Where the Action Is at Places: Examining Spatio-Temporal Patterns of Juvenile Crime at Places Using Trajectory Analysis and GIS

  • Elizabeth Groff
  • David Weisburd
  • Nancy A. Morris


“Crime Places” have recently emerged as an important focus of crime prevention theory and practice. Interest develops in part from the underlying assumptions of recent theoretical perspectives that focus on opportunity structures for crime. Building upon these theoretical innovations a number of studies beginning in the late 1980s show that crime is concentrated in specific places in urban areas. This has led many scholars to argue that crime places would be a more effective focus of crime prevention activities than people involved in crime. Previous studies have shown that crime is concentrated at such micro places, but they have not examined critically whether our understanding of crime across place would have been seriously altered if we had used larger geographic units of analysis to characterize changes in crime rates over time. Our study uses trajectory analysis and GIS to examine this question. Our geographic analysis reveals a tendency for members of the same trajectory to be clustered. However, tremendous block by block variation in temporal patterns of juvenile crime is also exposed. These findings show that much would have been lost if we would have aggregated up from the street block and examined only units such as census block groups. We think these data suggest that much of the action of crime at place occurs at very micro units of geography such as street blocks, and that researchers should begin with micro units of analysis before moving to larger aggregates such as census block groups.


Spatial Autocorrelation Street Segment Crime Prevention Trajectory Analysis Trajectory Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anselin, L., & Getis, A. (1992). Spatial statistical analysis and geographic information systems. Annals of Regional Science, 26, 19–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bailey, T. C., & Gatrell, A. C. (1995). Interactive spatial data analysis. Essex: Longman Group Limited.Google Scholar
  3. Bichler-Robertson, G. (2006). Personal Communication. Vancouver, BC.Google Scholar
  4. Blumstein, A., & Wallman, J. (2000). The crime drop in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Brantingham, P. J., & Brantingham, P. L. (1991 [1981]). Environmental criminology. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.Google Scholar
  6. Brantingham, P. J., Dyreson, D. A., & Brantingham, P. L. (1976). Crime seen through a cone of resolution. American Behavioral Scientist, 20(2), 261–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brantingham, P. L., & Brantingham, P. J. (1995). Criminality of place: Crime generators and crime attractors. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 3(3), 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chapin, F. S. J., & Brail, R. K. (1969). Human activity systems in the metropolitan United States. Environment and Behavior, 1(2), 107–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Clarke, R. V. (1980). “Situational” crime prevention: Theory and practice. British Journal of Criminology, 20(2), 136–147.Google Scholar
  10. Clarke, R. V. (1983). Situational crime prevention: Its theoretical basis and practical scope. In: M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 14, pp. 225–256). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  11. Clarke, R. V. (1997). Situational crime prevention: Successful case studies (2nd ed.). Albany, NY: Harrow and Heston Publishers.Google Scholar
  12. Clarke, R. V., & Cornish, D. B. (1985). Modeling offender’s decisions: A framework for research and policy. In: M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 6). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  13. Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44, 588–608.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eck, J. E. (1995). Examining routine activity theory: A review of two books. Justice Quarterly, 12(4), 783–797.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eck, J. E., Gersh, J. S., & Taylor, C. (2000). Finding Crime Hot Spots Through Repeat Address Mapping. In Goldsmith, V., McGuire, P.G., Mollenkopf, J. H., & Ross, T. A. (eds.), Analyzing Crime Patterns: Frontiers of Practice (pp. 49–64). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Eck, J. E., & Weisburd, D. L. (1995). Crime places in crime theory. In: J. E. Eck & L. Weisburd David (Eds.), Crime and place (pp. 1–33). Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press.Google Scholar
