Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 4

Crime and Place

Edited by John E. Eck and David Weisburd

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Crime Places in Crime Theory
by John E. Eck and David Weisburd

Criminologists and crime prevention practitioners are increasingly aware of the importance of places of crime. A place is a very small area, usually a street corner, address, building, or street segment. A focus on crime places contrasts with a focus on neighborhoods. Neighborhood theories usually highlight the development of offenders, while place level explanations emphasize crime events. Three perspectives suggest the importance of places for understanding crime: rational choice; routine activity theory; and crime pattern theory. Though these perspectives are mutually supportive, routine activity theory and crime pattern theory provide different explanations for crime occurring at different places. Five areas of research help us understand the importance of places: crime concentration about particular facilities (e.g., bars); the high concentration of crime at some addresses and the absence of crime at others; the preventive effects of various place features; the mobility of offenders; and studies of how offenders select targets. Concern has been expressed that efforts to prevent crime at specific locations will only move it to other unprotected locations. Recent research suggests that these fears may be exaggerated, and that under some circumstances the opposite effect occurs: instead of crime displacing, the benefits of the prevention efforts diffuse to unprotected locations. This paper concludes with a review of the 14 original articles in this volume.


Hot Spots of Crime and Criminal Careers of Places
by Lawrence W. Sherman

The explanation of crime,'ias been preoccupied with individuals and communities as units of analysis. Recent work on offender decision making (Cornish and Clarke, 1986), situations (Clarke, 1983, 1992), environments Brantingham and Brantingham 1981, 1993), routine activities (Cohen and Felson, 1979; Felson, 1994), and the spatial organization of drug trated heavily in a few "hot spots" of crime (Sherman et al. 1989). The dealing in the U.S. suggest a new unit of analysis: places. Crime is concenconcentration of crime among repeat places is more intensive than it is among repeat offenders (Spelman and Eck, 1989). The components of this concen- tration are analogous to the components of the criminal careers of persons: onset, desistance, continuance, specialization, and desistance. The theoretical explanation for variance in these components is also stronger at the level of places than it is for individuals, These facts suggest a need for rethinking theories of crime, as well as a new approach to theorizing about crime for public policy.

Those Who Discourage Crime
by Marcus Felson

Even by their simple presence, people can discourage crime from happening at specific times and places. Such direct-contact discouragement can occur when guardians" keep an eye on potential crime targets (Cohen and Felson, 1979), or when "handlers" do the same for potential offenders (Felson, 1986). Eck (1994) adds a third type of discouragement role: "managers" who monitor places. Eck presents the routine activity approach as two triplets, with potential offenders, targets, and places monitored by guardians, handlers, and managers, respectively. Clarke (1992) notes the varying degrees of responsibility for discouraging crime. His ideas are adapted to current purposes, listing four steps of crime discouragement. Personal discouragement is exerted by family and friends; assigned discouragement, by those so employed; diffuse discouragement, by those employed but not assigned to that specific task; and general discouragement, by unpaid persons lacking a personal tie or occupational responsibility. The multiplication of these four steps by Eck's triplets gives us 12 types of discouragement against crime. These types help us also to think about other aspects of crime prevention.

A General Model of the Geography of Illicit Retail Marketplaces
by John E. Eck

Previous analyses of car theft data from the British Crime Survey (BCS) have suggested that usual place of parking (e.g., in the street or in a garage) is related to risk of theft, even allowing for the fact that parking options vary with other factors (such as living in an inner city) that themselves affect risk. However, theft risks have been assessed for people usually parking in different locations without taking account of precisely where thefts occurred. This problem was avoided in the current study, based on data from the 1988 BCS, by examining where car owners usually park in the day and at night, and by assessing their risks at these locations only. It was found that "usual" parking locations vary much more in risk than previously suggested. For example, parking in a domestic garage at night is safer by a factor of 20 than parking in a driveway or other private place, and safer by a factor of 50 than parking in the street near home. (This underlines the need for more garage and off street parking, and suggests that people with garages should be encouraged to use them whenever possible. In order to capitalize on the greater night-time guardianship afforded to cars parked near home, consideration should be given to the development of "silent" car alarms that sound only in the owner's home). A further important finding was that car owners are much more at risk when they venture from their usual parking place. Indeed, at least as many incidents involve temporarily parked cars as cars left in their usual parking place, even though the former are likely to have been left for much shorter periods. The analysis highlights the value of taking better account of the number of cars parked in different places at different times, or "parking exposure." In particular, more needs to be known about the risks attached to various short-term parking locations, including public parking lots.

