The law of crime concentration and the criminology of place

David Weisburd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

619 Scopus citations

Abstract

According to Laub (2004), criminology has a developmental life course with specific turning points that allow for innovations in how we understand and respond to crime. I argue that criminology should take another turn in direction, focusing on microgeographic hot spots. By examining articles published in Criminology, I show that only marginal attention has been paid to this area of study to date-often termed the criminology of place. I illustrate the potential utility of a turning point by examining the law of crime concentration at place, which states that for a defined measure of crime at a specific microgeographic unit, the concentration of crime will fall within a narrow bandwidth of percentages for a defined cumulative proportion of crime. By providing the first cross-city comparison of crime concentration using a common geographic unit, the same crime type, and examining a general crime measure, I find strong support for a law of crime concentration. I also show that crime concentration stays within a narrow bandwidth across time, despite strong volatility in crime incidents. By drawing from these findings, I identify several key research questions for future study. In conclusion, I argue that a focus on the criminology of place provides significant opportunity for young scholars and has great promise for advancing criminology as a science.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)133-157
Number of pages25
JournalCriminology
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 American Society of Criminology.

Keywords

  • Crime concentration
  • Crime places
  • Hot spots
  • Microgeographic
  • Unit of analysis

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