Does crime just move around the corner? A controlled study of spatial displacement and diffusion of crime control benefits

David Weisburd*, Laura A. Wyckoff, Justin Ready, John E. Eck, Joshua C. Hinkle, Frank Gajewski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

393 Scopus citations


Recent studies point to the potential theoretical and practical benefits of focusing police resources on crime hot spots. However, many scholars have noted that such approaches risk displacing crime or disorder to other places where programs are not in place. Although much attention has been paid to the idea of displacement, methodological problems associated with measuring it have often been overlooked. We try to fill these gaps in measurement and understanding of displacement and the related phenomenon of diffusion of crime control benefits. Our main focus is on immediate spatial displacement or diffusion of crime to areas near the targeted sites of an intervention. Do focused crime prevention efforts at places simply result in a movement of offenders to areas nearby targeted sites- do they simply move crime around the corner"? Or, conversely, will a crime prevention effort focusing on specific places lead to improvement in areas nearby - what has come to be termed a diffusion of crime control benefits? Our data are drawn from a controlled study of displacement and diffusion in Jersey City, New Jersey. Two sites with substantial street-level crime and disorder were targeted and carefully monitored during an experimental period. Two neighboring areas were selected as "catchment areas " from which to assess immediate spatial displacement or diffusion. Intensive police interventions were applied to each target site but not to the catchment areas. More than 6,000 20-minute social observations were conducted in the target and catchment areas. They were supplemented by interviews and ethnographic field observations. Our findings indicate that, at least for crime markets involving drugs and prostitution, crime does not simply move around the comer. Indeed, this study supports the position that the most likely outcome of such focused crime prevention efforts is a diffusion of crime control benefits to nearby areas.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)549-592
Number of pages44
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Crime displacement
  • Diffusion of crime control benefits
  • Hot spots policing
  • Police crackdowns
  • Rational choice
  • Routine activities


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