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date: 24 April 2018

Crime Hot Spots

Summary and Keywords

Hot spots of crime, and the criminology of place more generally, deviate from the traditional paradigm of criminology, in which the primary assumption and goal is to explain who is likely to commit crime and their motivations, and to explore interventions aimed at reducing individual criminality. Alternatively, crime hot spots account for the “where” of crime, specifically referring to the concentration of crime in small geographic areas. The criminology of place demands a rethinking in regard to how we understand the crime problem and offers alternate ways to predict, explain, and prevent crime. While place, as large geographic units, has been important since the inception of criminology as a discipline, research examining crime concentrations at a micro-geographic level has only recently begun to be developed. This approach has been facilitated by improvements to data availability, technology, and the understanding of crime as a function of the environment. The new crime and place paradigm is rooted in the past three decades of criminological research centered on routine activity theory, crime concentrations, and hot spots policing.

The focus on crime hot spots has led to several core empirical findings. First, crime is meaningfully concentrated, such that a large proportion of crime events occur at relatively few places within larger geographies like cities. This may be termed the law of crime concentration at places (see Weisburd, 2015). Additionally, most hot spots of crime are stable over time, and thus present promising opportunities for crime prevention. Crime hot spots vary within higher geographic units, suggesting both that there is a loss of information at higher levels of aggregation and that there are clear “micro communities” within the larger conceptualization of a neighborhood. Finally, crime at place is predictable, which is important for being able to understand why crime is concentrated in one place and not another, as well as to develop crime prevention strategies. These empirical characteristics of crime hot spots have led to the development of successful police interventions to reduce crime. These interventions are generally termed hot spots policing.

Keywords: crime and place, law of crime concentration, micro-geographic, units of analysis, crime mapping, hot spots policing

Objectives and Overview

The predominant perspectives in criminology have focused on explaining criminal motivations rather than the crime itself. Weisburd (2015) examined the units of analysis in all empirical articles in Criminology between 1990 and 2014, and found that two-thirds of the articles use person as the unit of analysis. Only 4.3% of the included studies examined place at the micro-geographic unit of analysis. This percentage, however, was not constant throughout the observed period, increasing from about 2% in the early 1990s to over 6% in recent years. The growing narrative of hot spots of crime reflects a paradigmatic shift in criminological theory and growing interest in the role of place in policing and crime control policy.

To understand the growing focus on crime hot spots within criminology and the current branches of the hot spot literature, it is important to understand the historical context of the role of place in criminology. The first part of this article addresses this historical context of crime and place research as it relates to the creation of recent research on crime hot spots at the micro-geographic level. The second part addresses the evidence about the concentration of crime at these hot spots, and what this level of analysis offers that the macro-geographic approaches to community cannot. Finally, it addresses the practical applications of the crime hot spots research, notably the use of hot spots policing as well as the current and future directions of this branch of the crime and place literature.

Historical Context

While the primary unit of analysis in modern criminology has been the person (Weisburd, 2015), place has long been an important concept in explaining crime. For example, macro-geographic units of analysis were particularly critical during the early development of criminology. European scholars in the early 19th century such as Balbi and Guerry (1829) and Quetelet (1831) made some of the first empirical links between crime and place. Balbi and Guerry utilized large administrative units in France to produce the first map of crime. They found the greatest concentration of property crime around urban areas and began to draw the first theoretical conclusions about the role of poverty in the distribution of crime. Belgian statistician Adolphe Quetelet (1831) used provinces and countries as units of analysis and found that crime was concentrated in places where the poor were surrounded by objects of temptation, reflecting an early interpretation of crime opportunity theories.

