How and Why is Crime More Concentrated in Some Neighborhoods than Others?: A New Dimension to Community Crime


O’Brien, Daniel T., Alexandra Ciomek, and Riley Tucker. 2021. “How and Why is Crime More Concentrated in Some Neighborhoods than Others?: A New Dimension to Community Crime”. Journal of Quantitative Criminology.


Objectives  Much recent work has focused on how crime concentrates on particular streets within communities. This is the first study to examine how such concentrations vary across the neighborhoods of a city. The analysis evaluates the extent to which neighborhoods have characteristic levels of crime concentration and then tests two hypotheses for explaining these variations: the compositional hypothesis, which posits that neighborhoods whose streets vary in land usage or demographics have corresponding disparities in levels of crime; and the social control hypothesis, which posits that neighborhoods with higher levels of collective efficacy limit crime to fewer streets. Methods We used 911 dispatches from Boston, MA, to map violent crimes across the streets of the city. For each census tract we calculated the concentration of crime across the streets therein using the generalized Gini coefficient and cross-time stability in the locations of hotspots. Results Neighborhoods did have characteristic levels of concentration that were best explained by the compositional hypothesis in the form of demographic and land use diversity. In addition, ethnic heterogeneity predicted higher concentrations of crime over and above what would be expected given the characteristics of the individual streets, suggesting it exacerbated disparities in crime. Conclusions  The extent to which crime concentrates represents an underexamined aspect of how crime manifests in each community. It is driven in part by the diversity of places in the neighborhood, but also can be influenced by neighborhood-level processes. Future work should continue to probe the sources and consequences of these variations.