Hot spots policing

Program basics

  • Allocates police resources (such as patrol hours) to areas with the most intensive crime, ranging from specific buildings or street segments to larger areas, with the goal of reducing overall crime
  • Strategies vary across localities; some prioritize crime deterrence (such as disrupting situational dynamics by increasing perpetrator risks and reducing the attractiveness of potential targets) while others employ broader community engagement approaches

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Proven (highest tier)

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Proven (highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, the National Institute of Justice


Target population

Community-wide

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

1990s-present

Outcomes and impact

  • Reduction in crime through targeted crime prevention
  • Reductions in citizen calls to police and observed social disorder (such as loitering and public drinking) and physical disorder (littering, unkempt property, abandoned cars, and graffiti)

Keys to successful implementation

  • Invest in a data management and analysis platform to analyze geospatial data, as well as data on crime incidences and calls for service, to identify specific areas in need of intervention (“hot spots”); hire a full time analyst to oversee system.
  • Partner with community-based organizations and local businesses to identify potential hot spots and to gather input on possible interventions.
  • Consider expanding the program to incorporate social service agencies, who work in tandem with police at hot spots to provide youths with recreational opportunities, housing for homeless individuals, and residents in crisis with mental health services.
  • Leverage situational prevention strategies outside of arrests at hot spots, such as installing better street lighting, video surveillance, and cleaning up vacant lots and abandoned buildings.
  • Incorporate a high degree of flexibility into the program, especially when it comes to on-the-ground police tactics; successful interventions have varied dramatically in terms of specific approaches to crime prevention.

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