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Tautology in Criminology?

 
 
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 08:29 am
I'm currently writing a paper that I'm aiming at the journal: "Criminology" on the dangers of pseudo scholarship for crime science.
There are two sentences in Gloria Laycock's position paper on defining crime science: (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/jdi/downloads/publications/crime_science_short_reports/launching_crime_science.pdf) where she writes: "The most significant and universal cause of crime is opportunity. If there were no opportunities there would be no crimes."
Laycock’s statement is based on the first principle of the 10 principles of the theory of ‘crime settings’ by Felson and Clarke (1998): “Opportunities play a role in causing all crime.”
I am seeking advice from experts in philosophy as to whether this is a tautology.
I’ve discussed this with colleagues. One agrees with me that it is tautological – others argue it is not and is (a) a mere truism and (b) is so simplistic as to be meaningless. We all agreed on the truism and meaninglessness in that it says nought for the degree of effort and planning involved in different criminal events. For example, compare the offence of theft by finding (picking up £50 from the gutter and keeping it) with that of the bank heist caper (crack team breaking into a vault from rented shop next door using jack hammers and safe blowing experts, using inside info/inside men and lookouts etc. Both offences require opportunity of some kind.
Where on Earth is there a situation where there is zero opportunity for theft where a target for theft exists? And, therefore it follows, once you've stolen something you could no do so without having some kind of opportunity - could you?
Ok so its, arguably, simplistic but the point of this question is to ask whether the reasoning is tautological.
If it is not a tautology, then what is it about Laycock's two sentences that is not tautological according to the definition of tautology in logic: "A statement that is always true, especially a truth-functional expression that takes the value of true for all combinations of values of its components." (Collins English Dictionary).
I suspect (any advice on this much appreciated also) that an equivalent statement might be: “Bacteria play an important role in all infections.” – Is that statement tautological?

In terms of getting to the bottom of this question. Is it fair to say that the statement "bacteria play a role in all infection" is a tautology? And if it is - or if not - is Laycock's statement of the same kind?

Any advice greatly appreciated as I now know I need philosophical expertise.

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View best answer, chosen by Mike Sutton
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 08:44 am
@Mike Sutton,
Mike Sutton wrote:
I suspect (any advice on this much appreciated also) that an equivalent statement might be: “Bacteria play an important role in all infections.” – Is that statement tautological?

Although I'm not a philosopher, I'm certain that the answer to this question is "no": No, it's not a tautology to say that bacteria play an important role in all infections. Humans were talking about infections before they knew they were caused by bacteria. See, for example, the entry on "infection" in the first edition of Webster's dictionary (1828). Hence, when Louis Pasteur came along in the late 19th century and said, "bacteria play an important role in infections", he was saying something new and non-obvious. As far as Pasteur's audience knew at the time, infections could have been caused by some infectant other than bacteria.
Mike Sutton
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 08:59 am
@Thomas,
Thomas. Many thanks, this is helpful.

I agree with you that before we knew about bacteria as widely as we do today (i.e. when the public needed to be informed of the discovery) it would not be a tautology. That said, we might both be very wrong about that. I'm not 100% sure.

But would it be a tautology to say today that bacteria play a role in all infections?

The notion that opportunity plays a crucial role in all crime must have been around since the beginning of time. Therefore, if the bacteria statement is tautological today (whether or not it was in the past) then it seems to me that the opportunity statement is similarly tautological.

Of course the ' opportunity' and the 'bacteria ' examples may in fact be structurally different in some way.

I don't want to introduce a red herring into my main question. I used the bacteria example because I suspect it might be used in defence of the ‘opportunity’ model if (as you point out) it is not tautological.

Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 09:19 am
@Mike Sutton,
Mike Sutton wrote:
But would it be a tautology to say today that bacteria play a role in all infections?

No. Although it would be much less interesting to say that today, it wouldn't be a "needless repetition of an idea" as a matter of logic and language. And that's what the term tautology means.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 09:26 am
@Mike Sutton,
I think the case your criminological sentence is structurally similar.

Some might say people commit crimes mainly because they had an unhappy childhood.

Some might say people commit crimes mainly because of the unjust distribution of income in society.

