Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 25–47 | Cite as

Early Warning System for Temporary Crime Hot Spots

  • Wilpen L. GorrEmail author
  • YongJei Lee
Original Paper



We investigate the potential for preventing crimes at temporary hot spots in addition to chronic hot spots. Using data on serious violent crimes from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, we investigate an early warning system (EWS) for starting/stopping police deployments at temporary hot spots in coordination with constant prevention work at chronic hot spots.


We estimate chronic hot spots using kernel density smoothing. We use simple rules for detecting flare-ups of temporary hot spots, predicting their persistence, deploying police, and stopping deployments. We also consider a combination program including the hottest chronic hot spots, with EWS applied to remaining areas. Using 2000–2010 data, we run computational experiments varying the size of chronic hot spots and varying rule thresholds to tune the EWS. Tradeoff curves with percentage of crimes exposed to prevention versus percentage area of the city with crime prevention workload provide tools for coordinating chronic and temporary hot spot programs.


The combination program is the most efficient, equitable, and responsive program. After first allocating police prevention resources to the hottest chronic hot spots, the marginal benefits of adding more chronic hot spot area is not as high as adding temporary hot spots. Chronic hot spots are limited to large commercial and adjoining residential areas. Temporary hot spots are widely scattered throughout Pittsburgh.


Temporary hot spots exist outside of chronic hot spots and are targets for prevention as supplements to chronic hot spots. A combination program targeting both chronic and temporary hot spots is recommended.


Hot spots Crime prevention Police deployment Early warning system 



We are grateful to Professors Al Blumstein, John Eck, Daniel Neill, Jerry Ratcliffe, and David Weisburd for their suggestions on our earlier research leading to the current paper. We also wish to thank Acting Chief Regina McDonald, Commander RaShall Brackney, and Detective Deborah Gilkey of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police for assistance with the crime data used in this paper and their insights into crime patterns in Pittsburgh. Finally, we owe our gratitude to the referees and editors for their many insightful suggestions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Public Policy and Management, H. John Heinz III CollegeCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminal Justice, College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human ServicesUniversity of CincinnatiCincinnatiUSA

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