CCO – relation to other Crime Science frameworks

The Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework was designed as a way of integrating all the frameworks, models and theoretical perspectives within conventional Crime Science – and beyond. It is therefore important to clarify how the CCO Framework relates to each of them.

This page sets out the relationships of the CCO with:

  • Crime Science theory in general
  • The Scientific Realist approach
  • The Problem Analysis Triangle
  • The 25 Techniques of Situational Crime Prevention
  • Crime Precipitators
  • Dynamic perspectives including Crime Attractors and Crime Scripts
  • Attack Trees
  • The Geometry of Crime
  • Risk and Protective Factors
  • Attack surfaces
  • Simulation and Agent-Based Modelling
  • Situational Action Theory
  • The S5 Moral Ecology framework

Additionally, it states how the CCO relates to the other Crime Frameworks presented on this website.

CCO and other Crime Science and security frameworks

Crime Science theory

The CCO Framework brings together all the current theoretical perspectives in situational crime prevention/Crime Science (Wortley et al. 2019) including Routine Activities (Felson 2017), Rational Choice (Cornish and Clarke 2016), the Geometry of Crime/Crime Pattern Theory (Brantingham et al. 2017), Crime Precipitation (Wortley 2017) and some new ones, including on the offender side (e.g. self-control theory (Gottfredson 2017), into a one-stop-shop.

Opportunity theories‘ is a rubric often used to refer to the main set of Crime Science approaches. However, opportunity is a rather complex concept, discussed in depth here. In brief, like situation, opportunity is not purely environmental, but inherently interactional.

In CCO terms an opportunity for crime depends on the conjunction of offender and setting. Thus for example, an open window three floors up is only an opportunity if the offender perceives it as such (see affordance) and has resources such as agility, strength, courage and maybe a ladder.

Likewise with crime precipitation, the tendency of an individual to be provoked, say, by an officious poster is inextricably co-determined by their own predisposition to be angered by certain things, interacting with the properties of the poster which inspire provocation, such as patronising or authoritarian language. (Precipitation and readiness to offend, given their motivational/ emotional content, strictly take the CCO beyond pure opportunity, but the name is long-established.)

The Scientific Realist Approach – causal mechanisms and Realist Evaluation

Pawson and Tilley (1997) sharpened the focus of (what was to become called) Crime Science by introducing the language and perspective of Scientific Realism with its use of the concept of causal mechanisms. (Related approaches include Theory of Change.) Mechanisms are detailed causal processes underlying agents’ perceptions, motivation and behavioural interactions with the setting and other agents, that are hypothesised or conjectured to be taking place.

Realistic evaluations (discussed here) attempt to go beyond conventional evaluation designs that rely solely on comparing crime outcome indicators before and after intervention, in action and control groups (ideally with randomised assignment). Instead, they combine this and other designs with the search for subtler evidence to confirm, or refute, underlying causal mechanisms hypothesised to have generated the pattern of observed results.

The Scientific Realist approach notes the extreme context sensitivity of crime prevention mechanisms. Realist Evaluations therefore use the ‘Context, Mechanism, Outcome‘ (CMO) format to describe how interventions are intended, or empirically shown, to work. ‘What works’ knowledge is thus expressed as ‘what works, in this context, by these mechanisms, to produce this outcome pattern.’ (A practical application of this is the UK College of Policing Crime Reduction Toolkit (Johnson et al. 2015)).

The CCO Framework attempts to include and integrate all the immediate causes that, interacting together, generate criminal events. These causes will still be present as a background to the changes introduced by the preventive intervention – apart, of course, from any that the intervention itself blocks or removes. Therefore, it follows that the CCO Framework supplies both a broad account of intervention methods and mechanisms, and an immediate context map with which the intervention interacts to produce the outcome pattern. In other words, it covers context and mechanism in Realist Evaluation.

The Problem Analysis Triangle

25 Techniques of Situational Crime Prevention

Crime Precipitators, resourceful offenders: making offenders richer

Dynamic perspectives including Crime Attractors and Crime Scripts

Beyond pure opportunity, the existence of structural or personal/group-level conflicts that pre-date a criminal event can bring offender, target victim and target property together in a situation that is charged with readiness to offend.

Within and around the criminal event itself, there are the immediate dynamics of social interaction e.g. in an encounter that escalates into a dispute then violence; and of course a sequence of events such as the performance of a crime script. Scripts aren’t just for offenders – all the crime roles acquire, perform and develop them; and script clashes characterise archetypical tactical conflicts such as offender pursues versus victim escapes. Prevention is about designing the setting, procedures etc to favour the performance of the good guys over the bad. While CCO currently focuses on the offender it would be interesting to develop a notation that gave equal treatment, say, to crime preventer and/or victim roles.

Attack trees

Geometry of crime

The Geometry of Crime, aka Crime Pattern Theory, seeks to cover patterns and causes of crime at a neighbourhood-to-city scale. Developed by the Brantinghams (Brantingham et al. 2017), it blends an environmental/ ecological approach with humans as agents perceiving, knowing and moving around their habitat. Key concepts include nodes/ destinations (such as home, workplace and entertainment venue) and paths connecting these, that people routinely take; and ‘awareness space‘ of the offenders and other agents.