The crime and place studies of the 19th century relied on official data and were constrained to geographic units of analysis that were drawn by governments. The use of large areal units and the limitations of data masked variability within the geographic units studied at the time. John Glyde (1856) was the first to question these early studies based on this criticism. He argued that larger units of analysis mask underlying variations in crime and that smaller divisions of the areas allow for greater sensitivity. Henry Mayhew (1851) was the first to attempt to uncover patterns within small areal units of analysis, combining ethnographic and statistical data within city blocks of London. At the time, the cartographic method was a novelty within criminology, but it helped to encourage a positivist criminology focused on empirical data about crime. However, this early interest in place declined in the latter half of the 19th century.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that criminology saw a reemergence of interest in crime and place. Whereas interest in place during the 19th century was spurred by the availability of data, interest during the 20th century came because of the theoretical idea of community. American sociologists at the University of Chicago took over the development of place-based criminology and differed from their European predecessors not only in subject matter, but most importantly in the units of analysis of their research. The focus of the Chicago School was in examining the impact of social disorganization (Thomas, 1966) and delinquency on crime at the community level. Robert E. Park and colleagues (1925) argued that urban life must be studied in the context of its physical and cultural organization; that neighborhoods were the elementary form of cohesion in urban life. In doing so, these scholars shifted the attention of crime and place research from broad comparisons across large geographic and administrative areas to more focused comparisons within cities.

Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas by Shaw, McKay, and Hayner (1942) is the most notable example of this tradition. This work built off Ernest Burgess’s (1925) concentric-zone model of Chicago dividing the city into five zones of differentiated urban expansion, which he theorized as modeling a series of neighborhoods with unique characteristics. Shaw and McKay assumed that concentrations of crime would diminish as the neighborhoods got farther from the city’s center. They demonstrated that in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Richmond there was a similar and consistent geographical distribution of crime through the neighborhoods. They found that rapid changes to neighborhood demographics interrupted the potential for social control and led to an increase in juvenile delinquency.

The use of community-level units of analysis inspired other criminologists to continue the empirical study of crime and place. However, by the 1950s, criticism of the Chicago School’s methods led to another period of decline in such research. The most prominent of these criticisms was that communities still constitute large geographical areas and that the data reflecting these units masks a large degree of variation within (Robinson, 1950). Whereas the early European criminologists usually adopted the definitions of geographical data provided by the government, the Chicago School created theoretical definitions of community and neighborhood, but struggled to collect the appropriate data. Thus, empirical and methodological obstacles diminished the interest of criminologists in place for nearly 30 years.

Up to this point, most theories of crime examined the criminal motivations of the individual as the core cause of crime. Cohen and Felson (1979) reversed this longstanding narrative and argued that the criminal is only one part of the crime equation. Routine activity theory suggests that the criminal act is marked by the convergence of motivated offenders, suitable targets, and lack of capable guardians in time and space. The idea that crime is dependent on more than criminal motivation stimulated research interest on the impact of situation, environment, and place on crime, justifying the criminology of place and allowing for crime hot spot research to develop.

Brantingham and Brantingham (1984) furthered this idea by examining the environmental “backcloth of crime,” how specific locations may serve as crime generators and the idea that characteristics of small areal locations may contribute to both opportunities for crime and the actual occurrence of crime at those places. One such example is the idea that bars and taverns generate crime because of the congregation of both offenders and victims in a single place (Roncek & Bell, 1981).

The theoretical interest in smaller areal units was facilitated by improvements to data collection systems (Weisburd & McEwen, 1997). During the early 20th century, mapping crime at the level of street addresses was an arduous process. Shaw, McKay, and Hayner’s (1942) mapping of juvenile addresses, for example, was a monumental task, but mapping crime for an entire city perhaps would have been an impossible one. Had automated crime mapping been available, it would still have been extraordinarily difficult to examine crime at a micro-geographic level due to the poor quality of police location data at the time. The development of geographic information systems (GIS) in the 1980s and improvements in police data collection allowed for, and coincided with, the growing momentum in the study of crime and place. Researchers were finally able to define micro-geographic units of analysis as well as easily collect the data on these places, leading to the current generation of research on crime and place and the micro-geographic definition of crime hot spots.

Micro-Geographic Crime Hot Spots

There is no clear definition of the appropriate unit of analysis for studying crime at place, but there is growing consensus among scholars that the unit should be small (Brantingham et al., 2009; Groff, Weisburd, & Morris, 2009; Taylor, 1998; Weisburd, Bruinsma, & Bernasco, 2009). As noted earlier, using large geographic units of analysis can mask variability within areas. The general rule is to collect data at the highest level of measurement, since data can be converted to lower levels of measurement, but the reverse is not possible. Thus, geographic units of analysis at the micro-geographic level give the clearest starting point for data that can later be aggregated if necessary.

