The crime triangle provides a way of thinking about recurring problems of crime. It takes a victim, a suspect, and an opportunity (location) for a crime to occur. Removing any the three will result in crime deterrence.
Thus, effective problem-solving requires understanding how offenders and victims come together in places. The next step is an understanding of how those suspect, victims, and locations can be effectively controlled to reduce crime.
Problems can be understood and described in many ways. Problems must be described in a manner that is easily understood so that an effective solution can be found. Police incidents usually involve the following:
Behavior. Certain behaviors are common to the incidents. Behaviors that might constitute problems include disturbing the peace, robbing people or businesses, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, crashing vehicles, dealing drugs, stealing cars.
Place. A street corner, business, park, neighborhood, house, school, bus stop, parking lot, or drug house just to name a few.
Persons. There are certain individuals or groups of people that can be common to incidents. Senior citizens, and new residents are common victim. Incidents involving one or more behaviors, occurring in one or more places may be attributed to, for example, youth gangs, prostitution, a group of chronic inebriates, panhandlers, neighborhood shopping centers, property owner, or your neighbors.
Time. Certain times can be common to incidents. Some examples include work hours, out of school time, traffic rush hour, bar closing time, the holiday shopping season, or during an annual festival.
There is growing evidence that, in fact, crime and disorder does cluster in these ways. It is not evenly distributed across time, place, or people. Increasingly, police and researchers are recognizing some of these clusters as:
Repeat offenders attacking different targets at different places. The offender is confident that he can commit the crime.
Repeat victims repeatedly attacked by different offenders at different places. The victims make it easy to be a victim.
Repeat places (or hot spots) involving different offenders and different targets interacting at the same place. The location makes it easy to commit the crime.
The Problem Analysis Triangle explains how and why crime occurs. When a crime occurs, three things happen at the same time and space:
- a suitable target is available at a suitable location
- there is the lack of a suitable guardian (two or more people) to prevent the crime from happening
- and a motivated offender is present.