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The Law of Crime Concentration: An Application and Recommendations for Future Research



We address four outstanding empirical questions related to the “law of crime concentration” (Weisburd in Criminology 53:133–157, 2015): (1) Is the spatial concentration of crime stable over time? (2) Do the same places consistently rank among those with the highest crime counts? (3) How much crime concentration would be observed if crimes were distributed randomly over place? (4) To what degree does the spatial concentration of crime depend on places that are crime free?


The data are annual counts of violent and property crimes in St. Louis between 2000 and 2014. Temporal stability in the spatial inequality of crime is measured by computing the fraction of crimes that occur in the 5% of street segments with the highest crime frequencies each year. The spatial mobility of crime is measured by computing the number of years each street segment appears in the top 5% of street segments. Poisson simulations are used to estimate the fraction of crimes that could appear in the top 5% of street segments on the basis of chance alone. The impact of crime-free locales on the spatial concentration of crime is evaluated by comparing results from analyses that include and exclude crime-free street segments from the crime distributions.


The concentration of crime is highly unequal and stable over time. The specific street segments with the highest crime frequencies, however, change over time. Nontrivial fractions of street segments may appear among the 5% with the highest crime frequencies on the basis of chance. Spatial concentration of crime is reduced when crime-free street segments are excluded from the crime distributions.


The law of crime concentration is not a measurement artifact. Its substantive significance, however, should be assessed in future longitudinal research that replicates the current study across diverse social settings.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. The distinction is similar to that between inequality and mobility in the distribution of income (e.g., Fields and Ok 1999; Piketty 2000).

  2. We thank the anonymous reviewers of a previous draft for this insight.

  3. The data used to generate these results are available from the authors on request.


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Funding was provided by National Institute of Justice (US) (2012-IJ-CX-0042).

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Correspondence to Richard Rosenfeld.



See Tables 2 and 3.

Table 2 Violent and property crimes in top 5% of street segments, 2000–2014 (data for Fig. 1)
Table 3 Street segments in top 5% by number of years, 2000–2014 (data for Fig. 2)

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Levin, A., Rosenfeld, R. & Deckard, M. The Law of Crime Concentration: An Application and Recommendations for Future Research. J Quant Criminol 33, 635–647 (2017).

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  • Crime concentration
  • Hot spots policing
  • Criminology of place