Defining and Optimizing Displacement
by Geoffrey C. Barnes

As the criminology of place becomes more refined, we become more inclined to put our knowledge into action. Police agencies and others concerned with the security industry have begun to use place-specific crime analyses, and then develop tailored responses to correct the problems of discrete locations. Often, these plans of action include the use of some type of situational crime prevention to influence existing crime patterns. The issue of displacement, which for many years has been a central concern to the proponents of crime prevention, therefore occupies a position of great importance in the criminology of place as well. Indeed, the argument that any effort to solve problems in one place will simply divert offending to other locations is occasionally used by some practitioners as an argument against the implementation of place-oriented problem solving. This chapter examines the age-old issue of displacement, offers some conceptual tools to help define it and discusses how displacement could actually be optimized as a tool for crime control.


Criminal Careers of Public Places
by William Spelman

Most police calls for service come from especially dangerous locations, or "hot spots." If risks at these locations are stable-hot spots stay hot-community problem-solving techniques may reduce crimes and disorders substantially. If locations run high risks only temporarily or sporadically, location-based strategies may not work. Analysis of calls for service at high schools, housing projects, subway stations and parks in Boston shows that risks remain fairly constant over time; most apparent changes may be attributed to random processes. Autoregression and displacement in space and call type are statistically significant but unimportant indicators of call rates. In addition to verifying the effectiveness of community problem- solving strategies, these results have practical implications for problem-solving techniques.

Space, Place, and Crime: Hot Spot Areas and Hot Places of Liquor-related Crime
by Richard L. Block and Carolyn R. Block

This chapter examines the relationships among place, space and the specific situations of Chicago taverns and Liquor stores and crimes in those places, and suggests applications of these findings for crime prevention. With a GeoArchive data set of police, census and liquor license information from January to June 1993, we identify the densest concentrations (Hot Spot Areas) of places, events occurring at those places, and incidents occurring in the surrounding areas; compare place and space attributes of the 49 high-Incident places to a sample of 49 low-incident places; and examine the relationship between places and incidents in two police districts. Three types of places emerged, each of which had a different relationship to crime attraction, generation, and control, and each of which would require different strategies for intervention. The high crime Levels at these places reflect the general crime pattern of the area. A program of intensive police and citizen patrols to reduce street crime in such an area is currently being evaluated.

Fear of Crime in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem: Physical and Social Correlates
by Nadera S. Kevorkian

This study investigates fear of crime among the elderly in terms of differences between those who live in an open versus a closed environment. The sample comprised entire Armenian population living within the confines of the old city of Jerusalem, Israel. Half of the population lived within the closed confines of the Armenian Monastery (closed environment), while the other half lived in the adjacent open Armenian quarter of the old city. Results showed that fear amongst the elderly is greater when they live within an open environment. Furthermore, it was shown that image of the environment is perceived to be more risky within the open area, and that the perception of crime level and victimization is higher amongst the elderly living in the open area.


Policing Areas with Drug Problems: The Multi-Agency Approach
by Lorraine Green

This study evaluates the impact of the Oakland (CA) Police Department's SMART (Specialized Multi-Agency Response Team) program on drug-related problems and living conditions in the targeted areas. Data were obtained from agency records on arrests, emergency calls and field contacts at SMART sites (N=321). Results indicate that SMART intervention increased the level of citizen reporting of drug problems and decreased the level of narcotics activity at the targeted sites.

