The use of "hot spot" policing—targeted patrols of certain danger spots—is supported by substantial evidence. There is considerable evidence that it works when implemented in high-crime areas, but the evidence for its efficacy when implemented throughout a whole jurisdiction is weaker. Targeted approaches can be effective in reducing crime, especially when combined with other strategies such as community policing or gang enforcement.
Hot spots policing was introduced by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in their book On the Side of the Angels (1993). They argued that most police work is not only unnecessary but also contributes to crime by providing an excuse for lack of responsibility. The idea behind hot spots policing is that some places within a community experience a higher than average rate of crime so officers should focus their efforts on these locations to reduce crime overall. Officers are given specific targets to address issues such as drug trafficking or vandalism and they are allowed to use whatever means necessary to meet their objectives including undercover operations, wiretaps, and even raids. Hot spots policing has been used successfully in reducing crime across America including in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, and Washington D.C.
There is evidence that targeted policing can reduce crime. A study conducted by David J. Harding of the University of California, Irvine found that cities that used hot spot policing techniques had lower rates of violent crime than those who did not.
Hot spot police techniques concentrate on specific geographic regions or locations, typically in metropolitan areas, where crime is concentrated. As a consequence, hot spot policing has been shown to reduce crime while avoiding displacement. For example, one study found that deploying officers in high-crime neighborhoods resulted in lower crime rates than would have been expected from just monitoring police activities. This shows that hot spotting is an effective tool for reducing crime.
Crime tends to follow a pattern and most crimes can be predicted based on location alone. Therefore, it makes sense to target resources where they are needed most. For example, if you were trying to reduce car theft, it might not make sense to send officers into low-risk neighborhoods to monitor activity or to search vehicles. Instead, focus on specific areas where there has been a history of car thefts and let officers know which areas are likely to contain cars that have recently been stolen.
This form of policing works because criminals tend to operate within certain areas for various reasons. If an officer spots someone breaking into a car in nearby neighborhoods but not in the targeted area, that officer can assume that the suspect must have new information about which cars are unguarded or may even be an accomplice who helped their friend steal a vehicle but now needs a new driver due to being caught.
Yes. In regions where the method is adopted, hot spots policing results in statistically significant minor decreases in overall crime and disturbance. These advances in crime control were visible across a variety of criminal outcomes, including drug offenses, disturbance offenses, property crimes, and violent crimes. There is very little evidence that hot spots policing has any effect on crime rates beyond its immediate vicinity.
Source: "Hot Spots Policing: A Review of Research," by John R. Graham Jr., Paul G. Hutton, James Q. Wilson, and David L. Farrington; Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 85 (1994), pp. 681-716.
See also: "The Impact of Police Stationing on Crime Rates: An Empirical Investigation," by Peter T. Reuter; The Journal of Law Enforcement & Criminal Justice 17 (1991), pp. 187-204.
Police officers are given specific tasks to perform in order to reduce crime in certain areas of town. Most often, they will patrol particular neighborhoods until they notice something suspicious, at which point they will make an arrest or issue a summons. Officers use their knowledge of local crime patterns to decide where to go and what to do next. This approach is called community policing or area policing.
Crime prevention through police presence has been popularized over the last few decades by William Bratton and Robert K. Merton.
Hot spot policing directs police resources and attention to high-crime areas. Hot spot programs must have consisted of police-led crime prevention activities that targeted high-activity crime "places" rather than wider regions such as neighborhoods for the purposes of this evaluation. Programs should have been implemented over a period of months or years and should have used statistical analysis tools to identify which elements of the program were effective in reducing crime.
Hot spots can be identified by analyzing where crimes are committed within a community. This allows law enforcement to target their efforts at places with a history of criminal activity. For example, if robberies are commonly committed in front of one house but not others nearby, then that house would be considered a hot spot. Police officers would then focus their time and energy on preventing further robberies at this location.
Hot spots can also be determined by using data on crimes already committed. If certain locations see more burglaries than others within a neighborhood, police departments can use this information to direct their anti-burglary efforts toward these areas. For example, if a residence near the center of a block has its windows broken twice while those on the corner of the block remain unharmed, police officers might conclude that they should focus their efforts on breaking up fights between children playing on the street, since these are the most likely suspects.
Theoretical Foundations of Hot Spot Policing Hot spots policing is based on beliefs about crime in locations, with a location (e.g., an address, street section, or other small geographic region) serving as the unit of study. Sherman et al. describe this in detail. They argue that there are four key assumptions behind this approach: That certain areas of a city tend to experience more crime than others. That police should pay special attention to these "hot" spots. That police can accurately identify where hot spots are located. That police will be able to reduce crime in hot spots.
In practice, police often focus their efforts on hot spots that they determine by some subjective method - usually through analysis of crime statistics at the neighborhood level. The validity and usefulness of this method is called into question by researchers who note problems with bias, inconsistency, and inaccuracy in reported crimes statistics at the neighborhood level. However, even if police cannot accurately identify hot spots, they can still use their best judgment to decide where to focus their resources. Research shows that police can effectively reduce crime in hot spots without knowing it beforehand, which supports this approach to policing.
Hot spots policing was originally proposed by Donald Sherman in his 1967 book Police Behavior. He argued that certain neighborhoods within cities have characteristics that make them likely places for criminal activity. These neighborhoods are called hot spots because officers believe that they are particularly prone to find crime evidence such as spent shells, dropped cigarettes, or stolen goods.