Understanding and Controlling Hot Spots of Crime: The Importance of Formal and Informal Social Controls

David Weisburd*, Elizabeth R. Groff, Sue Ming Yang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Scopus citations


Primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention programs that address opportunity or structural factors related to crime are usually delivered to entire cities, sections of cities or to specific neighborhoods, but our results indicate geographically targeting these programs to specific street segments may increase their efficacy. We link crime incidents to over 24,000 street segments (the two block faces on a street between two intersections) over a 16-year period, and identify distinct developmental patterns of crime at street segments using group-based trajectory analysis. One of these patterns, which we term chronic crime hot spots, includes just 1 % of street segments but is associated with 23 % of crime in the city during the study period. We then employ multinomial regression to identify the specific risk and protective factors that are associated with these crime hot spots. We find that both situational opportunities and social characteristics of places strongly distinguish chronic crime hot spots from areas with little crime. Our findings support recent efforts to decrease crime opportunities at crime hot spots through programs like hot spots policing, but they also suggest that social interventions directed at crime hot spots will be important if we are to do something about crime problems in the long run. We argue in concluding that micro level programs which focus crime prevention efforts on specific street segments have the potential to be less costly and more effective than those targeted at larger areas such as communities or neighborhoods.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)31-43
Number of pages13
JournalPrevention Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2013, Society for Prevention Research.


  • Crime prevention
  • Hot spots
  • Opportunity
  • Social control
  • Street segments


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