Hot spot policing

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

Hot spot policing is a place-based policing intervention that focuses police resources and enforcement on high-activity crime locations within a community, such as buildings, street blocks, and subway stations. Various tactics can be implemented in hot spot policing, for example, increased time of enforcement, problem-oriented policing, and offender-focused policing1, 2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced crime

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved sense of community

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is strong evidence that hot spot policing reduces crime1, 2. However, effects on crime reduction may vary by policing tactics used. Additional research is needed to confirm which policing tactics most effectively reduce crime.

Applying problem-oriented policing in hot spots has been shown to reduce crime for greater time periods and larger amounts than increasing the level of traditional police actions1, 2. Hot spot policing does not lead to crime displacement to surrounding areas1, 3.

Offender-focused policing tactics may reduce crime when applied to smaller hot spots4, 5. Increased time and activity of police enforcement in hot spots may reduce police calls, theft, and firearm assaults3, 6, 7. Deploying surveillance devices in hot spot policing efforts also appears to reduce crime8. Traffic stops in hot spots are associated with more impaired driving arrests and citations and appear to be more cost-effective than traffic stops outside hot spots9.    

Studies suggest that hot spot policing efforts have short-term negative effects on residents’ perceptions of procedural justice, but increase their willingness to cooperate with police, sense of community, and shared ownership in the long term10, 11.

The impact of hot spot policing on racial disparities is unclear: a LA-based study suggests no difference in arrest rates between white and minority individuals12; a Minneapolis-based study indicates that traffic stops in crime hot spots are associated with more discretionary searches of Black drivers, but not with those of Hispanic or white drivers13. Careful targeting with a focus on specific streets or blocks within a community is suggested to prevent any racial bias in hot spot policing14.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

Hot spot policing has been implemented in many cities, for example, Minneapolis, Sacramento, and Philadelphia2, 15.

Implementation Resources

CEBCP-Hot spot - Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy (CEBCP). Hot spots policing.


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1 Campbell-Braga 2012a - Braga A, Papachristos A, Hureau D. Hot spots policing effects on crime. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2012;8.

2 CEBCP-Hot spot - Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy (CEBCP). Hot spots policing.

3 Rosenfeld 2014 - Rosenfeld R, Deckard, MJ, Blackburn E. The effects of directed patrol and self-initiated enforcement on firearm violence: A randomized controlled study of hot spot policing. Criminology. 2014;52(3), 428-449.

4 Groff 2015 - Groff ER, Ratcliffe JH, Haberman CP, et al. Does what police do at hot spots matter? The Philadelphia policing tactics experiment. Criminology. 2015;53(1), 23-53.

5 Santos 2016 - Santos RB, Santos RG. Offender-focused police intervention in residential burglary and theft from vehicle hot spots: A partially blocked randomized control trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 2016;12(3):373-402.

6 Mohler 2015 - Mohler GO, Short MB, Malinowski S, et al. Randomized controlled field trials of predictive policing. Journal of the American Statistical Association. 2015;110(512):1399-1411.

7 Telep 2014 - Telep CW, Mitchell RJ, Weisburd D. How much time should the police spend at crime hot spots? Answers from a police agency directed randomized field trial in Sacramento, California. Justice Quarterly. 2014;31(5):905-933.

8 Koper 2013 - Koper CS, Taylor BG, Woods DJ. A randomized test of initial and residual deterrence from directed patrols and use of license plate readers at crime hot spots. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 2013;9(2):213-244.

9 Maistros 2018 - Maistros A, Schneider WH. A comparison of overtime patrol stops made inside and out of cluster identified hotspots. Traffic Injury Prevention. 2018;19(3):235-240.

10 Kochel 2017 - Kochel TR, Weisburd D. Assessing community consequences of implementing hot spots policing in residential areas: Findings from a randomized field trial. Journal of Experimental Criminology. 2017;13(2):143-170.

11 Kochel 2018 - Kochel TR, Weisburd D. The impact of hot spots policing on collective efficacy: Findings from a randomized field trial. Justice Quarterly. 2018;8825(May):1-29.

12 Brantingham 2018 - Brantingham PJ, Valasik M, Mohler GO. Does predictive policing lead to biased arrests? Results from a randomized controlled trial. Statistics and Public Policy. 2018;5(1):1-6.

13 Briggs 2017 - Briggs SJ, Keimig KA. The impact of police deployment on racial disparities in discretionary searches. Race and Justice. 2017;7(3):256-275.

14 Weisburd 2016 - Weisburd D. Does hot spots policing inevitably lead to unfair and abusive police practices, or can we maximize both fairness and effectiveness in the new proactive policing? University of Chicago Legal Forum. 2016;16:661-689.

15 CrimeSolutions-Hot spots - National Institute of Justice, Practice profile: Hot spots policing.