Some might people say people commit crimes mainly because they can. That's the people you're concerned with.

Hence, the statement "opportunity is a major factor in crime" isn't a tautology. It's just a boring truism, and may well be a good example for the kind of vacuous statements pseudo-scholars produce.
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 09:40 am
Here is a convenient test for tautologies: Logically invert one part of the repetition, but not the rest, and see if you get a contradiction in terms. For example, let's pretend that you hear a sentence containing the term "wet water", and that you're unsure if "wet water" is a tautology. (Of course it is!) Reversing one side gives you the term "dry water". Is that a contradiction in terms? Yes it is. Simply as a matter of logic, water couldn't possibly be dry. Therefore, "wet water" is a tautology.

The same is not true of your sentences about crime and bacteria. "Bacteria are a minor factor in infections" may well turn out to be false as an empirical matter, but it's not a contradiction in terms. Similarly, the claim that "opportunity is a major factor in only a few crimes" may well be false as an empirical matter, but it doesn't have to be as a matter of logic. Therefore, your two original sentences are not tautologies.

Does that help?
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 09:41 am
@Mike Sutton,
Mike Sutton wrote:
There are two sentences in Gloria Laycock's position paper on defining crime science: (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/jdi/downloads/publications/crime_science_short_reports/launching_crime_science.pdf) where she writes: "The most significant and universal cause of crime is opportunity. If there were no opportunities there would be no crimes."

I don't think it's a tautology, it's just confused.

Take the second statement: "If there were no opportunities there would be no crimes." That means that opportunities are a necessary condition for crimes. But the first statement -- "The most significant and universal cause of crime is opportunity" -- means that opportunity is a cause of crime. In general, however, we don't think of necessary conditions as causes. "If there were no oxygen there would be no human life" doesn't mean that oxygen causes human life.

"Causation" implies that one event follows ineluctably from a previous event. I strike the glass with a hammer, and the glass shatters. We can say, then, that striking the glass caused it to shatter. On the other hand, having an opportunity to commit a crime doesn't ineluctably lead to the crime being committed. Just because I have an opportunity to shatter some store window doesn't mean I'll do it.

I would suspect that, given some time to reflect, the author would ultimately agree with the second statement and disagree with the first. Opportunities don't cause crime, they just provide the condition necessary for crimes to occur.
Mike Sutton
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 09:45 am
@Thomas,
Thomas. I suspect you may be right. I certainly agree about the pseudo scholarship comment. Three of my colleagues at my university agree with your line of reasoning. But the most senior - and influential - responded to my question on Monday by agreeing, simply, that it is a tautology. Hence my remaining uncertainly and presence here for a definitive answer as to why it is or is not..

What continues to niggle me into thinking it could yet be a tautology, despite your impeccable logic, is that it is - perhaps (I'm not sure) a more subtle form of the error than common examples usually reveal.

I guess the key point I need to raise is that I need to have asked whether a tautological argument needs to contain within itself an argument that is amenable to logical analysis...and even if that is a necessary condition... whether Laycock's does contain such an argument. There are of course two types of tautology (1) is the true by definition argument - the other is the the (2) harder to clearly spot within it circular argument. I think Laycock's is this second kind.

In criminology the Chicago school ecologists were criticised by David Downes (in his classic criminology book The Delinquent Solution) for being tautological. And that is the second type of tautology I think Gloria Laycock, Clarke and Tilley are all guilty of.

Let me explain:

David Downes showed the notion of crime and ecology to be a classical tautological argument: The Chicago classic ecologists believed that nature was - overall - in balance and that an ideal society was similar to nature in seeking to maintain balance. On the basis of this thinking, the Chicagoan ecologists saw an area they identified as "the criminal zone of transition" (an area of the city characterised by constant influx of new immigrants and churn of others leaving to make a better life for themselves) as an area in the city that was in the long-term pathologically disorganised and therefore out of balance and criminogenic. David Downes revealed the subtle tautology of that notion with this criticism of its very rationale “….the rate of delinquency in an area [is] the chief criterion for its social disorganisation - which in turn [is] held to account for the delinquency rate."

