Skip to main content

How Crime Occurs: Which Elements Must Be Present?

I've been an online writer for more than nine years. I'm interested in fishing, grilling, criminal justice, saving money, and more.



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 they may never experience firsthand. I want to give you a brief introduction to the elements that make crime possible.

In order for a crime to happen, three things have to be present:

  • Opportunity
  • Motive
  • Means

Imagine a triangle; each of these concepts represents one of the sides needed to complete the triangle. All three must be present each time a crime is committed. Let's look at these concepts and see how they affect the commission of a crime.


The first side we will look at is opportunity. Simply explained, this just means that a crime 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 also present.

Scroll to Continue

Read More From Soapboxie

If you want to prevent a crime, this is the first thing to work on. If you don't want something stolen, your first course of action is not to leave 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 why someone commits the crime. There is not much you can do to change a motive. For something like a theft, the motive is that the thief reasons they need money or a certain object, and the only way 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, such as when you are looking at a crime against a person. Let's take an assault, for example. If someone attacks you for no reason, there is little you can 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 the 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 pickpocket decides that he doesn't want to risk alerting the owner of the wallet that he has stolen it. 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.

When All Three Elements Are Present, Crime Can Occur

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.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Related Articles