Tactical Crime Analysis and Hot Spots Policing


1 Introduction to tactical crime analysis and hot spots policing a Recap of tactical crime analysis

b Review of hot spots policing

c Definition in detail about hot spots

2 Essentials of hot spots

a Details

3 How analysts identify hot spots

a Technical

4 Tactical approaches to hot spots

a Approaches

Learning Objectives for Chapter 12

  • 1 Gain a better understanding of tactical crime analysis and hot spots policing
  • 2 Be able to place the history of tactical crime analysis in perspective
  • 3 Learn the various kinds of indicators of crime and place
  • 4 Gain a better understanding of how analysts determine hot spots
  • 5 Be introduced to measures of identifying hot spots

In recent years, crime scholars and practitioners have pointed to the potential benefits of focusing crime prevention efforts on crime places. A number of studies suggest that crime is not spread evenly across city landscapes. Rather, there is significant clustering of crime in small places, or “hot spots,” that generate half of all criminal events (Pierce et al., 1988; Sherman et al., 1989; Weisburd et al., 1992). Even within the most crime-ridden neighborhoods, crime clusters at a few discrete locations and other areas are relatively crime-free (Sherman et al., 1989). A number of researchers have argued that many crime problems could be reduced more efficiently if police officers focused their attention to these deviant places (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995;Weisburd and Green, 1995).The appeal of focusing limited resources on a small number of high-activity crime places is straightforward. If we can prevent crime at these hot spots, then we might be able to reduce total crime. Hot spots policing has become a very popular way for police departments to prevent crime. A recent Police Foundation report found that 7 in 10 departments with more than 100 sworn officers reported using crime mapping to identify crime hot spots (Weisburd et al., 2003). A growing body of research evidence suggests that focused police interventions, such as directed patrols, proactive arrests, and problem-oriented policing, can produce significant crime prevention gains at high-crime hot spots (see, e.g., Braga, 2002; Eck, 1997,2002; Skogan and Frydl, 2004; Weisburd and Eck, 2004). However, critics of place-based interventions charge that such policing strategies result in displacement—that is, criminals move to places not protected by police intervention (e.g., Reppetto, 1976). Given the growing popularity of hot spots policing, regular systematic reviews of the empirical evidence on the effects of focused police interventions on crime hot spots are necessary to assess the value of this approach to crime prevention.

(Braga, 2007, p. 4)


Crime does not occur evenly in either states or cities. Some cities have very little crime and some have a great deal of crime. But, of course, no city is crime-free. And because it does not occur in even amounts throughout a city, it is generally clustered in small areas—hot spots—that account for a disproportionate amount of crime and disorder. For example:

  • • In Minneapolis, 3% of the city’s addresses accounted for 50% of calls for service to the police in one study (National Institute ofjustice, 2010).
  • • In Jersey City, New Jersey, about 4% of streets and intersection areas generated nearly half of the city’s narcotics arrests and almost 42% of the disorder arrests (National Institute ofjustice, 2010).

Criminal events, however, are not just about location. 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 (National Institute ofjustice, 2010).

The importance of identifying hot spots is that both crime theories and practical studies support the idea that focusing police efforts at crime hot spots can effectively reduce crime (Filbert,2008).As indicated in Chapter 11, once hot spots have been identified, police efforts often include such approaches as directed patrols or other types of problem-solving to decrease the amount of crime in that area.

Police crime analysts work with crime incident data to find and analyze hot spots and provide information to other departments and units within the police department. Analysts often work with geographic information systems (GIS) software to create crime maps to visualize data and identify patterns and hot spots. GIS and related mapping and analysis tools have become sophisticated enough to include statistics software that allows rigorous analysis of crime hot spots.

In this chapter, more details are provided to give you a better understanding of how analysts identify crime hot spots. But first, we discuss the theory behind the hot spots approach to crime analysis.

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