Hot Spots of Crime Are Not Just Hot Spots of Crime: Examining Health Outcomes at Street Segments

Published date01 May 2019
AuthorDavid Weisburd,Clair White
Date01 May 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2019, Vol. 35(2) 142 –160
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1043986219832132
Hot Spots of Crime Are Not
Just Hot Spots of Crime:
Examining Health Outcomes
at Street Segments
David Weisburd1,2 and Clair White3
In this article, we seek to identify whether the relationship between health disparities
and crime occurs at a micro-geographic level. Do hot spot streets evidence much
higher levels of mental and physical illness than streets with little crime? Are residents
of crime hot spots more likely to have health problems that interfere with their
normal daily activities? To answer these questions, we draw upon a large National
Institutes of Health study of a sample of hot spots and non-hot spots in Baltimore,
Maryland. This is the first study we know of to report on this relationship, and
accordingly, we present unique descriptive data. Our findings show that both physical
and mental health problems are much more likely to be found on hot spot streets
than streets with little crime. This suggests that crime hot spots are not simply places
with high levels of crime, but also places that evidence more general disadvantage.
We argue that these findings have important policy implications for the targeting of
health services and for developing proactive prevention programs.
crime hot spots, health problems, mental health, crime concentration
Traditionally, research and theory in criminology have focused on individuals and
communities (Nettler, 1978; Sherman, 1995). Over the last three decades, however,
criminologists have begun to explore crime at micro units of geography (Eck &
Weisburd, 1995; Sherman, Gartin, & Buerger, 1989). Although concern with the
1George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA
2The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
3University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA
Corresponding Author:
David Weisburd, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.
832132CCJXXX10.1177/1043986219832132Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeWeisburd and White
Weisburd and White 143
relationship between crime and place is not new and indeed goes back to the founding
generations of modern criminology (Guerry, 1833; Quetelet, 1831), the “micro”
approach to places suggested by recent theories has only begun to be examined by
criminologists. Places in this micro context are specific locations within the larger
social environments of communities and neighborhoods (Eck & Weisburd, 1995).
They are sometimes defined as buildings or addresses (e.g., see Green, 1996; Sherman
et al., 1989), sometimes as block faces or street segments (e.g., see Smith, Frazee, &
Davison, 2000; Taylor, 1997), and sometimes as clusters of addresses, block faces, or
street segments (see, for example, Sherman & Weisburd, 1995; Weisburd & Green,
1995; Weisburd, Groff, & Yang, 2012).
Perhaps the key finding in this area of study is that there is significant clustering of
crime at places, irrespective of the specific unit of analysis that is defined (e.g., see
Andresen & Malleson, 2011; Braga, Papachristos, & Hureau, 2014; Brantingham &
Brantingham, 1999; Crow & Bull, 1975; Curman, Andresen, & Brantingham, 2015;
Gill, Wooditch, & Weisburd, 2017; Haberman, Sorg, & Ratcliffe, 2017; Pierce, Spaar,
& Briggs, 1988; Roncek, 2000; Sherman et al., 1989; Weisburd, 2015; Weisburd &
Amram, 2014; Weisburd, Bernasco, & Bruinsma, 2009; Weisburd & Green, 1995;
Weisburd et al., 1992). Such concentrations have been found not only across time
within cities, but also across cities (Weisburd, 2015). Weisburd (2015) argued that the
consistency of such concentrations is so strong that they suggest a “law of crime con-
centration at places,” where in larger cities about 50% of crime is concentrated at 5%
of the streets and 25% of crime at just 1% of streets. This finding of strong concentra-
tions of crime at micro-geographic hot spots has become one of the key regularities of
research on crime at place (Telep & Weisburd, 2018).
Criminologists, however, have seldom examined the co-occurrence of other social
or health disadvantages at these crime hot spots. In the study of crime at larger geo-
graphic levels such as communities, such issues have been a key focus of study (see
Bursik & Grasmick, 1993; Sampson, 2012; Shaw & McKay, 1942; Sullivan, 1989).
Researchers frequently talk about the “concentrated disadvantage” found in such
neighborhoods, recognizing that communities with high levels of crime are also com-
munities with many other related social problems such as disorder, weakened social
ties and informal social control, problems in adolescent development, and weak local
institutions (Elliott, Wilson, & Huinzinga, 1996; Hipp, 2010; Morenoff, Sampson, &
Raudenbush, 2001; Peterson, Krivo, & Harris, 2000; Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls,
1997; Small & Newman, 2001).
High crime neighborhoods, typified by structural disadvantage and poverty also
suffer from high rates of health problems such as chronic diseases (Haan, Kaplan, &
Camacho, 1987), adverse mental health outcomes (Kim, 2008; Mair, Diez Roux, &
Galea, 2008; Ross, 2000; Truong & Ma, 2006; Zhang, Chen, McCubbin, McCubbin,
& Foley, 2011), asthma (Cagney & Browning, 2004), obesity and cardiovascular dis-
ease (Boardman, Saint Onge, Rogers & Denney, 2005; Browning, Cagney, & Iveniuk,
2012; Chaix, 2009; Chang, Hillier, & Mehta, 2009), substance use (Stockdale et al.,
2007), low infant birthweight (Ncube, Enquobahrie, Albert, Herrick, & Burke, 2016),
and higher mortality rates (Fang, Madhaven, Bosworth, & Alderman, 1998; Haan

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