Study of crime at the individual level begins with a clearly defined unit of analysis—the individual. The geographic equivalent to this is the address, or X, Y coordinates for an event. Many scholars have used individual addresses as the key micro-geographic unit of analysis (Sherman, Gartin, & Buerger, 1989; Thompson & Fisher, 1996; Clarke & Eck, 2007). Using addresses or singular facilities as the unit of analysis allows researchers to assess the impact of specific types of places, such as bars, schools, or transit stops, on crime (Bowers, 2014; Zhu et al., 2004). However, police coding of the locations of crime events is often inaccurate at the address level.

Other crime and place scholars have examined aggregations of addresses, which still fit the definition of micro-geographic units. The most common among these is the use of the street segment, which refers to both sides of the street from intersection to intersection. This unit is useful for both theoretical and operational reasons. Geographically, it is a very small building block from which to examine the criminology of place, and one that is less likely to include coding error by police than addresses themselves. It is one thing to get the address wrong, another to get the street where a crime occurs wrong. At the same time, it is a social unit that has been recognized as important in the rhythms of everyday life in cities. Weisburd, Groff, and Yang (2012) argued that community is relevant for crime and place scholars, but at a more micro-geographic level than had previously been examined. There is theoretical precedence for conceptualizing street segments and blocks as micro-communities. Thompson and Fisher (1996) made the case that street segments function as behavior settings, where people become familiar and routine becomes a part of everyday life. This interpretation illustrates how street segments operate as key units for informal social control at the micro-level of analysis.

The criminology of place and crime hot spots can be defined at different units of analysis depending on the theoretical focus of the researcher. Both individual addresses and street segments operationalize crime at the micro-geographic level, and can when necessary be aggregated into larger units (Brantingham, Dyreson, & Brantingham, 1976).

The Concentration of Crime at Place

The growing body of research demonstrating the immense concentration of crime at micro-geographic units has served as the catalyst for increased interest in the criminology of place, and is key to understanding its importance for both theory and policy. The evidence for crime concentration is so strong and reliable that Weisburd (2015) has proposed a “law of crime concentration at places.”

Much of the early evidence for the concentration of crime at places comes from studies starting in the late 1980s (Sherman, 1987; Sherman, Gartin, & Buerger, 1989; see also Pierce, Spaar, & Briggs, 1988; Brantingham & Brantingham, 1999; Roncek, 1999; Weisburd et al., 1992; Weisburd & Green, 1994). The most influential of these was Sherman, Gartin, and Buerger’s (1989) analysis of emergency calls to street addresses over a single year in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The researchers examined the distribution of calls for service to police across the city’s 115,000 addresses and intersections and found compelling evidence for the concentration of crime. Over half of the calls for service (50.4%) were generated by 3.3% of places within the city. The results are even stronger when examining specific crime types: all robbery calls were generated by only 2.2% of places and all assaults calls by only 7% of places within the city.

Strikingly similar statistics were reported by Pierce, Spaar, and Briggs (1988) in a study of crime at addresses in Boston, Massachusetts. They find that 3.6% of addresses produce 50% of emergency calls to police in Boston. Additionally, Eck, Gersh, and Taylor (2000) find that the most criminally prolific 10% of places in the Bronx and Baltimore account for 32% of an array of serious crimes. In Seattle, Weisburd, Groff, and Yang (2012) find that 5% of street segments produce 52% of crime incidents. The overall narrative is that a very few micro-places within a city generate a disproportionate amount of the crime calls for service. This conclusion has been key to the narrative of the importance of micro-geographic units of analysis to criminology and established clearly that crime is concentrated at place.

However, it is difficult to draw strong conclusions regarding the extent to which there are similarities in crime concentration across cities because of the varied nature of the units of analysis, types of data, and types of crime examined. Addressing these methodological differences, Weisburd (2015) gathered crime data on eight cities coded at the same geographic unit (the street segment), using the same type of data (crime incidents), and the same measure of crime (a broad general measure). This was the first instance of comparing crime concentrations across cities using comparable metrics.

The included cities (Sacramento, CA; Seattle, WA; New York City, NY; Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel; Cincinnati, OH; Brooklyn Park, MN; Redlands, CA; and Ventura, CA) varied greatly in size, demographic composition, and crime rates. However, it is this broad array of characteristics that strengthens the argument for a law of crime concentration. Strong consistency across a diverse group of cities would justify an inference about the general application of a law of crime concentration.

