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date: 25 April 2024

Crime Pattern Theorylocked

Crime Pattern Theorylocked

  • Paul BrantinghamPaul BrantinghamSchool of Criminology, Simon Fraser University
  •  and Patricia BrantinghamPatricia BrantinghamSchool of Criminology, Simon Fraser University


A broad understanding of crime requires explanations for both the origins of individual and group criminal propensity and when and where criminal events occur. Crime pattern theory provides explanations for the variation in the distribution of criminal events in space and time given a range of different propensities.

In the organization of their everyday lives, both occasional and persistent criminals spend most of their time engaged in the same legitimate everyday activities as everyone else. The location of criminal events in space–time are shaped by these everyday activities and the specific criminal’s activity. Occasional and persistent offenders develop activity spaces and awareness spaces. The shape and dynamics of these spaces is influenced by the structures of human settlements that channel and limit movement patterns in time and space. These structures include the built environments and the socioeconomic and cultural environments in which people live, work, or go to school, and in which they spend their social, entertainment, and shopping time.

Crime pattern theory utilizes the major components of the built and social environment—activity nodes, paths between nodes, neighborhoods and neighborhood edges, and the socioeconomic backcloth—in conjunction with the routine movements of the population in general to understand crime generator and crime attractor locations and the formation of repeat areas of offending for individuals and groups of offenders as well as more aggregate crime hot spots and cold spots. This information is translated into a geometry of crime that describes the journeys to crime by individual criminal offenders and groups of offenders and their victims or targets. Crime pattern theory explains the process of criminal target search, suggests strategies for crime reduction, and describes potential displacements of criminal events in space and time following changes in the suitability of targets or target locations at particular places and specific times.


  • Criminal Behavior
  • Criminological Theory

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