CCO – presentations, publications and origins

CCO presentations

CCO publications

Key CCO publications

Ekblom. P. (2010). ‘The Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Theory’. Sage Encyclopedia of Victimology and Crime Prevention, Vol 1, 139-146.
Concise summary of the CCO (note: editorial decision to mislabel it as a theory).

Ekblom, P. (1996). ‘Towards a Discipline of Crime Prevention: a Systematic Approach to its Nature, Range and Concepts’, in T. Bennett (Ed.), Preventing Crime and Disorder: Targeting Strategies and Responsibilities, Cambridge Cropwood Series, 43-98. Cambridge: Institute of Criminology.

Ekblom, P. (1994a). ‘Proximal Circumstances: a Mechanism-Based Classification of Crime Prevention‘. Crime Prevention Studies, 2: 185-232.
The first exposition of the CCO framework, albeit under a different name and with a few details different (e.g. ‘crime moderators’ covering both crime preventer and promoter roles).

Other CCO publications

Ekblom, P. (2017). ‘Crime, situational prevention and technology – the nature of opportunity and how it evolves’. In M. McGuire and T. Holt (Eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Technology, Crime and Justice. Milton Park: Routledge, 353-374.
An example of how the CCO is woven into other topics.

Ekblom, P. (2014). ‘Securing the knowledge‘ in M.Gill (Ed.)The Handbook of Security (2nd Edn.). Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
A general account of knowledge management for security, covering the CCO and 5Is.

Ruskov, M., Ekblom, P. and Sasse, M. A., Oct. (2013). ‘In search for the right
measure: Assessing types of developed knowledge while using a gamified
web toolkit
.’ In: 7th European Conference on Games Based Learning.

Ekblom, P. (2006a). ‘Good practice? Invest in a Framework!Network News, Spring 2006. Chester: National Community Safety Network.
A brief call to practitioners to adopt more sophisticated frameworks than the Problem Analysis Triangle and SARA, in order to boost performance and share knowledge of good practice.

Ekblom, P. (2006b). ‘Crime’ in Office of Science and Technology, Foresight Intelligent Infrastructure Futures: the Scenarios – Towards 2055 – Perspective and Process’ 17-23. London: Department of Trade and Industry.
Application of the CCO in generating future crime scenarios.

Roach, J., Ekblom, P. and Flynn, R. (2005). ‘The Conjunction of Terrorist Opportunity: A Framework for Diagnosing and Preventing Acts of Terrorism.’ Security Journal 18 (3):7-25.
An extension of the CCO into terrorism.

Ekblom, P. (2003). ‘Organised Crime and the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework‘, in A. Edwards and P. Gill (Eds.) Transnational Organised Crime: Perspectives on global security. London: Routledge, pp. 241 – 263.
Extension of CCO to cover aspects of organised crime.

Ekblom, P. (2002). ‘Future Imperfect: Preparing for the Crimes to Come.’ Criminal Justice Matters 46 Winter 2001/02:38-40. London: Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, Kings College.
A brief futures-oriented application of the CCO.

Ekblom, P. (2001). ‘The Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity: a Framework for Crime Reduction Toolkits’ – Former UK Crime Reduction website.
An attempt to systematise the guidance given to practitioners, across a range of toolkits hastily-prepared by the UK Home Office for the national Crime Reduction Programme.

Ekblom, P. (2000a). ‘The Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity – a Tool for Clear, ‘Joined-up’ Thinking about Community Safety and Crime Reduction’, in S. Ballintyne, K. Pease, K. and V. McLaren (Eds.), Secure foundations: Key issues in crime prevention, crime reduction and community safety. 30-66. London: Institute for Public Policy Research.
The first full introduction to the renamed framework.

Ekblom, P. (1998c). Community Safety and the Reduction and Prevention of Crime – a Conceptual Framework for Training and the Development of a Professional Discipline.
Document formerly on Home Office website section The Crime and Disorder Act: Guidance on Statutory Crime and Disorder Partnerships.