The CCO Framework can describe the opportunities and precipitators that offenders encounter at particular nodes or whilst on particular paths, relating these to wider environments or enclosures as appropriate. It can also treat awareness space as a kind of resource for offending. But the whole process of travelling between nodes, the geometrical relations between them, and how, say, offender movement and location patterns overlap with those of victims, are beyond the scope of the CCO Framework itself. Indeed these processes are necessary additions to the CCO Framework to explain how the elements of the CCO come together. This is returned to under Risk and Protective Factors below.

Other concepts from the same Geometry of Crime stable are crime generators and attractors. Generators are places or routes of high crime risk simply by virtue of the high presence or flow rate of people, including offenders, going about routine, legitimate activities – conjunctions will keep happening and criminals will seize them opportunistically. Attractors are wider environments or enclosures that have such strongly criminogenic properties (e.g. lots of attractive targets, inadequate presence of preventers) that offenders, as active agents, seek them out.

Crime radiators (Bowers 2013) are places (enclosures or wider environments) such as rowdy pubs which either attract offenders to the general vicinity or send them out into it, inebriated, to offend close by the premises. Crime attractors come within-scope of the CCO, radiators can be assimilated by broadening the CCO concept of enclosures and environments but generators can only be accommodated by adding to the dynamics of how the causal elements come, or are brought, together (see Risk and Protective Factors below).

Risk and Protective Factors

  • The CCO Framework applies to all kinds of crime, nearly all of which are directed towards targets
  • Misdeeds specify particular broad types of crime in terms of what is being done to, or with, what, such as misappropriation (theft) of targets
  • Risk and Protective Factors respectively identify properties of those targets and their typical ‘habitats’ that make them more prone to to particular types of crime – for example misappropriation, or even more specific categories such as theft of luggage at airports – or that make the targets less susceptible or exposed

Attack surfaces

Attack surfaces, a term from the security/ cybersecurity literature but with wider applicability, relates to the aggregate of all known, unknown, and potential vulnerabilities, and controls across all hardware, software, and network components. As with opportunity, the extent to which the vulnerabilities are co-determined by the resources available to attackers needs to be highlighted.

Simulation and Agent-Based Modelling

Situational Action Theory

In their interest in interactions and mechanisms, and its aspiration to be general and integrative/comprehensive, CCO and SAT have plenty in common, and there is much scope for mapping the one onto the other.

Like CCO, SAT gives equal coverage to offenders, whereas the main Crime Science approaches emphasise situations/environments and limit consideration of offenders to their being merely ‘likely or motivated’ (Routine Activities) or ‘Rational’ (Rational Choice).

The SAT concept of propensity is rather tricky to relate to CCO’s predisposition, however. Propensity amounts to the potential to behave in particular ways and covers both the ‘moral rules‘ acquired through socialisation, and the potential for self-control. As such, propensity would seem to cover both CCO’s predisposition (which relates to psychological traits, values, attitudes, beliefs and high-level purposes, all of which are stable/durable across settings) and resources to avoid offending (which range from self-control to the skills to hold down a decent job, de-escalate a dispute etc).

Having an embedded suite of moral rules could come under predisposition, while self-controlled adherence to those rules is a resource in CCO terms. However, one could also argue that being in possession of a set of moral rules that fits with societal norms is in itself an adaptive resource that enables a person to lead a successful legitimate life.

Another major difference seems to be that CCO is a truism (as stated under Crime Science above), simply noting the generic kinds of causes that come together to make a crime happen and that in effect define the elements of criminal events; but SAT is a full-blown theory, making more specific and evidenced claims as to the particular nature of the causes and interactions between them. As such it is falsifiable. In contrast, the CCO is a framework for managing knowledge and mapping/ integrating theoretical perspectives and ‘proper’ theories.

The S5 Moral Ecology Framework

The CCO Framework bears a broadly similar relationship to Bronfenbrenner’s (1994) ecological model of human development, which envisages a multi-level system of progressive reciprocal interactions between individuals and their environment. Within the Crime Frameworks, more is made of the distinction between what is called ‘ecological’ (i.e. here-and-now) processes versus developmental and evolutionary ones (see the section on timeframes of crime – Co-eco-devo-evo, below).

CCO and other Crime Frameworks

The concepts and terms used within the other Crime Frameworks on this website have been designed to be consistent with those in the CCO (and with one another). However, this is an ongoing process as different frameworks were developed for different purposes and to meet the requirements of different users.

The Ds Framework

The Misdeeds and Security Framework

Timeframes of Crime – Co-Eco-Devo-Evo

Prompted by work on a cybercrime project (ACCEPT – Islam et al. 2019), there emerged a way of distinguishing reciprocal change processes between criminals and the security side, operating over three timeframes, under the label Co-Eco-Devo-Evo. The main account is here.

The Crime Role Grid

Security Function Framework

The CCO framework can be used to describe the mechanisms of security underlying the design.

The 5Is Framework