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Hot Spot Policing Can Reduce Crime

Date Published
October 13, 2009

Research shows that identifying and formulating a strategic response to hot spots can reduce crime in both the hot spot and surrounding areas.

Evaluations of hot spot policing support a growing body of evidence that suggest that crime strategies focused on a specific area:

  • Do not inevitably lead to the displacement of crime problems [1], [2], [3]. (Displacement occurs when criminals who are under pressure from a focused strategy move away from the focus area and bring their criminal activity to another area that is not getting special attention from law enforcement.)
  • Have crime-prevention benefits associated with the hot spots policing programs [4].

Research done by David Weisburd and his colleagues in Jersey City, N.J., and Seattle, Wash., — with funding from NIJ — shows that crime can drop substantially in small hot spots without rising in other areas. Weisburd has produced evidence to demonstrate that the introduction of a crime-prevention strategy in a small, high-crime area often creates a "diffusion of benefits" to nearby areas, reducing crime (rather than increasing it) in the immediate catchment zone around the target area. His evidence further suggests that crimes depend not just on criminals, but on policing in key places and other factors such as the placement of fences, alleys and other environmental features.

About Hot Spots

Crime does not occur evenly over the landscape. It is clustered in small areas, or hot spots, that account for a disproportionate amount of crime and disorder. For example:

  • In Minneapolis, three percent of the city's addresses accounted for 50 percent of calls for service to the police in one study [5].
  • In Jersey City, N.J., about four percent of streets and intersection areas generated nearly half of the city's narcotics arrests and almost 42 percent of the disorder arrests [6].

In addition to location, crime and public disorder tend to concentrate at certain times of the day or week. Assaults, for example, occur most frequently between 3:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. when streets are largely vacant. Residential burglaries mostly occur during daytime hours when residents are not home. Incidents of driving under the influence occur more frequently in areas with a large number of bars or liquor stores.

[note 1] Clarke, Ronald V., and David Weisburd, "Diffusion of Crime Control Benefits: Observations on the Reverse of Displacement," Crime Prevention Studies 2 (1994): 165-84.

[note 2] Hesseling, Rene, "Displacement: A Review of the Empirical Literature," Crime Prevention Studies 3 (1994): 197-230.

[note 3] Eck, John, "The Threat of Crime Displacement," Criminal Justice Abstracts 25 (September 1993): 527-46.

[note 4] Skogan, Wesley, and Kathleen Frydl, eds. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2004.

[note 5] Sherman, Lawrence, Michael Buerger, and Patrick Gartin, "Repeat Call Address Policing: The Minneapolis RECAP Experiment," Final Report to the National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC: Crime Control Institute, 1989.

[note 6] Weisburd, David, and Lorraine Green Mazerolle, "Crime and Disorder in Drug Hot Spots: Implications for Theory and Practice in Policing," Police Quarterly 3 (September 2000): 331-349.

National Institute of Justice, "Hot Spot Policing Can Reduce Crime," October 13, 2009, nij.ojp.gov:
Date Created: October 13, 2009