Hot Spots of Predatory Crime: Routine Activities and the Criminology of Place


A leading sociological theory of crime is the “routine activities” approach (Cohen and Felson, 1979). The premise of this ecological theory is that criminal events result from likely offenders, suitable targets, and the absence of capable guardians against crime converging nonrandomly in time and space. Yet prior research has been unable to employ spatial data, relying instead on individual‐ and household‐level data, to test that basic premise. This analysis supports the premise with spatial data on 323,979 calls to police over all 115,000 addresses and intersections in Minneapolis over 1 year. Relatively few “hot spots” produce most calls to Police (50% of calls in 3% of places) and calls reporting predatory crimes (all robberies at 2.2% of places, all rapes at 1.2% of places, and all auto thefts at 2.7% of places), because crime is both rare (only 3.6% of the city could have had a robbery with no repeat addresses) and concentrated, although the magnitude of concentration varies by offense type. These distributions all deviate significantly, and with ample magnitude, from the simple Poisson model of chance, which raises basic questions about the criminogenic nature of places, as distinct from neighborhoods or collectivities.

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