Weisburd (2015) did in fact observe that crime concentrations among the larger cities occur within a tight bandwidth despite the aforementioned variability: 50% of crime concentrated between 4.2% (Sacramento) and 6% (Cincinnati) of street segments, and 25% between just 0.8% and 1.6%. Among the smaller cities, this concentration was even greater: 50% of crime fell between 2.1% (Brooklyn Park and Redlands) and 3.5% (Ventura), and 25% between 0.4% and 0.7%. It is likely that the concentration of crime operates differently within small cities in part because of their suburban street layout, though this issue has just begun to be studied (Dario et al., 2015; Gill, Wooditch, & Weisburd, 2016; Hibdon, 2013).

Weisburd (2015) argued that the consistency in the concentration of crime at places occurs not only across cities but across time (see also Weisburd et al., 2004). Even as crime rates fluctuate across years in the observed cities, the 50% and 25% concentrations of crime concentrations at place remained relatively constant. This finding strengthened the evidence for a law of crime concentration at place as a scientific principle.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a scientific law as a “principle deduced from particular facts, applicable to a defined group or class of phenomena, and expressible by the statement that a particular phenomenon always occurs if certain conditions be present.” In this context, the law of crime concentration at places states that “for a defined measure of crime at a specific micro-geographic unit, the concentration of crime will fall within a narrow bandwidth of percentages for a defined cumulative proportion of crime.”

Does the Concentration of Crime Add Anything New?

The law of crime concentration shows that a small number of streets produce a large proportion of the crime, but perhaps those streets are themselves concentrated within one area or neighborhood of the city. If this is the case, then not much is gained by examining crime at the micro-geographic level, as the neighborhood or community unit of analysis would suffice. The use of micro-geographic hot spots would simply be a rarefaction of what is already known.

Several studies offer evidence to the contrary, that crime hot spots are spread throughout a city, reinforcing the importance of micro-geographic study. Weisburd, Groff, and Yang (2012, 2014; see also Weisburd, Morris, & Groff, 2009) found significant dispersion of crime hot spots across the city. While there was a clustering of hot spots in some specific areas (e.g., the business and shopping district, where there are many opportunities for crime), hot spots were spread generally across the city of Seattle; they found a great deal of street-to-street variability in crime rates, suggesting tremendous heterogeneity of crime within large neighborhoods.

Steenbeek and Weisburd (2016) directly addressed how much of the variability in crime can be attributed to micro (street segment), meso (neighborhood), and macro (district) units of analysis. Using crime data from The Hague, Netherlands, events were coded to the street segment and aggregated up to the neighborhood and then to the district level. The researchers found that the street segment level accounts for between 58% and 67% of the variability in crime, with most of the leftover variability at the district level. They were able to conclude that micro-geographic units are key to understanding the distribution of crime, and challenge the recent focus on meso-level units of analysis such as the neighborhood (often defined by the US Census).

The current evidence suggests that the use of micro-geographic hot spots is not a rarefaction of what is known at the neighborhood level. There is significant spatial heterogeneity of crime hot spots, which are spread throughout a city. There is also very strong street-by-street variability in the distribution of crime within neighborhoods. This suggests that the criminology of place and the concept of crime hot spots can contribute to our understanding of the crime problem.

Policy Applications of the Criminology of Place and Crime Hot Spots

The tremendous concentration of crime at micro-geographic hot spots, being both consistent across space and stable through time, is theoretically interesting and important. However, it also has very important policy implications for doing something about the crime problem. The logic here is that small areas consistently high in crime offer worthwhile opportunities for intervention. Unlike individuals, who may evade or reject intervention, places do not move, and are well within the jurisdiction and ability of the police or government to intervene. Hot spots policing, which applies police interventions to very small geographic areas, is a key outcome of this reasoning. The literature on hot spots policing in turn has helped to counter the narrative that police were unable to prevent crime, and continues to guide policy on police strategy.

