Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 33 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2017 Pages: 635-647
This study addressed four outstanding empirical questions related to the "law of crime concentration" (Weisburd in Criminology 53:133-157, 2015): (1) Is the spatial concentration of crime stable over time? (2) Do the same places consistently rank among those with the highest crime counts? (3) How much crime concentration would be observed if crimes were distributed randomly over place? (4) To what degree does the spatial concentration of crime depend on places that are crime free?
The data used were annual counts of violent and property crimes in St. Louis between 2000 and 2014. Temporal stability in the spatial inequality of crime was measured by computing the fraction of crimes that occurred in the 5 percent of street segments with the highest crime frequencies each year. The spatial mobility of crime was measured by computing the number of years each street segment appeared in the top 5 percent of street segments. Poisson simulations were used to estimate the fraction of crimes that could appear in the top 5 percent of street segments due to chance alone. The impact of crime-free locales on the spatial concentration of crime was assessed by comparing results from analyses that included and excluded crime-free street segments from the crime distributions. The concentration of crime was highly unequal and stable over time. The specific street segments with the highest crime frequencies, however, changed over time. Nontrivial fractions of street segments may appear among the 5 percent with the highest crime frequencies due to chance. Spatial concentration of crime was reduced when crime-free street segments were excluded from the crime distributions. The study's overall conclusion is that the law of crime concentration is not a measurement artifact. Its substantive significance, however, should be assessed in future longitudinal research that replicates the current study across diverse social settings. (Publisher abstract modified)
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