hot spot | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Policing

A hot spot is a geographical area containing a high volume of criminal incidents.

In policing, identifying high crime areas or hot spots has become an important strategy to effectively allocate police resources and combat crime. Hot spots are often areas where criminal activity is concentrated and can include specific locations, such as parks, or broader areas, like neighborhoods or entire cities. The concept of hot spots policing originated in the 1980s when research demonstrated that a small number of locations were responsible for a disproportionate amount of crime.

Hot spot policing focuses on deploying resources to these high-crime areas to deter criminal activity, increase community safety, and improve quality of life. The idea is to target resources to the places that need them the most rather than spreading them out evenly across an entire city or area. By focusing on such areas, police can potentially reduce crime across a wider area, as crime often spills over from hot spots into surrounding areas.

One of the key benefits of this is that it can be a more efficient use of resources. Instead of deploying police officers across a wide area where they may not encounter any criminal activity, it ensures that resources are directed toward the areas where they are most needed. Additionally, by focusing on high-crime areas, police can potentially prevent crime before it happens by deterring potential offenders from committing crimes in the first place.

Hot spot policing can take many forms, including increased patrol presence, targeted investigations, and community engagement. For example, police may increase their presence in a high-crime park by assigning additional patrols or using community policing strategies to engage with park visitors and reduce criminal activity. Targeted investigations may also be used to identify and apprehend individuals responsible for criminal activity in such areas.

While policing has been shown to be effective in reducing crime in specific areas, there is debate about its potential drawbacks. Critics argue that hot spots policing may lead to over-policing in certain communities, particularly those that are already marginalized or over-policed. Additionally, focusing resources on high-crime areas may leave other areas without sufficient resources, potentially increasing crime in those areas.

Despite these concerns, many police departments have adopted hot spots policing as part of their overall strategy for combating crime. By targeting resources in high-crime areas and using a variety of strategies, police can potentially reduce crime and improve community safety in the areas that need it the most. However, it is important to carefully balance the benefits of hot spot policing with the potential risks and unintended consequences.

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Last Modified: 07/17/2021

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