The first formal evaluation of hot spots policing was the Minneapolis Hot Spots Experiment conducted by Sherman and Weisburd (1995). In this experiment, the researchers identified 110 hot spots of crime (generally about a street segment long) throughout the city and randomly allocated these hot spots to either treatment or control conditions. The control hot spots received the normal dosage of police activity, while the treatment condition received between two and three times that amount of police presence. The police were not given specific instructions on what to do once they were at the hot spots. Using both police recorded calls for service and observed physical disorder, the researchers found that increased patrol in the treatment hot spots significantly reduced crime calls for service and observed disorder. This study provided support for the importance of studying crime at the micro-geographic level and led to interest in using the hot spots approach to reduce crime.

These results were mirrored in subsequent evaluations of hot spots policing evaluations. Braga et al. (1999) examined the impact of aggressive order-maintenance policing in treatment hot spots and found significant reductions in total crime incidents and calls to police, as well as improvements to visible disorder. Braga and Bond (2008) found a 20% reduction in crime and disorder calls for service in the treatment hot spots, where problem-oriented policing was utilized. The authors conducted a mediation analysis and found that situational crime prevention strategies at the hot spots are most effective, indicating that hot spots policing can be further improved by guiding the actions taken by police at hot spots. Further, Taylor, Koper, and Woods (2011) found long-term improvements in hot spots where problem-oriented approaches were used.

The individual evidence for the effectiveness of focusing police efforts in small geographic areas is strong, but not without criticism. The foremost criticism of hot spots policing is the idea of crime displacement. This is the idea that if police deter crime on one street, it will simply move to areas nearby. There is however, little evidence for crime displacement in the literature. A number of reviews of crime displacement (Barr & Pease, 1990; Eck, 1993; Hesseling, 1994; Guerette & Bowers, 2009; Bowers et al., 2011) concluded that there is little evidence that crime prevention strategies displace as much crime as was prevented. In the Jersey City Drug Market Analysis Program, Weisburd and Green (1994) found that crackdowns on drug hot spots provide no evidence of displacement, but rather a diffusion of crime control benefits in which areas surrounding the targeted hot spots were positively affected. In a study conducted in Jersey City that focused on crime displacement from hot spots as a primary rather than secondary outcome, Weisburd et al. (2006) found strong evidence of a diffusion of benefits to areas nearby. Their study also used qualitative data to provide a logic model for explaining the lack of displacement outcomes. Offenders are averse to displacement both because it involves risk and effort and because of familiarity with areas where they carry out crime.

The increased attention to and growing number of rigorous scientific studies of hot spots policing have led to a Campbell Collaboration systematic review of the approach (Braga et al., 2014). The systematic review evaluated 19 evaluations with 25 total tests of hot spots policing. Twenty of the 25 tests of hot spots policing interventions reported noteworthy crime control gains and concluded that the hot spots approach more generally generates significant crime control benefits. The meta-analysis of main effect sizes found statistically significant support in favor of hot spots policing beyond the raw number of successful studies. Additionally, the meta-analysis addressed the issue of displacement versus the diffusion of crime control benefits among hot spots policing strategies, and found statistically significant support for diffusion of benefits (nine studies) over evidence of crime displacement (one study).

The National Research Council Committee to Review Research on Police Policy and Practice (2004) conducted a narrative review of the body of evidence on hot spots policing and concluded:

There has been increasing interest over the past two decades in police practices that target very specific types of criminals, and crime places. In particular, policing crime hot spots has become a common police strategy for addressing public safety problems. While there is only weak evidence suggesting the effectiveness of targeting specific types of offenders, a strong body of evidence suggests that taking a focused geographic approach to crime problems can increase policing effectiveness in reducing crime and disorder.

(National Research Council, 2004)

Overview of the Literature and Current Directions

The development of the hot spots literature reflects a paradigmatic shift in criminology, away from the traditional focus on individual criminality. This shift was driven primarily by the emergence of opportunity theories of crime (see Cohen & Felson, 1979) and the development of technology and data collection methods allowing for the study of place at much smaller units. The identification of the concentration of crime at hot spots was key to the growth of interest in the criminology of place. The law of crime concentration (Weisburd, 2015) reinforces the idea that there is an underlying empirical distribution of crime that provides an opportunity to advance both theory and policy.

