Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 33–53 | Cite as

The Concentration and Stability of Gun Violence at Micro Places in Boston, 1980–2008

  • Anthony A. BragaEmail author
  • Andrew V. Papachristos
  • David M. Hureau
Original Paper


Boston, like many other major U.S. cities, experienced an epidemic of gun violence during the late 1980s and early 1990s that was followed by a sudden large downturn in gun violence in the mid 1990s. The gun violence drop continued until the early part of the new millennium. Recent advances in criminological research suggest that there is significant clustering of crime in micro places, or “hot spots,” that generate a disproportionate amount of criminal events in a city. In this paper, we use growth curve regression models to uncover distinctive developmental trends in gun assault incidents at street segments and intersections in Boston over a 29-year period. We find that Boston gun violence is intensely concentrated at a small number of street segments and intersections rather than spread evenly across the urban landscape between 1980 and 2008. Gun violence trends at these high-activity micro places follow two general trajectories: stable concentrations of gun assaults incidents over time and volatile concentrations of gun assault incidents over time. Micro places with volatile trajectories represent less than 3% of street segments and intersections, generate more than half of all gun violence incidents, and seem to be the primary drivers of overall gun violence trends in Boston. Our findings suggest that the urban gun violence epidemic, and sudden downturn in urban gun violence in the late 1990s, may be best understood by examining highly volatile micro-level trends at a relatively small number of places in urban environments.


Guns Gun violence Hot spots Epidemic 



We would like to thank Commissioner Edward F. Davis, Superintendent Paul Fitzgerald, Carl Walter, and Richard Laird for their support of this research. We would also like to thank David Weisburd, Alex Piquero, James Lynch, and the participants at the Crime and Place Working Group special session on “The Empirical Evidence on the Relevance of Place in Criminology” held at George Mason University on April 22, 2009 for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anthony A. Braga
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Andrew V. Papachristos
    • 1
    • 3
  • David M. Hureau
    • 1
  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  3. 3.University of MassachusettsAmherstUSA

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