felson’s causal notion of crime opportunity is simply a truism masquerading as causality.

The Crime Opporttunity Myth has been bust in the following peer reviewed publication:

Free peer-to-peer  articles on this subject can be accessed  here:

  1. Opportunity Does Not Make the Thief: Busting the Myth that Opportunity is a Cause of Crime (Here
  2. Contingency Makes or Breaks the Thief: Introducing the Perception Contingency Process Hypothesis (Here)
  3. Crime Opportunity and the Art of War and Driving: Thieves and Dealers in Stolen Goods are Like Warmongering Invaders and Motorists at a Juncture of Appropriate Circumstances for Aggressive Action (Here)
  4. Routine Activity Theory’s ‘Mindless’ Chemistry Meme Masquerades as a Theory of Crime Causation (Here)


When respected skeptics deploy a myth to bust another, or else to support one, they create deeply entrenched fallacies known as supermyths.

Where crime is concerned, a potential offender can have a pre-crime accident, get injured or otherwise thwarted during a criminal attempt. The capabilities of any guardian can never be fixed (known) in advance of a crime happening. Even the Little Piggy in the house made of sticks might have leaped out of his demolished home at the very last minute and poked the Big Bad Wolf in the eye with a broken twig. Check out the hundreds of newspaper stories of have-a-go heroes (archived) if you doubt this. My criticism along these lines is included by my colleague Roger Hopkins Burke 2014 within the pages of his excellent best-selling text book "Explaining Criminological Theory" - pp.69-70). Similarly, Critical Criminologists Jeff Ferrell, Keith Haywood and Jock Young provide criminologists with my no punches pulled criticism of what's wrong with RATortunity (Ferrell, Hayward and Young 2015, pp 69-70) in the second edition of their excellent book Cultural Criminology: An Invitation. Furthermore, as yet another editorially peer-reviewed and in-print source for those looking for scholarly sources to cite these ideas, my original explanation for why the RAT notion of opportunity (Ratortunity) is a mere truism masquerading as causality is published in a peer-reviewed essay in the Springer Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice (here).

Towards a science of veracity

Understanding the power of fallacies, myths and lies

Dysology is the study of orthodox bias, academic blind spots, irrationality, pseudo scholarship and fraud influencing bad social science research, bad science, bad policymaking, quackery, counterknowledge, 'voodoo histories', 'voodoo criminology' 'flat earth news' and other ignorance.

Marcus Felson's Routine Activity Theory (RAT) crime opportunity theorem is wrong because it does not represent an opportunity.

A barrier to more effective crime reduction knowledge progression has been thrown up by two criminology theories/approaches: Situational Crime Prevention (SCP) and Routine Activities Theory (RAT). The problem is caused by the policy oriented popularity of SCP and RAT that is likely due in no small part to their simplistic and easily comprehendible, compelling, yet ultimately illogical weird focus upon describing the data of crime in ever more complex ways so that simple truisms about the scenes of successfully completed crimes and failed attempts (crimes of attempting to commit a crime) are placed in the spotlight and presented as a root cause of crime. Felson's simplistic notion of opportunity is, in fact,merely the very data that a true testable theory of causation could explain. Click here to read my online article that explains why.


My explanation for why the RAT notion of opportunity (Ratortunity) is a mere truism

masquerading  as causality is published in a peer reviewed essay (here). An earlier, very detailed, open access peer-to-peer article can be read here.

Felson's versus Sutton's Crime Opportunity Explanations.

A useful blog using the Wolf and the Three Little Pigs as an explanatory analogy can be read here

Felson's paradigm of crime opportunity is a mere description of the data of a successfully completed crime or completed attempt.

Descriptions can not explain themselves. For that, we need a testable hypothesis that is either right or wrong. Felson's theory s a mere truism masquerading as causality.

Good explanations in science, including the social sciences, are those that are capable of being disproven and are hard to vary if so disconfirmed.