The effects of hot spots policing on crime

Additional Info

  • Authors: Anthony Braga, Andrew Papachristos, David Hureau
  • Published date: 2012-06-27
  • Coordinating group(s): Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Protocol, Review, Plain language summary, Previous version
  • Volume: 8
  • Issue nr: 8
  • Category Image: Category Image
  • PLS Title: Hot spots policing is effective in reducing crime
  • PLS Description: This Campbell systematic review examines the effects of focusing police crime prevention efforts on crime hot spots, and whether focused police actions at specific locations result in crime displacement (i.e. crime moving around the corner) or diffusion (i.e. crime reduction in surrounding areas) of crime control benefits. The review includes 19 studies covering 25 cases. Seventeen of the studies were conducted in the USA.
  • Title: The effects of hot spots policing on crime
  • Spanish PLS: Las acciones policiales en puntos calientes son eficaces para reducir la delincuencia
  • Spanish PLS Description: La mitad de todos los delitos ocurren en áreas pequeñas y localizadas, o puntos calientes. Ejemplos de puntos calientes de delincuencia son los edificios de apartamentos, las esquinas de las calles o un número pequeño de calles de la ciudad. ¿Se puede reducir la delincuencia de manera más eficiente si los agentes de policía centran su atención en estos lugares? O, ¿este estilo de acciones policiales simplemente dará lugar a que la delincuencia se traslade a un lugar distinto? La revisión examina los efectos en la reducción de delincuencia de la concentración de la vigilancia policial en puntos calientes con el propósito de reducirla. Además examina si la delincuencia se traslada a otra área (desplazamiento), o si los beneficios se esparcen, reduciendo la delincuencia en el área circundante (difusión).
  • Norwegian PLS: “Hot spot”-politiarbeid (stedsfokusert politiarbeid) er effektivt for å redusere kriminalitet
  • Norwegian PLS Description: Halvparten av all kriminalitet skjer i små, lokaliserte problemområder. Eksempler på problemområder er leilighetsgårder, gatehjørner eller enkelte bykvartaler. En oversikt fra Campbell har sett på om kriminalitet kan reduseres mer effektivt hvis polititjenestemenn/kvinner fokuserer på slike områder. Oversikten har også sett på om denne typen politiarbeid vil føre til uønskede effekter som at kriminaliteten forflyttes til et annet sted. Oversikten undersøker den kriminalitetsreduserende effekten av å fokusere på problemområder for å redusere kriminalitet, hvorvidt det bare fører til at kriminaliteten flyttes til et annet sted (forflytning), eller om fordelene forplanter seg slik at kriminaliteten i omkringliggende områder også blir redusert (spredning).
  • French PLS: La mise en place de patrouilles de police dans « les points chauds » réduit la criminalité
  • French PLS Description: Plus de la moitié des crimes se passe dans de tous petits territoires définis, également appelés « points chauds ». Ceux-ci peuvent être des adresses précises, des portions de rue ou des carrefours, identifiés en fonction des activités délinquantes qui s’y déroulent. Les questions abordées sont : est-ce que la criminalité peut être réduite si la police concentre ses efforts sur ces zones à risques ? Ce genre de maintien de l’ordre résulte-t-il à déplacer le problème ailleurs ? Cette revue systématique examine les conséquences de patrouiller dans les points chauds sur la réduction de la criminalité. A savoir si, soit cette criminalité se déplace sur une autre zone (« déplacement »), ou bien si les effets bénéfiques des interventions se propagent, réduisant aussi la criminalité sur les zones avoisinantes (« diffusion »).
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About this systematic review

This Campbell systematic review examines the effects of focusing police crime prevention efforts on crime ‘hot spots’, and whether focused police actions at specific locations result in crime displacement (i.e. crime moving around the corner) or diffusion (i.e. crime reduction in surrounding areas) of crime control benefits. The review includes 19 studies covering 25 cases. Seventeen of the studies were conducted in the USA.

What are the main results?

High quality evidence shows an overall reduction in crime and disorder when hot spots policing interventions were implemented. The largest reductions are in drug offences, violent crime and disorder offences, with smaller reductions in property crime.

The review also suggests that hot spot policing, particularly problem-oriented policing, is more likely to reduce crime in the surrounding area than it is to lead to crime moving to that area.

Background

In recent years, crime scholars and practitioners have pointed to the potential benefits of focusing crime prevention efforts on crime places. A number of studies suggest that there is significant clustering of crime in small places, or “hot spots,” that generate half of all criminal events. A number of researchers have argued that many crime problems can be reduced more efficiently if police officers focused their attention to these deviant places. The appeal of focusing limited resources on a small number of high-activity crime places is straightforward. If we can prevent crime at these hot spots, then we might be able to reduce total crime.

Objectives

To assess the effects of focused police crime prevention interventions at crime hot spots. The review also examined whether focused police actions at specific locations result in crime displacement (i.e., crime moving around the corner) or diffusion (i.e., crime reduction in surrounding areas) of crime control benefits.

Search strategy

A keyword search was performed on 15 online abstract databases. Bibliographies of past narrative and empirical reviews of literature that examined the effectiveness of police crime control programs were reviewed and forward searches for works that cited seminal hot spots policing studies were performed. Bibliographies of past completed Campbell systematic reviews of police crime prevention efforts and hand searches of leading journals in the field were performed. Experts in the field were consulted and relevant citations were obtained.

Selection criteria

To be eligible for this review, interventions used to control crime hot spots were limited to police enforcement efforts. Suitable police enforcement efforts included traditional tactics such as directed patrol and heightened levels of traffic enforcement as well as alternative strategies such as aggressive disorder enforcement and problem-oriented policing. Studies that used randomized controlled experimental or quasi-experimental designs were selected. The units of analysis were limited to crime hot spots or high-activity crime “places” rather than larger areas such as neighborhoods. The control group in each study received routine levels of traditional police enforcement tactics.

Data collection and analysis

19 studies containing 25 tests of hot spots policing interventions were identified and full narratives of these studies were reported. Ten of the selected studies used randomized experimental designs and nine used quasi-experimental designs. A formal meta-analysis was conducted to determine the crime prevention effects in the eligible studies. Random effects models were used to calculate mean effect sizes.

Results

20 of 25 tests of hot spots policing interventions reported noteworthy crime and disorder reductions. The meta-analysis of key reported outcome measures revealed a small statistically significant mean effect size favoring the effects of hot spots policing in reducing citizen calls for service in treatment places relative to control places. The effect was smaller for randomized designs but still statistically significant and positive. When displacement and diffusion effects were measured, unintended crime prevention benefits were associated with the hot spots.

Authors' conclusions

The extant evaluation research provides fairly robust evidence that hot spots policing is an effective crime prevention strategy. The research also suggests that focusing police efforts on high-activity crime places does not inevitably lead to crime displacement and crime control benefits may diffuse into the areas immediately surrounding the targeted locations.

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