CCO – origins

In the 1990s an attempt was made to classify several thousand crime prevention projects implemented through the UK Safer Cities Programme. One purpose was to put ‘like with like’ when evaluating project impacts. The diversity of those projects was challenging. They covered a range of institutional settings and preventive methods, and no single existing framework could handle the complexity or breadth. Likewise, even using detailed entries from the programme’s management information system, determining exactly what the individual projects were endeavouring to do proved difficult.

There was no universal, rigorous and consistent schema or language by which the preventive interventions could be described – and no systematic map of preventive possibilities. Terminology for causation and prevention was confused, unclear and overlapping, with spurious contrasts such as ‘situational versus social’. This not only inhibited retrieval and replication of success stories, it also constrained the realisation and monitoring of each original project as it unfolded.

Exacerbating confusion was the fragmentation of the field of crime prevention into situational and offender-oriented territories, with their own languages and theories; and fragmentation, too, into institutional settings such as ‘enforcement and judicial-based’ and ‘civil’ prevention (changes made in everyday life such as the ethos of schools or the layout of parks). Again this generated spurious contrasts such as ‘prevention versus deterrence’. Even within situational prevention, the main theories were (and remain) poorly integrated, so each novice practitioner must assemble them afresh.

Therefore, it was decided to purpose-design a new framework: one that was inclusive of types and theories of crime, and types and contexts of prevention; and based on a suite of clear and consistent definitions. The focus was to be on the immediate, or ‘proximal’ causes of criminal events, whether originating in offenders or crime situations. ‘Distal’ or remote causes (such as children’s early upbringing, aspects of social structure such as inequality, or market forces such as those which made copper piping expensive therefore worth stealing), were important. But they were too varied, complex and often too hard to measure and define, to supply the basis of a theoretical and conceptual framework.

Contemporaneously, Nick Tilley was introducing a ‘Scientific Realist’ perspective to the crime prevention domain. This emphasised the importance of understanding, and manipulating, the ‘causal mechanisms’ that underlie preventive interventions. Here, the key question is not simply ‘what works?’, but ‘in what context, and how – by what causal mechanisms?’ So, CCTV in car parks might work simply by scaring offenders off, or by facilitating detection and arrest. Only the second mechanism is potentially durable (the offenders soon ignore the cameras if nobody catches them), so it is important for practitioners to know which is operating. They must also tune the intervention to their context, because mechanisms are quite ‘delicate’: only the right combination of circumstances triggers them. This means that understanding and reproducing mechanisms is vital for replication of ‘success story’ projects.

In essence, the CCO Framework offers a universal ‘mechanism map’ of the causal preconditions that must come together for a crime to occur. The mechanism perspective enabled the CCO framework to centre on analytic causal and contextual factors rather than simply being a superficial listing of causes and a ‘natural history’ of preventive methods.

The framework was assembled from familiar theories of crime causation including Rational Choice Theory, Crime Pattern Theory and Routine Activities Theory. The last was in effect the starting point, from which questions were posed such as ‘how is the target suitable?’ and ‘why is the offender likely?’ Since these ‘situational’ theories intentionally contained only minimalist reference to offenders, psychological and interpersonal aspects of criminals were taken from the theoretical writings for example of David Farrington (e.g. 1988). Seeking an exhaustive ‘map’ of causes led to identification and filling of gaps: for example the concepts of ‘crime promoters’ and ‘offender resources’.

From these beginnings what became the CCO Framework evolved iteratively while it was applied to classify descriptions of several thousand Safer Cities projects, and progressively extended or refined as new kinds of cause or intervention were encountered. Eventually the framework stabilised at 11 generic causes and equivalent intervention principles.

The CCO Framework was drawn on in the development of toolkits and training material for the national Crime Reduction Programme in England & Wales (1997-2003) as illustrated here, which led to adoption by various local crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

Development of the CCO within this practitioner and ‘programme delivery’ context up to 2003 led to an accretion of ‘preventive process’ elements which were eventually hived off to a separate (and equally deliberately-designed) process model, the 5Is framework.

Further background material on the CCO is in Chapter 9 of the 5Is book, and also in the account of how Nick Tilley’s approach has influenced the thinking behind the Crime Frameworks (subtitled ‘there is mechanism in my madness’) (Ekblom 2018b).