Arguably, what the Chicagoans should have done is to have identified areas with a high turnover of population and then looked to see what their crime experience was. What the Chignons did instead was to identify the highest crime areas and simply lay the blame on social disorganisation. In other words, they had an axe to grind (ecology/stability) and looked for evidence to support it while ignoring - or failing to seek evidence that did not fit their hypothesis.

Laycock's argument is not exactly similar to that criticised by David Downes...or is it? I'm still not 100% sure.
Mike Sutton
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 09:56 am
@joefromchicago,
Joe

Many thanks. The causation/condition analysis is indeed a useful way of thinking about it and revealing the confusion of the two sentences - put together as they are. As you can see I'm still trying to finally put the subtle-tautology of reasoning (rather than the tautology of the statement) niggle to bed.
0 Replies
 
Mike Sutton
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 10:12 am
@Thomas,
Thomas

Yes it helps a lot. Many thanks.

What I'm confused about still is Downes' contention that the Chicago Ecologists were tautological despite the fact that their notion was not expressed in a sentence that could be subjected to the 'inversion' test you demonstrated. The Chicago ecologist’s theory was not a contradiction in terms either. Was David Downes wrong to say they were tautological I wonder? You can - I hope - appreciate my confusion.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 12:42 pm
@Mike Sutton,
Mike Sutton wrote:
David Downes revealed the subtle tautology of that notion with this criticism of its very rationale “….the rate of delinquency in an area [is] the chief criterion for its social disorganisation - which in turn [is] held to account for the delinquency rate."

I don't think that's a tautology either. I think it's an example of question-begging.
0 Replies
 
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 02:30 pm
@Mike Sutton,
Mike Sutton wrote:

I'm currently writing a paper that I'm aiming at the journal: "Criminology" on the dangers of pseudo scholarship for crime science.
There are two sentences in Gloria Laycock's position paper on defining crime science: (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/jdi/downloads/publications/crime_science_short_reports/launching_crime_science.pdf) where she writes: "The most significant and universal cause of crime is opportunity. If there were no opportunities there would be no crimes."
Laycock’s statement is based on the first principle of the 10 principles of the theory of ‘crime settings’ by Felson and Clarke (1998): “Opportunities play a role in causing all crime.”
I am seeking advice from experts in philosophy as to whether this is a tautology.
I’ve discussed this with colleagues. One agrees with me that it is tautological – others argue it is not and is (a) a mere truism and (b) is so simplistic as to be meaningless. We all agreed on the truism and meaninglessness in that it says nought for the degree of effort and planning involved in different criminal events. For example, compare the offence of theft by finding (picking up £50 from the gutter and keeping it) with that of the bank heist caper (crack team breaking into a vault from rented shop next door using jack hammers and safe blowing experts, using inside info/inside men and lookouts etc. Both offences require opportunity of some kind.
Where on Earth is there a situation where there is zero opportunity for theft where a target for theft exists? And, therefore it follows, once you've stolen something you could no do so without having some kind of opportunity - could you?
Ok so its, arguably, simplistic but the point of this question is to ask whether the reasoning is tautological.
If it is not a tautology, then what is it about Laycock's two sentences that is not tautological according to the definition of tautology in logic: "A statement that is always true, especially a truth-functional expression that takes the value of true for all combinations of values of its components." (Collins English Dictionary).
I suspect (any advice on this much appreciated also) that an equivalent statement might be: “Bacteria play an important role in all infections.” – Is that statement tautological?

In terms of getting to the bottom of this question. Is it fair to say that the statement "bacteria play a role in all infection" is a tautology? And if it is - or if not - is Laycock's statement of the same kind?

Any advice greatly appreciated as I now know I need philosophical expertise.


