The hardest-to-solve crime problems usually occur in concentrated places, often termed "hot spots." Research has shown that if law enforcement authorities can pinpoint those locations, they can make them less hospitable to criminals through proactive policing.
Dr. David Weisburd, a distinguished criminologist and leading researcher in the field of hot spots policing, provided an overview of this groundbreaking approach to crime control in an interview with Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs, on October 26, 2009. The discussion, called hot spots Policing and Why It Works," was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ).
Dr. Weisburd discussed why geography matters, the techniques for identifying hot spots, and the strategies for using hot spots policing, also known as "placed-based" policing. The seminar examined how the use of intensified patrols in high-crime areas, or hot spots, can reduce the level of crime. Dr. Weisburd said he and his colleagues found that an intensive focus on place will not simply displace crime, but can actually help to lower crime in adjacent areas.
Included among the numerous research studies cited at the seminar was an OJJDP-sponsored study of juvenile crime in Seattle, WA, between 1989 and 2002. Findings from this study are providing the first portrait of the distribution of officially recorded juvenile crime events in smaller geographical areas—such as a favorite gathering place in a mall, restaurant, subway station, or bus station—rather than certain police precincts or beats, the larger areas usually patrolled by police. Dr. Weisburd and his colleagues have found that crime tends to concentrate in discrete areas where youth congregate, and that police resources are used most efficiently when law enforcement focuses specifically on these places to deter crime. OJJDP will release the preliminary findings of the Seattle study in early 2010.
Resources:To learn more about hot spots policing, please visit NIJ's Web site. To read about Dr. Weisburd's research in place-based policing, see his January 2008 article, "Place-Based Policing."