Units of analysis in geographic criminologY: Historical development, critical issues, and open questions

David Weisburd, Gerben J.N. Bruinsma, Wim Bernasco

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Social scientists have had a long and enduring interest in the geography of crime and the explanation of variation of crime at place. In this introductory chapter, we first describe the history of crime and place studies, showing that in the course of two centuries, scholars have increasingly focused their interest on smaller spatial units of analysis. In the 19th century, they typically studied large administrative districts such as regions and countries. The Chicago School focused on much smaller urban communities. More recently, interest has moved toward geographic units as small as street blocks or addresses. After this historical account, we address specific questions regarding how the unit of analysis should be chosen for crime and place studies. We address substantive theoretical, statistical, and practical problems that are raised in choosing appropriate levels of geography for research and practice. We discuss issues of theory and data and consider the factors that have inhibited the study of units of analysis of crime at place to date, mentioning the specific contributions to the unit of analysis problem that are made by the chapters that follow.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPutting Crime in its Place
Subtitle of host publicationUnits of Analysis in Geographic Criminology
PublisherSpringer New York
Number of pages29
ISBN (Print)9781441909732
StatePublished - 2009


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