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Calibrating Police Activity Across Hot Spot and Non-Hot Spot Areas

NCJ Number
Police Quarterly Volume: 24 Issue: 3 Dated: February 2021 Pages: 382-406
Christopher S. Koper; Xiaoyun Wu; Cynthia Lum
Date Published
February 2021
15 pages

Since maximizing crime prevention through large-scale implementation of hot-spot policing requires a more refined understanding of how to calibrate police activity across high and low-risk areas, the current study examined these issues based on the experience of a large urban police agency that substantially reduced proactive activities across a large area due to resource cutbacks while also shifting a larger share of its declining proactive work into prioritized micro hot spots.


Time series models were used to estimate the effects of these changes on crime-related calls in hot spots and non-hot spot areas. Hot spots required higher levels of proactivity (expressed as rates per day or per crime) to control crime, and serious crime rose in these locations following modest reductions in proactivity. In areas outside hot spots, minor and property crimes rose, but only after reductions of one-half to two-thirds in proactive work. Violence was unaffected in these areas, and they did not experience accelerated growth in crime relative to prioritized hot spots. These results help to illuminate minimum levels of police activity that may be necessary to control crime in places of varying risk. They also suggest that police can reduce proactive work by substantial amounts in lower risk areas to place more emphasis on hot spots. Better understanding of these issues is central to widespread, systematic operationalization of hot-spot policing as a means to reduce crime across large areas. (publisher abstract modified)