Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 339–362 | Cite as

Risk Clusters, Hotspots, and Spatial Intelligence: Risk Terrain Modeling as an Algorithm for Police Resource Allocation Strategies

  • Leslie W. KennedyEmail author
  • Joel M. Caplan
  • Eric Piza
Original Paper


The study reported here follows the suggestion by Caplan et al. (Justice Q, 2010) that risk terrain modeling (RTM) be developed by doing more work to elaborate, operationalize, and test variables that would provide added value to its application in police operations. Building on the ideas presented by Caplan et al., we address three important issues related to RTM that sets it apart from current approaches to spatial crime analysis. First, we address the selection criteria used in determining which risk layers to include in risk terrain models. Second, we compare the “best model” risk terrain derived from our analysis to the traditional hotspot density mapping technique by considering both the statistical power and overall usefulness of each approach. Third, we test for “risk clusters” in risk terrain maps to determine how they can be used to target police resources in a way that improves upon the current practice of using density maps of past crime in determining future locations of crime occurrence. This paper concludes with an in depth exploration of how one might develop strategies for incorporating risk terrains into police decision-making. RTM can be developed to the point where it may be more readily adopted by police crime analysts and enable police to be more effectively proactive and identify areas with the greatest probability of becoming locations for crime in the future. The targeting of police interventions that emerges would be based on a sound understanding of geographic attributes and qualities of space that connect to crime outcomes and would not be the result of identifying individuals from specific groups or characteristics of people as likely candidates for crime, a tactic that has led police agencies to be accused of profiling. In addition, place-based interventions may offer a more efficient method of impacting crime than efforts focused on individuals.