0 Replies
 
kennethamy
  Selected Answer
 
  2  
Reply Thu 18 Nov, 2010 02:48 pm
@Mike Sutton,
Mike Sutton wrote:

I'm currently writing a paper that I'm aiming at the journal: "Criminology" on the dangers of pseudo scholarship for crime science.
There are two sentences in Gloria Laycock's position paper on defining crime science: (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/jdi/downloads/publications/crime_science_short_reports/launching_crime_science.pdf) where she writes: "The most significant and universal cause of crime is opportunity. If there were no opportunities there would be no crimes."
Laycock’s statement is based on the first principle of the 10 principles of the theory of ‘crime settings’ by Felson and Clarke (1998): “Opportunities play a role in causing all crime.”
I am seeking advice from experts in philosophy as to whether this is a tautology.
I’ve discussed this with colleagues. One agrees with me that it is tautological – others argue it is not and is (a) a mere truism and (b) is so simplistic as to be meaningless. We all agreed on the truism and meaninglessness in that it says nought for the degree of effort and planning involved in different criminal events. For example, compare the offence of theft by finding (picking up £50 from the gutter and keeping it) with that of the bank heist caper (crack team breaking into a vault from rented shop next door using jack hammers and safe blowing experts, using inside info/inside men and lookouts etc. Both offences require opportunity of some kind.
Where on Earth is there a situation where there is zero opportunity for theft where a target for theft exists? And, therefore it follows, once you've stolen something you could no do so without having some kind of opportunity - could you?
Ok so its, arguably, simplistic but the point of this question is to ask whether the reasoning is tautological.
If it is not a tautology, then what is it about Laycock's two sentences that is not tautological according to the definition of tautology in logic: "A statement that is always true, especially a truth-functional expression that takes the value of true for all combinations of values of its components." (Collins English Dictionary).
I suspect (any advice on this much appreciated also) that an equivalent statement might be: “Bacteria play an important role in all infections.” – Is that statement tautological?

In terms of getting to the bottom of this question. Is it fair to say that the statement "bacteria play a role in all infection" is a tautology? And if it is - or if not - is Laycock's statement of the same kind?

Any advice greatly appreciated as I now know I need philosophical expertise.




Definition of OPPORTUNITY
1
: a favorable juncture of circumstances

(From Merriam-Webster (Online Dictionary).

Accepting this definition (and why should we not?) the question becomes whether all crime involve a favorable juncture of circumstances. And what does that mean? It would mean something like when a crime is committed, is there always some favorable juncture of circumstances which allow for the crime to be committed? And it seems clear to me that the answer to that question is, no. For example, suppose a person stole something when there were a lot of people looking on. If that person expected not to be caught, then he would not be committing the crime under a favorable juncture of circumstances, and therefore, he would be committing the crime when he did not have the opportunity of committing the crime.

I suspect that your puzzle is the result of swinging between a definition of "opportunity" as meaning something like just a possibility doing something, where, of course, it is a tautology to say that unless there is some possibility of committing a crime, it cannot be done (Obviously, if it is not possible to do something, that something cannot be done) and the more restrictive meaning of "opportunity" given by Merriam -Webster, where it means that there is a favorable juncture of circumstances. Of course, not every possibility involves a favorable juncture of circumstances.

I don't know whether you need a philosopher , or whether you need to remember to look up the term, "opportunity" in a good dictionary. Of course, any decent philosopher would suggest that you get straight on the meaning of the word, "opportunity". But I would not think you would need a philosopher to suggest that.
Mike Sutton
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 05:40 am
@kennethamy,
Dear Kennethamy

Many thanks. You are right. I went onto another website called "ask a philospher" yesterday and received an excellent reply - as follows:


" Question: Is this statement a tautology: \"If there were no opportunities there would be no crimes\" ?



ANSWER

It depends on how strictly you want to define the word "tautology".

A) FORMAL: If you wanted to evaluate it this statement as a formal tautology you would have to rewrite it as a formal statement first. In the form

"IF NOT a THEN NOT b"
(a=opportunities, b=crimes)

it is not a tautology, but in the form

"IF NOT a THEN NOT (a AND b)"
(a=opportunities, b=actions, opportunities + actions=crimes)

it is a tautology, because no possible assignment of a and b makes the statement as a whole false.

B) RHETORICAL
Although, taken literally, it seems to verge on a tautology in a rhetorical sense, you could reasonably argue that it functions rhetorically as a stand-in for the substantive claim "preventing opportunities is the best way to prevent crimes". "

-----------------

I found this very helpful. And my reply to the philospher this morning (having thanked him for being so kind as to offer his free advice to me) was as follows:

"....I am extremely grateful for this - it puts what was little more than my own ill-defined gut instinct into something I can now describe with greater confidence and refinement.

