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Is it Important to Examine Crime Trends at a Local “Micro” Level?: A Longitudinal Analysis of Street to Street Variability in Crime Trajectories

Research paper by Elizabeth R. Groff, David Weisburd, Sue-Ming Yang

Indexed on: 01 Jan '10Published on: 01 Jan '10Published in: Journal of Quantitative Criminology



Abstract

Over the last 40 years, the question of how crime varies across places has gotten greater attention. At the same time, as data and computing power have increased, the definition of a ‘place’ has shifted farther down the geographic cone of resolution. This has led many researchers to consider places as small as single addresses, group of addresses, face blocks or street blocks. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies of the spatial distribution of crime have consistently found crime is strongly concentrated at a small group of ‘micro’ places. Recent longitudinal studies have also revealed crime concentration across micro places is relatively stable over time. A major question that has not been answered in prior research is the degree of block to block variability at this local ‘micro’ level for all crime. To answer this question, we examine both temporal and spatial variation in crime across street blocks in the city of Seattle Washington. This is accomplished by applying trajectory analysis to establish groups of places that follow similar crime trajectories over 16 years. Then, using quantitative spatial statistics, we establish whether streets having the same temporal trajectory are collocated spatially or whether there is street to street variation in the temporal patterns of crime. In a surprising number of cases we find that individual street segments have trajectories which are unrelated to their immediately adjacent streets. This finding of heterogeneity suggests it may be particularly important to examine crime trends at very local geographic levels. At a policy level, our research reinforces the importance of initiatives like ‘hot spots policing’ which address specific streets within relatively small areas.