Place, Space, and Police Investigations: Hunting Serial Violent Criminals
by d. Kim Rossmo

Police investigations of serial murder, rape and arson can be assisted by a geographic perspective on the spatial behavior that led to the crime scene. For any crime to occur there must have been an intersection in both time and place between the offender and victim. How did this come to happen? What are the hunting patterns of predatory criminals? Environmental criminology and the routine activity approach provide a general framework for addressing these questions, and work in this area represents a practical application of theory to the real world of police investigation. By "inverting" research that has focused on relating crime places to offender residences, the locations of a series of crimes can be used to determine where an offender might reside. The probable spatial behavior of the offender can thus be derived from information contained in the known crime-site locations, their geographic connections, and the characteristics and demography of the surrounding areas. By determining the probability of the offender residing in various areas, and displaying those results through the use of isopleth or choropleth maps, police efforts to apprehend criminals can be assisted. This investigative approach is known as geographic profiling.


Defining the "Hot Spots of Crime": Operationalizing Theoretical Concepts for Field Research
by Michael E. Buerger, Ellen G. Cohn, and Anthony J.Petrosina

This paper addresses the difficulties of transforming theoretical definitions of place into operational terms, where the rigid boundaries of place in the abstract conflict with the more fluid social definitions of place. The process of operationalizing computer-constructed hot spots for the 198889 Minneapolis Hot Spots of Crime Experiment (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995) provides examples of the mutual effects between experimental design requirements and practical concerns of both field research and operational policy.

Applications of Computerized Mapping to Police Operations
by J. Thomas McEwen and Faye S. Taxman

Computer mapping is a rapidly developing technique that can assist police departments in a variety of ways. Computer mapping techniques can be classified into three general categories: descriptive, analytical and interactive mapping. Descriptive mapping shows data in a pin map or shaded area format. Analytical mapping starts with analysis of data followed by automatically displaying the results on a map, such as the identification and display of crime "hot spots" in a city. Interactive mapping allows a user to cycle through a series of steps starting with making queries against a. database, mapping the results, making a decision from the maps and starting anew with another query. This chapter provides examples of each type, with emphasis on how computer mapping can assist police operations. The final sections discuss the steps necessary to establish a computer mapping system, and what we cart expect in the future.

Self-Reports About Place: The Application of Survey and Interview Methods to the Study of Small Areas
by Dennis P. Rosenbaum and Paul J. Lavrakas

This paper argues for more frequent use of surveys and interviews to advance the criminology of place, and to improve current evaluations of place-specific crime prevention interventions by police, community groups, and others. Interview methodologies can produce reliable information about critical social processes and perceptions-data that are not obtainable through other methods. However, because survey researchers have placed too much emphasis on "sampling error," this paper encourages the adoption of a "total survey error" perspective. Also recommended is the use of other interview methods, including place-intercept surveys and focus groups to capture data from specific types of place users. The concept of "mental mapping" is proposed to enrich our understanding of users' fears and perceptions about the target area. A multi-method approach is recommended that will yield diverse types of information about place, and will allow for triangulation and convergent validation of information.

Criminality in Space and Time: Life Course Analysis
by Michael D. Maltz

In studying the relationship between communities and crime, most researchers use either one of two methods: quantitative and cross-sectional, or qualitative and ethnographic. The, former has the advantage of permitting the researcher to look for general relationships among a great number of community variables, but the nature of the interactions occurring within the communities cannot be discerned. The latter has the advantage of permitting the researcher to describe street-level interactions in a neighborhood and relate them to its characteristics, but by its nature an ethnography can only investigate such interactions in a limited interval of time and space. This chapter describes an exploration into another means of studying the relationship between communities and crime, one based on archival data in the many public agencies that work in neighborhoods. By integrating the data from these agencies, it attempts "tell a story" of the relationship between neighborhood characteristics and crime.

Measuring Intermediate Spatial Displacement: Methodological Issues and Problems
by David Weisburd and Lorraine Green

While much attention has been paid to the idea of displacement in crime place theory and research, methodological problems associated with its measurement have often been overlooked. We focus on such issues in the context of immediate spatial displacement around hot spots ofcrime. Using the Minneapolis Hot Spots Experiment (Sherman and Weisburd, 1995) as an example, we identify specific problems investigators are likely to face in documenting displacement effects. We argue that conventional studies are unlikely to provide a powerful research design for examining displacement, in part because of efforts to maximize the identification of main program effects. In conclusion, we suggest that studies specifically designed for measuring displacement (and the related phenomenon of diffusion) must be developed if criminologists are to make significant advances in this area.