Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 469–496 | Cite as

The Influence of Community Areas, Neighborhood Clusters, and Street Segments on the Spatial Variability of Violent Crime in Chicago

  • Cory SchnellEmail author
  • Anthony A. Braga
  • Eric L. Piza
Original Paper



The influence of three hierarchical units of analysis on the total spatial variability of violent crime incidents in Chicago is assessed. This analysis seeks to replicate a recent study that found street segments, rather than neighborhood units of analysis, accounted for the largest share of the total spatial variability of crime in The Hague, Netherlands (see Steenbeek and Weisburd J Quant Criminol. doi: 10.1007/s10940-015-9276-3, 2015).


We analyze violent crime incidents reported to the police between 2001 and 2014. 359,786 incidents were geocoded to 41,926 street segments nested within 342 neighborhood clusters, in turn nested within 76 community areas in Chicago. Linear mixed models with random slopes of time were estimated to observe the variance uniquely attributed to each unit of analysis.


Similar to Steenbeek and Weisburd, we find 56–65 % of the total variability in violent crime incidents can be attributed to street segments in Chicago. City-wide reductions in violence over the observation period coincide with increases in the spatial variability attributed to street segments and decreases in the variability attributed to both neighborhood units.


Our results suggest that scholars interested in understanding the spatial variation of crime across urban landscapes should be focused on the small places that comprise larger geographic areas. The next wave of “neighborhood-effects” research should explore the role of hierarchical processes in understanding crime variation within larger areas.


Street Segment Crime and place Law of crime concentration Chicago Neighborhoods 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminal JusticeRutgers UniversityNewarkUSA
  2. 2.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  3. 3.John Jay College of Criminal JusticeCity University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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