Risk terrain modeling Hotspots Risk clusters 


  1. Baughman J, Caplan J (2010) Applying risk terrain modeling to a violent crimes initiative in Kansas City, Missouri. RTM Insights 1. Accessed 10 March 10
  2. Berk R (2009) Asymmetric loss functions for forecasting in criminal justice settings. Unpublished manuscriptGoogle Scholar
  3. Block R, Block C (1995) Space, place, and crime: hotspot areas and hot places of liquor related crime. In: Eck JE, Weisburd D (eds) Crime and place. Crime prevention studies, vol 4. Criminal Justice Press, Monsey, NYGoogle Scholar
  4. Blumstein A (1995) Youth violence, guns, and the illicit-drug industry. J Crim Law Criminol 86:10–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boba R (2003) Problem analysis in policing. Police Foundation, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  6. Boba R (2009) Crime analysis with crime mapping, 2nd edn. Sage Publications, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  7. Braga A (2004) Gun violence among serious young offenders. Problem-oriented guides for police. Problem-specific guides series: no. 23. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, USAGoogle Scholar
  8. Brantingham PJ, Brantingham PL (1981) Environmental criminology. Sage, Beverly Hills, CAGoogle Scholar
  9. Brantingham PJ, Brantingham PL (1995) Criminality of place: crime generators and crime attractors. Eur J Crim Policy Res 3:1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brantingham PJ, Tita G (2008) Offender mobility and crime pattern formation from first principles. In: Liu L, Eck JE (eds) Artificial crime analysis systems: using computer simulations and geographic information systems. Idea Press, Hershey, PA, pp 193–208CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bratton W (1998) Turnaround: How America’s top cop reversed the crime epidemic. Random House, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Burgess EW (1928) Factors determining success or failure on parole. In: Bruce AA, Burgess EW, Harno AJ (eds) The workings of the indeterminate sentence law and the parole system in Illinois. Illinois State Board of Parole, Springfield, pp 221–234Google Scholar
  13. Caplan JM, Kennedy LW (2010) Risk terrain modeling manual. Rutgers Center on Public Security, NewarkGoogle Scholar
  14. Caplan JM, Kennedy L (2009) Drug arrests, shootings, and gang residences in Irvington, NJ: an exercise in data discovery. Paper presented at threat assessments: innovations and applications in data integration and analysis Conference at the Regional Operations Intelligence Center, West Trenton, NJGoogle Scholar
  15. Caplan JM, Kennedy LW, Miller J (2010) Risk terrain modeling: brokering criminological theory and GIS methods for crime forecasting. Justice Q (online first)Google Scholar
  16. Center for Collaborative Change (2010) Neighborhood Survey, Newark, NJ. Retrieved online at
  17. Clarke RV (1997) “Introduction” in situational crime prevention: successful case studies. Harrow and Heston, Guilderland, NYGoogle Scholar
  18. Clarke R, Eck JE (2005) Crime analysis for problem solvers in 60 small steps. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, USAGoogle Scholar
  19. Cohen L, Felson M (1979) Social change and crime rate trends: a routine activity approach. Am Sociol Rev 44:588–605CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Decker S, Curry G (2002) Gangs, gang homicides, and gang loyalty: organized crimes or disorganized criminals. J Crim Justice 30:343–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Eck JE (1994) Drug markets and drug places: a case-controlled study of spatial structure of illicit dealing. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  22. Eck JE (1995) A general model of the geography of illicit retail marketplaces. In: Eck JE, Weisburd D (eds) Crime and place: crime prevention studies, vol 4. Willow Tree, Modney, NJ, pp 67–95Google Scholar
  23. Eck JE (2001) Policing and crime event concentration. In: Meier R, Kennedy L, Sacco V (eds) The process and structure of crime: criminal events and crime analysis. Transactions, New Brunswick, pp 249–276Google Scholar
  24. Eck JE, Weisburd D (eds) (1995) Crime and place: crime prevention studies, vol 4. Willow Tree Press, Monsey, NYGoogle Scholar
  25. Eck JE, Chainey S, Cameron JG, Leitner M, Wilson RE (2005) Mapping crime: understanding hot spots. National Institute of Justice, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Eck JE, Clarke R, Guerette R (2007) Ricky facilities: crime concentration in homogeneous sets of establishments and facilities. Crime Prev Stud 21:225–264Google Scholar
  27. Felson M (1995) Those who discourage crime. In: Eck JE, Weisburd D (eds) Crime and place: crime prevention studies, vol 4. Willow Tree Press, Monsey, NY, pp 349–359Google Scholar
  28. Felson M (2002) Crime and everyday life, 3rd edn. Sage Publications, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  29. Fried C (1996) America’s Safest City: Amherst, NY; The Most Dangerous: Newark, N.J. CNN Money MagazineGoogle Scholar
  30. Glueck S, Glueck E (1950) Unraveling juvenile delinquence. Common-wealth, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  31. Gorr W, Olligschlaeger A (2002) Crime hot spot forecasting: modeling and comparative evaluation. National Institute of Justice, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  32. Groff ER (2007a) Simulation for theory testing and experimentation: an example using routine activity theory and street robbery. J Quant Criminol 23:75–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Groff ER (2007b) ‘Situating’ simulation to model human spatio-temporal interactions: an example using crime events. Trans GIS 11(4):507–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Groff ER, La Vigne NG (2002) Forecasting the future of predictive crime mapping. Crime Prev Stud 13:29–57Google Scholar
  35. Harocopos A, Hough M (2005) Drug Dealing in Open Air Markets. Problem-Oriented Guides for Police. Problem-Specific Guides Series: No. 31. U.S. Department of Justice. Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, USAGoogle Scholar
  36. Harries K (1999) Mapping crime: principles and practice. National Institute of Justice, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  37. Jacobson J (1999) Policing drug hotspots. Police research series. Number 9. Home Office. Policing and Reducing Crime UnitGoogle Scholar
  38. Johnson SD, Bowers KJ, Birks D, Pease K (2008) Prospective mapping: the importance of the environmental backcloth. In: Weisburd D, Bernasco W, Bruinsma G (eds) Putting crime in its place: units of analysis in geographic criminology. Springer, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  39. Kennedy LW, Van Brunschot E (2009) The risk in crime. Rowman and Littlefield, LanhamGoogle Scholar
