Prior studies demonstrate that crime is highly concentrated at relatively few micro-places (e.g., addresses, intersections, street segments), or hot spots. For example, a seminal study of crime in Minneapolis found that 3.3% of all addresses and intersections generated over half of all calls for service to the police, indicating considerable variation in crime within neighborhoods, regardless of variation in crime across neighborhoods.
Building on past research examining hot spot formation and change, this project examined dynamic patterns of criminal activity using innovative spatial temporal pattern detection. Researchers at the University of Texas San Antonio and the University of Washington examined changes in crime at the street segment level from 2008 – 2018 across six major U.S. cities – Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, San Antonio, New York City, and Philadelphia.
The researchers accessed multiple diverse complementary datasets, including data on property characteristics and development activity, which they hypothesized could help account for the correlation between place and crime. Findings reveal that indicators of place-based improvements – that is, private investment in the form of building permits and local regulation in the form of municipal code enforcement – are associated with reductions in crime on street segments over time. Moreover, building permits and code enforcement at nearby street segments were also related to decreases in crime, indicating micro-place improvements may yield a degree of spatial diffusion of benefits. Additional analyses exploring effects for violence, property, drug, and other offenses reveal similar findings, though there are some crime type-specific effects.
Ongoing work is augmenting and leveraging the existing longitudinal datasets to explore potential interaction effects to inform how to leverage small scale improvements and target place-based interventions for greater returns in crime reduction. As the federal government and elected officials consider major investments in infrastructure and community redevelopment, this research offers DHS an opportunity to provide guidance to its public and private partners on how to strategically invest in communities to yield the greatest public safety benefit and spur additional private investment for sustained economic growth.