Opportunistic crime is often the type of criminal activity that young people engage in. They do not set out to commit a crime the way that a bank robber plans their act out in advance, but they see an opportunity and they take it. For instance, they may see a package sitting on the porch at a house where it appears no one is home, and they’ll steal it just because they think they can do it without getting caught.

Why do they do this? In some cases, it’s because they are in a group. That makes them feel a lot of peer pressure. They may want to fit in or prove themselves, and they’ll see the criminal activity as a chance to do so.

A teenager walking down the street alone may see a package on a porch and do nothing about it. They don’t need it, they don’t know what it is and there is no reason to take the risk. If he or she is in a group, though, the risk of criminal activity increases. They may see the theft as a way to show the others how “cool” they are or to demonstrate their position within the group’s hierarchy. In other cases, direct peer pressure comes in the form of dares; once someone has been dared to do something, they may feel like they have no choice but to do it, even when they know it is not a good idea. They will take risks that they would never take alone.

As important as it is to understand why crime happens, it’s also important for those accused of crimes to know what options they have.