  40. Kennedy D, Piehl A, Braga A (1996) Youth violence in Boston: gun markets, serious youth offenders, and a use-reduction strategy. Law Contemp Probl 59:147–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lum C (2008) The geography of drug activity and violence: analyzing spatial relationships of non-homogenous crime event types. Subst Use Misuse 43:179–201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Maple J (1999) The crime fighter: how you can make your community crime-free. Broadway Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  43. Mazerolle L, Kadleck C, Roehl J (2004) Differential police control at drug-dealing places. Secur J 17:1–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. McGloin J (2005) Policy and intervention considerations of a network analysis of street gangs. Criminol Public Policy 43:607–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Newman O (1972) Defensible space: crime prevention through urban design. Macmillan, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  46. Parks B (2007) The Newark riots: 40 years later. A four part series. The Newark Star Ledger. 8–11 July 2007Google Scholar
  47. Poyner B (2006) Crime-free housing in the 21st century. Jill Dando Institute of Crime Science, University College of London. Brook House Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Ratcliffe JH (2004) Crime mapping and the training needs of law enforcement. Eur J Crim Policy Res 10:65–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Ratcliffe JH (2006) A temporal constraint theory to explain opportunity-based spatial offending patterns. J Res Crime Delinq 43(3):261–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ratcliffe JH, McCullagh MJ (2001) Chasing ghosts? Police perception of high crime areas. Br J Criminol 41:330–341CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ratcliffe JH, Rengert G (2008) Near repeat patterns in Philadelphia shootings. Secur J 211–2:58–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sampson RJ, Raudenbush S (1999) Systematic social observation of public spaces: a new look at disorder in urban neighborhoods. Am J Sociol 105:603–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Shaw C, McKay H (1969) Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. University of Chicago Press, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  54. Sherman LW (1995) Hotspots of crime and criminal careers of places. In: Eck JE, Weisburd D (eds) Crime and place. Crime prevention studies, vol 4. Criminal Justice Press, Monsey, NY, pp 35–52Google Scholar
  55. Sherman LW, Gartin PR, Buerger ME (1989a) Hot spots of predatory crime: routine activities and the criminology of place. Criminology 27:27–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sherman LW, Gartin PR, Buerger ME (1989b) Hot spots of predatory crime: routine activities and the criminology of place. Criminology 27:821–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Silverman E (2006) CompStat’s innovation. In: Weisburd D, Braga A (eds) Police innovations: contrasting perspectives. Cambridge studies in criminology. Cambridge University Press, UKGoogle Scholar
  58. Silverman A (2010) The path form syphilis to faster MRIs. Retrieved from
  59. Taylor RB (1997) Order and disorder of streetblocks and neighborhoods: ecology, microecology and the systemic model of social organization. J Res Crim Delinq 34:113–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Taylor R (2000) Breaking away from broken windows: Baltimore neighborhoods and the nationwide fight against crime, grime, fear, and decline. Perseus, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  61. Tita G, Griffiths E (2005) Traveling to violence: the case for a mobility-based spatial typology of homicide. J Res Crime Delinq 42:275–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tomlin C (1994) Map algebra: one perspective. Landsc Urban Plan 30:3–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Topalli V, Wright R, Fornango R (2002) Drug dealers, robbery, and retaliation: vulnerability, deterrence, and the contagion of violence. Br J Criminol 42:337–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Tuttle B (2009) How Newark became Newark: the rise, fall, and rebirth of an American City. Rivergate Books, New BrunswickGoogle Scholar
  65. Uniform Crime Report (2009) Crime in the Untied States 2008. U. S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  66. U.S. Department of Housing and Development (2000) In the crossfire: the impact of gun violence on public housing communities. U.S. department of housing and Development, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  67. Weisburd D (2008) Place-based policing. Ideas in policing series. Police Foundation, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  68. Weisburd D, Braga AA (2006) Police innovation: contrasting perspectives. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Weisburd D, Eck JE (2004) What can police do to reduce crime, disorder, and fear? Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci 593:42–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Weisburd D, Green L (1994) Defining the street-level drug market. In: Mackenzie D, Uchida C (eds) Drugs and crime: evaluating public policy initiatives. Sage, Thousand OaksGoogle Scholar
  71. Weisburd D, Green L (1995) Policing drug hot spots: the Jersey City drug market analysis experiment. Justice Q 12:711–736CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Weisburd D, Bernasco W, Bruinsma G (2009) Units of analysis in geographic criminology: historical development, critical issues, and open questions. In: Weisburd D, Bernasco W, Bruinsma G (eds) Putting crime in its place: units of analysis in geographic criminology. Springer, New York, pp 3–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Willis JJ, Mastrofski SD, Weisburd D (2004) Compstat and bureaucracy: a case study of challenges and opportunities for change. Justice Q 21:463–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Wortley Richard, Mazerolle L (eds) (2008) Environmental criminology and crime analysis. Willan Publishers, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  75. Zanin N, Shane J, Clarke R (2004) Reducing drug dealing in private apartment complexes in Newark, New Jersey. A final report to the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services on the field applications of the problem-oriented guides for police projectGoogle Scholar
  76. Zurawski N (2007) Video surveillance and everyday life: assessments of closed-circuit television and the cartography of socio-spatial imaginations. Int Crim Justice Rev 17:269–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leslie W. Kennedy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joel M. Caplan
    • 1
  • Eric Piza
    • 2
  1. 1.Rutgers School of Criminal JusticeNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Rutgers School of Criminal JusticeNewark PDNewarkUSA

Personalised recommendations