Crimes of opportunity: A letter from Utah Highway Patrol Trooper David Rose

Please note: This archived article is provided for personal use only, and the information contained in this article may be out of date.

During my 20 year career as a law enforcement officer I have had many opportunities to interact with people in a variety of situations. Some situations were very positive and productive, others…not so much. Every interaction provided me with a learning opportunity and this is what I have learned.

First, mature and responsible people are, or at least have a genuine desire, to be good and honest people. Second, sometimes good people make wrong decisions and do bad things. These incidents, or bad things, are sometimes referred to as “crimes of opportunity.”

Crimes of opportunity are not premeditated or planned. Crimes of opportunity are exactly what the name implies. Sometimes when good people are presented with an opportunity to commit an illegal act their thinking and logic become skewed and distorted. As a result they do the wrong thing. Examples of crimes of opportunity that have occurred at Salt Lake Community College are theft, vehicle burglary, vandalism, assault and harassment. These crimes do not occur often but they do occur. The question to be answered is, “What, if anything, can be done to reduce or eliminate this type of crime?”

A crime, any crime, consists of three elements – desire, ability and opportunity. If any one of the three elements is reduced or eliminated, the result will be a marked reduction in crime. It is highly unlikely we will be able to reduce or eliminate another person’s ability or desire to commit a criminal act. We can, however, greatly reduce and possibly eliminate the opportunities for crimes to occur. A reduction in opportunities to commit crimes will result in a reduction of criminal incidents.

Here’s what you can do to reduce and possibly eliminate the opportunities for criminal activity to occur:

1. Accept responsibility for and safeguard your personal property.

2. Never leave your personal property unattended.

3. Establish and maintain a record of serial numbers from your computers, bicycles, stereos, iPods, cell phones, etc.

4. Never leave anything of value in an unattended vehicle. If you do, lock it in the trunk.

5. If your personal property is stolen, report it immediately.

6. Be aware of your surroundings. If you see anything unusual or suspicious, report it to the police immediately.

7. Avoid becoming involved in verbal and physical confrontations. Always walk away from these types of incidents and report them to the police immediately.

8. Never leave a running vehicle unattended.

9. Look out for and help each other.

10. If you find any unattended property that does not belong to you, either turn it in to lost and found or leave it where it is.

11. If you find yourself in a position where you have the desire, ability and opportunity to victimize another person, stop. Put yourself in your victim’s shoes and ask yourself how you would feel if you were the one being victimized.

The Utah Highway Patrol proudly provides police services at the Salt Lake Community College Redwood Taylorsville, South City and Meadowbrook campuses. If you are ever in need of our assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.

We can be reached at the following telephone numbers:

911 – Emergency

x3800 – From any campus telephone

801-887-3800 – Dispatch (Trooper needed for non-emergency)

801-957-4270 – Office

Stay safe!