Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Assault in Space and Time

Date01 June 2021
Published date01 June 2021
AuthorJosh Hill,Justin Kurland
Subject MatterArticles
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble:
Assault in Space and Time
Justin Kurland
and Josh Hill
Building on the growing literature of the spatial examination of criminality, this study examines the
stability of crime related to mass gathering events over time. Specifically, we examine the impacts of
baseball games on assault patterns in the Bronx and Queens, New York, using a nonparametric
permutation approach to examine the spatial distribution of point patterns at the neighborhood
level over multiple seasons. Findings demonstrate that Mets and Yankees game days have significant
impact on the number of assaults when compared to a sample of similar non–game days providing
further support for environmental criminological theories. Implications for practitioner use of the
tool as well as its use as a method for researchers who seek to compare crime event patterns across
several temporal bandwidths are discussed.
violence, assault, spatial analysis, sports, research methods
Sporting events with high spectator attendance have long been associated with crime and disorder
(Elias & Dunning, 1971). These events, particularly those associated with stadia, have been con-
sistently shown to influence the spatial and temporal distribution of crime and related behavior
patterns (for a review, see Kurland, 2014). Virtually no studies, however, have examined the spatial
(in)stability of these patterns across different “seasons” of sport. Given the impact of sporting and
entertainment events on crime and disorder and the requirements of law enforcement agencies’
support for them in the form of traffic control and increased patrols, understanding the stability of
crime related to these events is essential. More specifically, understanding whether
neighborhood-level patterns of crime and disorder remain stable on days when such facilities are
used across seasons can provide guidance regarding where policing and other efforts can best be
directed to reduce crime.
National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security, The University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, USA
Institute for Advanced Analytics and Security, School of Criminal Justice, Forensic Sciences, and Security, The University
of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS, USA
Corresponding Author:
Josh Hill, Institute for Advanced Analytics and Security, School of Criminal Justice, Forensic Sciences, and Security,
The University of Southern Mississippi, 118 College Dr., Box #5172, Hattiesburg, MS 39401, USA.
Email: joshua.b.hill@usm.edu
Criminal Justice Review
2021, Vol. 46(2) 212-235
ª2021 Georgia State University
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734016821997541
Despite the wealth of open-source geographic information systems (GIS) and related software
such as Quantum GIS, CrimeStat, GeoDa, and even statistical programming languages such as R, an
open-source statistical tool that compares spatial point patterns across data sets for different
temporal periods to establish if, and where, differences exist remains elusive. To be clear, this is
not a critique of the abovementioned software; indeed, they provide a rich source of tools that enable
everything from the generation of simple choropleth maps to complex spatial econometric or
Bayesian approaches for modeling point patterns. Instead, it is meant to highlight the need for a
simple technique that can uncover sta tistically significant differen ces that might exist between
contrasting point patterns—and be useful to police analysts, law enforcement officers, and other
decision makers who may have less experience with more advanced software and statistical
The following sections examine the ecological theories that provide a framework for understand-
ing crime patterns in time and space. The extant literature on sports, violence, and crime is also
discussed, followed by a narrower discussion on the unique opportunity that sports and entertain-
ment events provide for conducting “natural experiments” that enable the comparison of spatial
patterns over time. This is followed by a description and extension of the anal ytical technique
originally developed by Kurland (2014), which provides a simple method for the statistical com-
parison of such patterns. A case study is then undertaken which makes use of Neighborhood
Tabulation Units in two New York City boroughs, the Bronx and Queens, where two Major League
Baseball (MLB) teams, the New York Yankees and New York Mets, play to analyze the stability of
assault patterns across 10 seasons (2006–2015). Finally, the implications for criminological theory
and practice are discussed.
Environmental Criminology and Crime Patterns
Theories of environmental criminology focus on criminal events and their immediate environment
(Wortley & Townsley, 2017). The suite of theories and techniques that make up environmental
criminology revolves around understanding the situation, the role that the immediate environment
plays in crime incidence, and consequently how these factors can be leveraged to effectively
investigate, control, and prevent crime—including that related to sporting and entertainment events.
Of particular prominence within environmental criminology are the routine activity approach and
crime pattern theory.
The routine activity approach is premised on the idea that there are “motivated (or likely)
offenders” who are looking for, or would notice, opportunities to commit crime. These opportunities
are conditioned upon the existence of a suitable target to take advantage of and a lack of capable
guardianship, intimate handler, or place manager who would otherwise prevent the crime from
taking place (Eck & Weisburd, 1995; Felson & Cohen, 1980). The confluence of these elements
in time and space is a function of various actors’ “routine activities” and is responsible for generating
the crime patterns that emerge. Conversely, the lack of any one of these elements is enough to
prevent the successful completion of a crime (Cohen & Felson, 1979).
Crime pattern theory (P. J. Brantingham & Bra ntingham, 1981, 1984), like routine activity ,
focuses on crime patterns but is concerned specifically with spatial patterns of crime and how the
necessary elements of crime converge in time and space. The theory posits that offenders, like
others, are not tied exclusively to one particular area but are mobile, repeatedly traveling to and
from various locations such as work, school, home, or sports and entertainment venues. Thus, human
mobility is nonrandom and heavily patterned. This regularity of movement leads people to develop
familiar activity spaces and, from an offender perspective, areas where they are more likely to be
aware of opportunities to successfully offend. The structure of this activity space is understood as a
collection of (1) nodes, those places where activity occurs; (2) paths, those routes commonly utilized
Kurland and Hill 213

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT