Exploring Variations in Crime Hot Spots Through the Perspectives of Residents

Taryn Zastrow

Advisor: David Weisburd, PhD, Department of Criminology, Law and Society

Committee Members: Beidi Dong, Charlotte Gill, Cody Telep

Online Location, #Online
July 12, 2024, 09:00 AM to 11:00 AM


Research on crime and place has made great strides in recent decades. A substantial amount of literature demonstrates that crime concentrates at the micro-geographic level across both place and time. These micro-places with high levels of crime, typically referred to as crime hot spots, have had a key influence on crime policy and theory. Indeed, there is strong evidence that targeting crime hot spots can be effective in reducing crime. Additionally, scholars are finding that crime hot spots are not necessarily just hot spots of crime but also, for example, hot spots of health problems and negative community sentiments. However, the majority of research focused on crime hot spots either examines the phenomenon in relation to “cold” spots, or places that experience little to no crime, or focus on crime outcomes within hot spots. Our knowledge regarding variation between and within crime hot spots themselves is much more limited.

The dissertation by articles aims to address this literature gap by exploring variations between crime hot spots through the perceptions of those living in them. In Study 1, I use responses from randomly selected residents living in 50 different crime hot spots in Phoenix, Arizona, to assess their level of support for police in their communities. Specifically, this study first asks if residents want more, the same amount, or less policing. Second, I ask whether this attitude is dependent on certain individual and contextual factors, including demographics, perceptions of police performance, and block context. In Study 2, I utilize data from a multi-site randomized control trial to assess variations in collective efficacy at the micro-geographic level across four unique U.S. cities. Here, I ask whether collective efficacy in crime hot spots varies across street segments and across cities. If so, what predicts this variability, and do these influences vary by city? Multilevel models are employed to explore these issues.

Overall, this dissertation points to the importance of more closely examining crime hot spots themselves, particularly through the perspective of those who live in places experiencing disproportionate amounts of crime. This dissertation suggests that, during a time of heightened friction between police and civilians, police leaders must develop strategies that reduce and prevent crime in these crime hot spots without alienating residents or contributing to community deterioration.