What Has Place Got to Do With It? Hot Spots Policing to Address Physical and Mental Health

Published date01 May 2019
Date01 May 2019
Subject MatterArticles
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2019, Vol. 35(2) 124 –141
© The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1043986219836579
What Has Place Got to Do
With It? Hot Spots Policing to
Address Physical and Mental
Rachel H. Jensen1
In the last few decades of criminological research, the contextual concept of place
has become a widely discussed and studied topic. Currently, one of the most studied
and discussed place-based strategies is hot spots policing, the study of crime patterns
at micro-geographic places. Since the 1980s, hot spots policing has become an
important and empirically validated law enforcement intervention. One of the most
novel questions about hot spots policing is whether it can be used to address other
issues such as the intersection of crime, place, and health. Do concentrated patterns
of physical and mental health issues mirror the patterns of crime at places? If so, can
hot spots policing guide police interventions? This article reviews the current state
of public health and place-based crime patterns to synthesize the concept of place-
based interventions for health and crime. The article concludes with implications for
the scholars and practitioners.
hot spots policing, mental health, physical health, place-based interventions
Criminologists, sociologists and other social scientists have always maintained that
context matters (Cummins, Curtis, Diez-Roux, & Macintyre, 2007). In recent decades,
the concept of place has become an important contextual factor for various social sci-
ence interests such as crime and health. Places can be either health damaging (patho-
genic; see Weisburd et al., 2018) or health promoting (salutogenic; see Pearce, Cherrie,
1George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Rachel H. Jensen, Department of Criminology, Law and Society, George Mason University, 4400
University Drive, MS 6D12, Fairfax, VA 22030, USA.
Email: rjensen5@masonlive.gmu.edu
836579CCJXXX10.1177/1043986219836579Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeJensen
Jensen 125
Shortt, Deary, & Ward Thompson, 2018). Places can also be criminogenic (Sherman,
Gartin, & Buerger, 1989; Weisburd, Groff, & Yang, 2012). Health is also a factor that
many criminologists take into account when studying communities and how it con-
nects to criminal incidents or victimization. Only recently have criminologists focused
on place-based approaches for studying the direct connection between crime and
health. In other disciplines, such as public health, for over a decade, there has been a
focus on how health and mental health relate to geography (Latkin & Curry, 2003;
Mair, Roux, & Galea, 2008; World Health Organization [WHO], 2002). The general
question examined in this review is whether health issues follow a similar pattern to
crime and concentrates in micro-geographic places, and whether these health concen-
trations overlap with crime. If so, why? How can criminologists and criminal justice
policies work hand-in-hand with public health research to intervene at places where
health and crime concentrate?
Hot Spots
Within the last few decades, a place-based approach to crime solving has moved to the
forefront of criminological theory and testing. This approach goes beyond the theoreti-
cal notion that crime clusters in specific geographic patterns, but these patterns can be
micro-geographic places in nature such as household addresses, street segments, and
small neighborhoods (Weisburd, Eck, Braga, & Cave, 2016). Although the modern
roots of crime and place theory can be traced to the early 19th century (Weisburd,
Bernasco, & Bruinsma, 2008), interest again emerged in the 1980s and has grown to
be a key criminological perspective in recent years (Eck &Weisburd, 1995; White &
Goldberg, 2018). In the seminal 1989 publication in Criminology, Sherman, Gartin,
and Buerger coined the term criminology of place to capture the concept of studying
crime at micro-geographical units. “Criminology of place” or “crime and place” stud-
ies (Eck &Weisburd, 1995) focus on small geographical areas, typically conceptual-
ized as addresses or street segments (Weisburd et al., 2012).
Other criminological theorists support the notion of using place characteristics as
references for studying behavior. Sampson (2013)—a pioneer of using the concept
of collective efficacy to address community crime issues—argues that neighborhood
contexts are invaluable metrics to measure the quantity and quality of human behav-
ior. Criminology of place challenges scholars to study why crime occurs at places
rather than what causes people to commit offenses. As the collaboration between
police agencies and researchers has grown, advancements in evidence-based place
policies and practices have made leaps and bounds over the last few decades. One of
the most widely adopted techniques for studying crime locations is geospatial tech-
nology that allows law enforcement agencies to map various data points, such as
calls for service. Gathering and mapping these data has allowed both practitioners
and researchers to identify concentrations of crime in locations. Typically, most of
these areas are micro-geographic places (Weisburd, 2015; Weisburd et al., 2012).
The application of this knowledge to police practices is commonly known as hot
spot policing (Sherman & Weisburd, 1995). Hot spots policing, however, is not

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