There is also a developing literature examining the theoretical explanations for why crime hot spots exist and persist. Weisburd, Groff, and Yang (2012) argue that crime is strongly coupled to place because of risk and protective characteristics at places. The authors show that there are concentrations of crime opportunities and indications of social disorganization at crime hot spots. The final main empirical branch of hot spots research concerns the use and effectiveness of hot spots policing. Building off of Sherman and Weisburd’s (1995) hot spots policing experiment, many studies have followed in identifying effective methods for concentrating police interventions at the micro-geographic level (see Braga, Papachristos, & Hureau, 2014).

Current and Future Directions

There are currently three primary areas of research on crime hot spots that require further exploration: identification of the specific strategies that will be most effective at crime hot spots, examining the impact of hot spots policing strategies on community outcomes, and further exploration of the physical and social characteristics that contribute to a place becoming a hot spot and remaining a hot spot through time.

The evidence currently available suggests strong benefits to focusing police patrol in small geographic areas with high crime, but the question still remains of what police should be doing while there (Weisburd & Telep, 2014). Koper (2014) finds that surveyed police agencies report a wide variety of police strategies to address high crime places. While problem-oriented approaches and directed patrols have been shown to be effective, other common tactics have not undergone empirical research on their effectiveness. Further, Koper (2014) reports that agencies use different strategies to address different types of crime. However, the effectiveness of context-dependent hot spots policing strategies has not been tested.

Researchers are also addressing the questions of secondary impacts of hot spots policing, notably on citizen reaction to the implementation of place-based policing strategies. Rosenbaum (2006) argues that enforcement-oriented hot spots policing strategies may erode citizen-police relationships and have negative long-term effects. As Tyler (1990) notes, weakened relationships between the citizens and police may lead to decreased police legitimacy and thus lower crime-control effectiveness in the future. There is little empirical evidence to support these assertions. Weisburd et al. (2016) and Kochel, Burruss, and Weisburd (2016) in experimental studies found limited impact of hot spots policing strategies on citizen perceptions of policing. There are ongoing recent efforts to develop hot spots policing strategies that will enhance community solidarity and citizen evaluations of the police (Weisburd, Davis, & Gill, 2015). Further research should continue to explore the impact of hot spots policing on citizen and police interaction.

Perhaps one of the most profound recent conclusions in the crime hot spots literature is that the tight coupling of place and crime extends beyond crime. Crime hotspots are also places of concentrated social disorganization, health problems, and economic disadvantage (Weisburd, Groff, & Yang, 2012; Weisburd, Lawton, Ready, Wire, & White, in press). This finding raises not only the question of how these characteristics are causally related but whether more general social intervention is useful at these places. The study of crime hot spots in this sense becomes the study of social problems more generally in the community.

Further Reading

Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44(4), 588–608.Find this resource:

Cohen and Felson introduce the idea of routine activity theory, upon which much of the crime and place literature rests. Rather than emphasizing the characteristics of offenders, the authors identify the role of situation, including the environment, on crime. The setting for the convergence of the components of crime justifies the study of place as useful to explaining crime.

Brantingham, P. J., & Brantingham, P. L. (1984). Patterns in crime. New York: Macmillan.Find this resource:

The authors present a theoretical piece further linking the occurrence of crime to the characteristics of the place. It is useful in identifying and understanding the links between patterns of crime and the settings in which crime happen.

Sherman, L. W., Gartin, P. R., & Buerger, M. E. (1989). Hot spots of predatory crime: Routine activities and the criminology of place. Criminology, 27(1), 27–56.Find this resource:

This empirical piece is one of the first and most notable in identifying the concentration of crime at micro places within the larger area. The data are among the first to identify a concentration of 50% of calls to police at 3.3% of places. This article is important for understanding the origin of much of the crime hot spot literature.

Weisburd, D. (2015). The law of crime concentration and the criminology of place. Criminology, 53(2), 133–157.Find this resource:

Weisburd puts forth and defends the law of crime concentration at places as an empirical law wherein half of crime in a city is consistently generated by around 5% of addresses in that city. These findings are consistent across sampled cities and stable through time, leading to a number of future opportunities for scholars of crime and place.

Weisburd, D., Bernasco, W., & Bruinsma, G. (Eds.). (2008). Putting crime in its place. New York: Springer.Find this resource:

This book addresses methodological concerns in studying hot spots of crime, particularly the importance of units of analysis in the crime and place literature. The focus on micro-geographic units is supported by examining a loss of information at higher levels of aggregation.

Weisburd, D., Eck, J. E., Braga, A. A., Telep, C. W., Cave, B., Bowers, K., . . . Yang, S. M. (2016). Place matters: Criminology for the twenty-first century. New York: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

The authors address the context of the criminology of place within criminology as a whole, detailing the importance of studying crime hot spots. Beyond the importance of studying crime hot spots, the authors also note the contributions of the criminology of place on policing and crime reduction.

Weisburd, D., Groff, E. R., & Yang, S. M. (2012). The criminology of place: Street segments and our understanding of the crime problem. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

This book details the Seattle hot spots study and expands on the existing theoretical literature by attempting to explain why hot spots of crime exist and are stable through time. They model this question using opportunity theories and social disorganization theory.

Eck, J. E., & Weisburd, D. L. (2015). Crime places in crime theory. Crime and place: Crime prevention studies, 4, 1–33.Find this resource:

This research article synthesizes the theoretical support for the importance of the role of place in crime. Specifically, these are rational choice theory, routine activity theory, and crime pattern theory. Further, the authors address concerns about the hot spot approach by reviewing the evidence.

Sherman, L. W., & Weisburd, D. (1995). General deterrent effects of police patrol in crime “hot spots”: A randomized, controlled trial. Justice Quarterly, 12(4), 625–648.Find this resource:

This experimental study is the first to offer compelling evidence about the effectiveness of policing at identified crime hot spots. Using hot spots policing as the randomly allocated condition, the authors find significant crime reductions which have led to interest in replication and expansion of hot spots policing.

Weisburd, D., Wyckoff, L. A., Ready, J., Eck, J. E., Hinkle, J. C., & Gajewski, F. (2006). Does crime just move around the corner? A controlled study of spatial displacement and diffusion of crime control benefits. Criminology, 44(3), 549–592.Find this resource:

The authors address the key criticism to hot spots policing, which is a question of crime displacement. They find no support for crime displacement in the study, and instead find evidence of a diffusion of crime control benefits, further bolstering the viability of hot spots policing.

Braga, A. A., & Weisburd, D. (2010). Policing problem places: Crime hot spots and effective prevention. New York: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

This book explores the theoretical justification for hot spots policing, but also importantly includes a comprehensive review of the evidence about the effectiveness of hot spots policing. The authors reach the conclusion that there is consistent and strong support for the effectiveness of hot spots policing.


Balbi, A., & Guerry, A.-M. (1829). Statistique comparée de l’état de l’instruction et du nombre des crimes dans les divers Arrondissements des Académies et des Cours Royales de France. Paris: Jules Renourd. Available online.Find this resource:

Barr, R., & Pease, K. (1990). Crime placement, displacement, and deflection. Crime and Justice, 12, 277–318.Find this resource:

Bowers, K. (2014). Risky facilities: Crime radiators or crime absorbers? A comparison of internal and external levels of theft. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 30(3), 389–414.Find this resource:

Bowers, K. J., Johnson, S. D., Guerette, R. T., Summers, L., & Poynton, S. (2011). Spatial displacement and diffusion of benefits among geographically focused policing initiatives: A meta-analytical review. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 7(4), 347–374.Find this resource:

Braga, A. A., & Bond, B. J. (2008). Policing crime and disorder hot spots: A randomized controlled trial. Criminology, 46(3), 577–607.Find this resource:

Braga, A. A., Papachristos, A. V., & Hureau, D. M. (2014). The effects of hot spots policing on crime: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis. Justice Quarterly, 31(4), 633–663.Find this resource:

Braga, A. A., Weisburd, D. L., Waring, E. J., Mazerolle, L. G., Spelman, W., & Gajewski, F. (1999). Problem‐oriented policing in violent crime places: A randomized controlled experiment. Criminology, 37(3), 541–580.Find this resource:

Brantingham, P. J., & Brantingham, P. L. (1984). Patterns in crime. New York: Macmillan.Find this resource:

Brantingham, P. J., Dyreson, D. A., & Brantingham, P. L. (1976). Crime seen through a cone of resolution. The American Behavioral Scientist, 20(2), 261.Find this resource:

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