Critical Criminology

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 57-72

First online:

Random Activities Theory: The Case for ‘Black Swan’ Criminology

  • Timothy GriffinAffiliated withDepartment of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada, Reno Email author 
  • , B. Grant StittAffiliated withDepartment of Criminal Justice, University of Nevada, Reno

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In the United States, infamous crimes against innocent victims—especially children—have repeatedly been regarded as justice system “failures” and resulted in reactionary legislation enacted without regard to prospective negative consequences. This pattern in part results when ‘memorial crime control’ advocates implicitly but inappropriately apply the tenets of routine activities theory, wherein crime prevention is presumed to be achievable by hardening likely targets, increasing the costs associated with crime commission, and removing criminal opportunity. In response, the authors argue that academic and public policy discourse will benefit from the inclusion of a new criminological perspective called random activities theory, in which tragic crimes are framed as rare but statistically inevitable ‘Black Swans’ instead of justice system failures. Potential objections and implications for public policy are discussed at length.