In relation to your last sentence regarding the stand-in for a substantive claim: "preventing opportunities is the best way to prevent crimes". My next problem is with the very concept "opportunities" used in this way. The way I see it, if a building is vulnerable to burglary through having weak windows, no alarm, is hidden from the view of passers by and a vulnerable door lock fixing - then fixing these things does not strictly prevent "opportunities". Rather, it reduces the pool of potential thieves who will break into it - since now only determined, skilled and greater risk takers will pose a threat to the buildings contents. Opportunities have not been reduced (strictly speaking). What has been reduced is vulnerability. Because as soon as anyone overcomes any of the reinforced/improved characteristics of the building they took an advantage of the opportunity to overcome it (here is the tautology).

Am I being needlessly pedantic do you think? Any further advice greatly appreciated.However, I do not wish to burden you too much with these criminological concerns of mine as I verymuch appreciate the help already given."

---my email ends ---

As you can see my problem appears to be that I had to struggle with the issue of the tautology and then (as you point out) with the concept of what opprotunity means.

I think my mind is finally getting a grip on the issue.

Any further insights greatly appreciated. I will most certainly be making an acknowledgement to the very helpful and thoughtful generous souls on these websites in my paper.


Mike


kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 08:16 am
@Mike Sutton,
Mike Sutton wrote:

Dear Kennethamy

Many thanks. You are right. I went onto another website called "ask a philospher" yesterday and received an excellent reply - as follows:


" Question: Is this statement a tautology: \"If there were no opportunities there would be no crimes\" ?



ANSWER

It depends on how strictly you want to define the word "tautology".

A) FORMAL: If you wanted to evaluate it this statement as a formal tautology you would have to rewrite it as a formal statement first. In the form

"IF NOT a THEN NOT b"
(a=opportunities, b=crimes)

it is not a tautology, but in the form

"IF NOT a THEN NOT (a AND b)"
(a=opportunities, b=actions, opportunities + actions=crimes)

it is a tautology, because no possible assignment of a and b makes the statement as a whole false.

B) RHETORICAL
Although, taken literally, it seems to verge on a tautology in a rhetorical sense, you could reasonably argue that it functions rhetorically as a stand-in for the substantive claim "preventing opportunities is the best way to prevent crimes". "

-----------------

I found this very helpful. And my reply to the philospher this morning (having thanked him for being so kind as to offer his free advice to me) was as follows:

"....I am extremely grateful for this - it puts what was little more than my own ill-defined gut instinct into something I can now describe with greater confidence and refinement.

In relation to your last sentence regarding the stand-in for a substantive claim: "preventing opportunities is the best way to prevent crimes". My next problem is with the very concept "opportunities" used in this way. The way I see it, if a building is vulnerable to burglary through having weak windows, no alarm, is hidden from the view of passers by and a vulnerable door lock fixing - then fixing these things does not strictly prevent "opportunities". Rather, it reduces the pool of potential thieves who will break into it - since now only determined, skilled and greater risk takers will pose a threat to the buildings contents. Opportunities have not been reduced (strictly speaking). What has been reduced is vulnerability. Because as soon as anyone overcomes any of the reinforced/improved characteristics of the building they took an advantage of the opportunity to overcome it (here is the tautology).

Am I being needlessly pedantic do you think? Any further advice greatly appreciated.However, I do not wish to burden you too much with these criminological concerns of mine as I verymuch appreciate the help already given."

---my email ends ---

As you can see my problem appears to be that I had to struggle with the issue of the tautology and then (as you point out) with the concept of what opprotunity means.

I think my mind is finally getting a grip on the issue.

Any further insights greatly appreciated. I will most certainly be making an acknowledgement to the very helpful and thoughtful generous souls on these websites in my paper.


Mike





Compare "All criminal actions require opportunity" with "War us war" or "Business is business". These (latter sentences) are formally tautologies of the general form, A is A. But, of course as you know, then are never used as tautologies. If someone asked you, "do you think that war is war?" I suppose you might answer, "Of course I don't think that. I don't think that whatever anyone does when fighting a war is ethically acceptable". You would understand the question as not asking whether the sentence expresses an obvious truth. In fact you would say that it expresses an obvious falsity.

