Criminology of Place

David Weisburd, Elizabeth R. Groff, Sue Ming Yang, Cody W. Telep

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


The primary focus of research in criminology has traditionally been on individuals and why they become involved in crime (Eck and Eck 2012; Sherman 1995). Weisburd and Piquero (2008), for example, found that studies that sought to predict crime were more likely to focus on individuals than any other units of analysis. Examining articles in the journal Criminology that tried to model crime, they found that 94 of 169 articles (55.6 %) published between 1968 and 2005 used the individual as the unit of analysis. Other units commonly found in the study included cities or counties (14 %) and neighborhoods (9 %). More recently, Eck and Eck (2012) reviewed all of the research papers in Criminology and Public Policy since its inception and found that none addressed crime at place.

In recent decades, however, a growing number of scholars have begun to take a very different approach to the crime problem. This approach begins not with the people that commit crime but rather with the places where crime occurs. This is a radical reconceptualization of the crime problem, but one that that is warranted by the reality of crime in the city. Why is it necessary to reconsider the “person-focused” crime and justice model of the last century? The main reason is simply that the yield of this approach has been questioned for more than three decades. Weisburd and Piquero’s (2008) review found that despite the focus primarily on individuals, prediction levels are fairly low and have remained low over time. Lawrence Sherman and colleagues (1989) categorized this new approach as the “criminology of place.” The focus here is on very small geographic areas within cities, often as small as addresses or street segments, and understanding their contribution to the crime problem. It focuses attention on “hot spots of crime,” or crime concentrations in such micro geographic areas and the factors that explain these concentrations over time, as well as the best ways to address these high crime locations. Drawing upon work by Weisburd, Groff, and Yang (2012), this entry will review the emergence of the criminology of place in recent decades and theoretical perspectives for understanding why places are such an important part of the crime equation. This entry will also review the main findings from a longitudinal study in Seattle, Washington, by Weisburd et al. (2012) examining the factors that contribute to why streets are high crime (or low crime) over time.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice
EditorsGerben Bruinsma, David Weisburd
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherSpringer New York
ISBN (Print)9781461456902
StatePublished - 2014


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