Hot Spots and Place-Based Policing

Cody W. Telep, David Weisburd

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


Over the past two decades, a series of rigorous evaluations have suggested that police can be effective in addressing crime and disorder when they focus in on small units of geography with high rates of crime (see Braga et al. in press; National Research Council [NRC] 2004; Weisburd and Eck 2004). These areas are typically referred to as hot spots, and policing strategies and tactics focused on these areas are usually referred to as hot spots policing or place-based policing. This place-based focus stands in contrast to traditional notions of policing and crime prevention more generally, which have often focused primarily on people (see Weisburd 2008). For example, police work often begins with a response to citizens who call the police, and police are very focused on identifying and arresting offenders who commit crimes. While hot spots policing does not ignore the offenders found within crime hot spots, the focus is very much on the places where crime is occurring.

Police, of course, have never ignored geography entirely. Police beats, precincts, and districts determine the allocation of police resources and dictate how police respond to calls and patrol the city. With place-based policing, however, the concern is with much smaller units of geography than the police have typically focused on. Places here refer to specific locations within the larger social environments of communities and neighborhoods, such as addresses or street blocks. Crime prevention effectiveness is maximized when police focus their resources on these micro-units of geography.
The evidence suggesting the effectiveness of place-based policing efforts is detailed in the sections that follow. A definition of crime hot spots is first discussed followed by a review of research suggesting that crime is highly concentrated at micro-units of geography, and these concentrations remain stable over time. Hot spots policing is then defined, and the strategies place-based policing can entail are discussed. The extent to which hot spots policing has diffused across American policing is also examined. The empirical evidence for hot spots policing and the different approaches to addressing high crime places are then reviewed. Finally, some suggestions for future research are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice
EditorsGerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)9781461456902
StatePublished - 2014


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