How Crime Occurs:Which Elements Must Be Present

Updated on January 24, 2019

Crime is a topic that interests almost everyone to some degree. Many of the top TV shows involve crime and or law enforcement. Many people are fascinated by the seedy elements of society that many people never experience first hand. I want to give you a brief introduction to the three sides of a triangle that makes crime possible.

In order for a crime to happen, three things have to be present, imagine a triangle and each of these represent one of the sides needed to complete the triangle. Opportunity, motive and means must be present each time a crime is committed, let's look at each and see how it affects the commission of a crime.


The first side we will look at is opportunity, simply explained this just means that there is a crime that can be committed at that time. This could be as simple as someone noticing a purse in the seat of a locked car. Or maybe a wallet left in a public place. There is an opportunity to take those items if the other elements are there.

If you are wanting to prevent a crime, this is the first thing to work on. If you don't want something stolen, your first course of action would be to keep from leaving something of value where it can be easily seen. Let's look at a vehicle trespass as an example. If nobody knows that there is a purse hidden under the seat of a car, they are not going to recognize the opportunity to steal it.


The next part of our triangle is the motive. This is the reason that someone has to commit the crime. There is not much you can do to change a motive. For something like a theft, the motive is the thief reasoning that they need money or a certain object and the only reason they are going to get it is by stealing it. They will still need the other sides of the triangle to actually commit the crime though.

Motive might be easier to change in certain cases, if you are looking at a crime against a person. Let's take an assault for example. If someone attacks you for no reason, there was little you could do about that motive, whatever it may be. If "Mike" has been verbally abusing Steve over something for the last five minutes, then Steve decides to punch Mike in the face, Mike probably could have removed the motive element by finding a different way to speak with Steve.


The last side of the triangle is means. A person can have the opportunity and motive to commit a crime, but if they don't have a way to do it, they will not be able to follow through with the crime. Let's look at a pickpocket as an example. He sees an obvious bulge in someone's back pocket that appears to be a wallet. He is motivated to take the wallet because he wants the money out of it. But, the pocket has a flap with a button over it making it harder to get into. This particular pick pocket decides that he doesn't want to risk alerting the owner of the wallet that he has stolen the wallet. If he has to unfasten the button first, the owner will probably notice. He therefore decides to look for someone with an easier pocket to pick.

Many books have been written about the subject and psychology of crime, but hopefully this gives you a quick idea of the elements necessary for a crime to happen. If you have any questions or thoughts please feel free to comment and discuss below.


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    • profile image

      George Hilbert 

      3 years ago

      What about the person who had opportunity, motive, and means and further, actually committed the act. But it was not illegal to commit that act. The "three elements" explication collapses.

      Cases like this, where the law didn't actually exist (or other deficiencies connected to law), and where the person was sent to prison are not rare at all. Google "prosecution, conviction, imprisonment for violating non-existent law." Look for "inadequate legal defense" while you're at it.

      The three elements -- opportunity, motive, means -- is more connected with investigators' method of sifting of suspects together with available evidence, hoping to get a good match so as to be able to make a decision whether to prosecute their "good match" or not.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      In what way can a victim of crme by error contribute to the crime against him? What measures can he take to prevent it?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Please can you go further to explain oppurtunity and means.

    • Adventure Colorad profile imageAUTHOR

      Adventure Colorad 

      9 years ago from Denver,CO

      Thanks for the comment Polly, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Pollyannalana profile image


      9 years ago from US

      From answers>>>>Polly Anna and Bryan Trahan shared Down On Our Knees. · 20 minutes ago- here is an example and if you look quickly enough it is in the recommended to the right. How is he doing this? He has done this many times, and I asked him and he gave me some lame excuse. Appreciate any info.

      Pollyannalana here at hubs. Hub left at facebook though to get here. Just delete this sorry, seemed quickest, hubs won't let me say more at answers.

      Oh and this is interesting hub, I have read much about crime and I also write much about it. Good hub.


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