You need to distinguish between a sentence, and the statement the sentence expresses.

The sentence, "All criminal actions are done only when there is an opportunity to do them" might express the statement:


All criminal actions are done only when it is possible for the criminal to do them.

In which case it is a tautology.

Or, the sentence might express the statement:

All criminal actions are done only when the circumstance present a fortunate juncture of circumstances for the criminal.

In which case it is not a tautology. It is false.
Mike Sutton
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 09:37 am
@kennethamy,
Kennethamy

I'm 100% convinced you've nailed it with that two pronged explantion. It is an understatement to say this is incredibly helpful to me.

I knew I needed philosophical help to get to the bottom of it and explain it properly.

Thank you.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 09:50 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
The sentence, "All criminal actions are done only when there is an opportunity to do them" might express the statement:


All criminal actions are done only when it is possible for the criminal to do them.

In which case it is a tautology.

No it isn't. It's a truism, not a tautology.

kennethamy wrote:
Or, the sentence might express the statement:

All criminal actions are done only when the circumstance present a fortunate juncture of circumstances for the criminal.

In which case it is not a tautology. It is false.

No it isn't. It's true.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 09:57 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

kennethamy wrote:
The sentence, "All criminal actions are done only when there is an opportunity to do them" might express the statement:


All criminal actions are done only when it is possible for the criminal to do them.

In which case it is a tautology.

No it isn't. It's a truism, not a tautology.

kennethamy wrote:
Or, the sentence might express the statement:

All criminal actions are done only when the circumstance present a fortunate juncture of circumstances for the criminal.

In which case it is not a tautology. It is false.

No it isn't. It's true.


So when a person steals something in front of a lot of people so that he is sure to be caught, this presents an opportunity (a fortunate juncture of circumstances) for committing the crime? Good think you are not a crook. You would be in jail all the time.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 10:02 am
@kennethamy,
kennethamy wrote:
So when a person steals something in front of a lot of people so that he is sure to be caught, this presents an opportunity (a fortunate juncture of circumstances) for committing the crime?

From the criminal's perspective, it very well might (pickpockets work in crowds all the time), and since the determination of what constitutes a "favorable circumstance" is subjective rather than objective, that's all that matters. But then you changed the terms of the original post, which merely posited that crimes occur when the opportunity was present. Nothing there about a "favorable" opportunity. That was just something you added to make your argument sound better than it actually is.
Mike Sutton
 
  1  
Reply Fri 19 Nov, 2010 10:37 am
@joefromchicago,

The philosopher from the website “ask a philosopher" emailed this regarding my contention that at some level "opportunities must have been present for every crime that was ever committed" and so crime reduction initiatives can never reduce opportunities unless they can make the criminal target disappear.

Here is his/her reply:

You don't believe, strictly speaking, that opportunities can ever be actually eliminated, making the original statement into an absurd hypothetical along the lines of "If the moon were green cheese, pigs could fly". Instead, you'd prefer a statement along the lines of "reducing vulnerabilities is likely to reduce incidents of crime".

I don't know if you have a background in formal logic, but this offers a good example how the artificial structures of formal logic can actually provide insight into real world situations.
****
I emailed them back saying that yes indeed: "reducing vulnerabilities is likely to reduce incidents of crime". is a much more meaningful statement.

....OK so we do need to know what the meaning of "opportunity" is. And it does seem that it is not the right word.

Out of interest, the Situational Crime Prevention theorists (including Laycock and her Crime Scientists) cite the example of how the switch over in the 1970’s of domestic gas in the UK from poisonous coal gas to North Sea Oil gas led to a massive reduction in suicides. They use this as an example of how reducing opportunity reduced harm.

The difference they do not explain however is that the target of suicide is the victim and that Gas is not a target - it is a facilitator. Removing the facilitator removed 100% the opportunity to gas yourself quickly and efficiently in privacy of your own home. They however extrapolate from this example to say it proves that opportunity reduction reduces social harms.

This thinking has been UK Government Crime reduction Policy for the past 30 years by the way…and is a major influence in the USA.
 

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