Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity

  • Describes what the CCO is, and what it’s for
  • Sets out the CCO in detail, covering causes, interventions and the nature of crime roles
  • Indicates how the CCO framework can be used for particular crime problems
  • Discusses the benefits of the CCO relative to conventional Crime Science frameworks, in addressing the complexity of crime, its causes and reduction
  • For researchers and advanced practitioners, sets out the technical relationship between intervention mechanisms, principles and practical methods

For further information on the CCO Framework, see:

What is the CCO Framework?

The Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework (CCO) is a one-stop-shop for integrating knowledge and guide practical action and research in and beyond the field of Crime Science.

The CCO is two models in one. It covers both the immediate causes of criminal events of all kinds; and generic preventive principles for blocking, weakening or deflecting those causes, and hence solving the crime problems they have been generating. Its basis is psychological and ecological – agents interacting with their immediate environment and each other. As explained below, the CCO Framework is not itself a theory, although it is theory-oriented.

In brief, according to the CCO:

A criminal event happens when a predisposed, motivated, able and well-equipped offender encounters, seeks out or engineers a setting comprising an attractive, provocative or vulnerable target in a tactically-conducive and bountiful environment and perhaps an accessible enclosure, in the absence of motivated and able preventers and with the possible support of accidental, careless or deliberate crime promoters.

What is the CCO Framework for?

The CCO Framework can be used independently, or within the 5Is Framework under the task streams of Intelligence, Intervention and Impact evaluation.

The CCO in detail

The following sections introduce the Conjunction of Criminal Opportunity Framework. They cover the 11 immediate causes of criminal events; the 11 principles of intervention in those causes in undertaking crime prevention; the way various agents (human, corporate or increasingly, AI-based) play the various crime roles depicted within the CCO; and how the role concept has been extended in a ‘system map’ of the various interacting agents, the crime role grid.

Immediate causes of criminal events – the offender in the crime setting

CCO 11 causes diagram
Note – formerly this diagram had ‘situation’ instead of ‘setting’, but now situation is viewed as the whole interaction between offender and setting.

Interventions in causes – the principles

The intervention principles of the CCO Framework block, weaken or divert the causes of the criminal events that they are intended to stop from happening. The diagram below illustrates the concept.

For example, suppose that there is a problem of robberies in a hospital car park. Further investigation of possible causes suggests that tactical aspects of the environment, in the form of dense shrubs, affords ambush sites for the robbers. An intervention aimed at redesigning the wider environment could simply be that of trimming the shrubs so there is nowhere to lurk. So, the environmental design intervention in the cause disrupts the conjunction by removing necessary conditions for ambush. This decreases the risk of robberies, which over time reduces the number of such attacks. In turn, this may have knock-on benefits for hospital visitors, taxpayers and so forth.

CCO representing an intervention diagram

Interventions to reduce crime can have their effect before the criminal events of interest, during the events and after. In the last case this happens when the interventions limit consequential harm from current events, and influence the risk of subsequent events (see primary, secondary, tertiary security).

It is possible to generalise from the previous diagram to show the intervention principles, with the causes they block, on a single map:

CCO - 11 intervention principles diagram

The causes and counterpart intervention principles are also listed in this two-part table, below. The first part of the table relates to offender-related causes and offender-oriented interventions; the second part, to settings and situational interventions.

Offender-related causesMainly offender-oriented intervention principles
Predisposition to offend – pan-situational personality, habits, high-level goals and values that are acquired genetically or developmentally, in early life, adolescence or even later. In interaction with priming circumstances (scroll down blue box on linked page) and immediate settings, predispositions generate states of readiness to offend and/or immediate criminal behaviourReducing criminality through developmental/remedial intervention
Lack of psychological/ interpersonal Resources to avoid crime, e.g. executive function, skills to enable satisfactory legitimate employment, de-escalate arguments etcSupplying cognitive, social, work skills to avoid committing crime, e.g. anger management, literacy; contact with positive role models, mentors etc
Readiness to offend – a motivational/ emotional state arising shortly before or during the potentially criminal event, which may lead to criminal opportunities being sought or responded to – note the connection with crime precipitators (Wortley 2017). The motivational side is often associated with an instrumental cognitive process of making plans, acquiring resources etcReducing readiness to offend by control of disinhibitors e.g. alcohol, or stressors and provocations; satisfaction of psychological and social needs by legitimate means
Resources for committing crime – practical e.g. tools, weapons, know-how, networking, contacts; psychological e.g. agility, strength, courage. Resources are either inherent to the offender, brought with them or acquired in the crime situation (Ekblom and Tilley 2000). Resources plus setting and other factors co-define opportunityRestricting or neutralising resources – tools, weapons, knowledge, contacts
Perception/ anticipation of risk, effort, reward in committing the crime – the Rational Choice agenda and wider decision-making processesDeterrence (increase in perceived risk) and discouragement (increase in perceived effort and reward)
Setting-related causesMainly situational intervention principles
Target property or person (active aspects of the victim role are covered under crime preventers, responders and promoters)Reducing target vulnerability, attraction, provocativeness; removing/abolishing target
Target enclosure – e.g. a safe, locked building, compound; note that a car or a handbag could be both a target of crime and an enclosure containing assets to steal; likewise a computer networkPerimeter/ access security; control of behaviour within the enclosure
Wider environment – e.g. town centre, housing estate – characterised by tactical/logistical factors e.g. scope for ambush (see script clashes); and motivating/arousing factors e.g. rich supply of targets, and precipitators such as provocations. Environments and enclosures can be crime attractors, generators or radiatorsEnvironmental design and management to reduce instrumental and motivating properties
Crime preventers – people, networks and organisations whose presence or actions directly or indirectly reduce the risk of criminal events; and crime responders – those who act during or after the event to limit harm (see secondary and tertiary security) and/or the risk of subsequent criminal events. Preventers can be further characterised as handlers of offenders, guardians of targets, managers of places and a diversity of other less direct roles (see also supercontrollers)Boosting preventers’ presence, competence, motivation, responsibility
Crime promoters – people, networks and organisations playing roles whose presence or actions directly or indirectly increase the risk of criminal events, whether accidentally, carelessly or deliberately (criminal service providers). For a wider view of roles building on preventers and promoters, see the crime role gridDiscouraging/deterring deliberate promoters, converting accidental or careless promoters into preventers

More information on causes of criminal events and interventions

Further discussion of intervention – covering the technical relation between mechanisms, principles and methods – is below.

Crime roles

Crime Role Grid

How the CCO Framework can be used to describe causes, interventions and roles for particular crime problems

The CCO and complexity

Intervention – technical relation between mechanisms, principles and methods

Mechanisms are fundamentally about interactions between multiple causal elements of the crime situation (e.g. the force applied by the offender’s use of the crowbar x the resistance of the lock x the physical space available to apply leverage). But it is convenient and normal everyday practice to talk about the influence of a single intervention and its context. What have been called intervention principles are generic causal mechanisms abstracted or ‘distilled’ from their contextual interactions.