  17. Felson, M. (2002). Crime in everyday life (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Felson, M., & Gottfredson, M. (1984). Social indicators of adolescent activities near peers and parents. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 46, 709–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fotheringham, A. S., Brundson, C., & Charlton, M. (2000). Quantitative geography. London, UK: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  20. Gove, W. R., Hughes, M., & Geerken, M. (1985). Are uniform crime reports a valid indicator of the index crimes? An affirmative answer with minor qualifications. Criminology, 23, 451–501.Google Scholar
  21. Griffiths, E., & Chavez, J. M. (2004). Communities, street guns, and homicide trajectories in Chicago, 1980–1995: Merging methods for examining homicide trends across space and time. Criminology, 42(4), 941–978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Groff, E. R., & LaVigne, N. G. (2001). Mapping an opportunity surface of residential Burglary. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38(3), 257–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Haining, R. (1990). Spatial data analysis in the social and environmental sciences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Hillier, B. (1999). The common language of space: A way of looking at the social, economic and environmental functioning of cities on a common basis. Retrieved February 17, 2004, from
  25. Jacobs, J. (1961). The death and life of great American cities. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  26. Jefferis, E. (2004). Criminal places: A micro-level study of residential theft. Unpublished Dissertation, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati.Google Scholar
  27. Johnson, S. D., Bowers, K., & Hirschfield, A. (1997). New insights into the spatial and temporal distribution of repeat victimization. British-Journal-of-Criminology, 37(2), 224–241.Google Scholar
  28. Kaluzny, S. P., Vega, Cardoso, T. P., & Shelly, A. A. (1997). S+SpatialStats User’s Manual. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Kerlinger, F. N., & Lee, H. B. (2000). Foundations of behavioral research (4th ed.). US: Wadsworth.Google Scholar
  30. Kubrin, C. E., & Herting, J. R. (2003). Neighborhood correlates of homicide trends: An analysis using growth-curve modeling. The Sociological Quarterly, 44(3), 329–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McCord, J., Widom, C. S., & Crowell, N. A. (2001). Juvenile crime juvenile justice. Washington DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  32. Messner, S. F., Anselin, L., & Baller, R. D. (1999). The spatial patterning of county homicide rates: An application of exploratory spatial data analysis. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 15(4), 423–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nagin, D. (2005). Group-based modeling of development over the life course. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Orleans, P. (1973). Differential cognition of urban residents: Effects of social scale on mapping. In: R. M. Downs & D. Stea (Eds.), Image & environment: Cognitive mapping and spatial behavior (pp. 115–130). Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  35. Potchak, M. C., McGloin, J. M., & Zgoba, K. M. (2002). A spatial analysis of criminal effort: Auto theft in Newark, New Jersey. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 13(3), 257–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rengert, G. (1992). The journey to crime: Conceptual foundations and policy implications. In: D. J. Evans, J. J. Fyfe & D. T. Herbert (Eds.), Crime, policing and place: Essays in environmental criminology (pp. 109–117). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Rowlingson, B. S., & Diggle, P. J. (1993). Splancs: Spatial point pattern analysis code in S-Plus. Computers and Geosciences, 19, 627–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sherman, L., Gartin, P. R., & Buerger, M. E. (1989). Hot spots of predatory crime: Routine activities and the criminology of place. Criminology, 27, 27–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Smith, W. R., Frazee, S. G., & Davison, E. L. (2000). Furthering the integration of routine activity and social disorganization theories: Small units of analysis and the study of street robbery as a diffusion process. Criminology, 38(2), 489–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Stark, R. (1987). Deviant places: A theory of the ecology of crime. Criminology, 25(4), 893–909.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Taylor, R. B. (1997a). Crime and small-scale places: What we know, what we can prevent, and what else we need to know. In: R. B. Taylor, G. Bazemore, B. Boland, T. R. Clear, R. P. J. Corbett, J. Feinblatt, G. Berman, M. Sviridoff, & C. Stone (Eds.), Crime and place: Plenary papers of the 1997 conference on criminal justice research and evaluation (pp. 1–22). Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.Google Scholar
  42. Taylor, R. B. (1997b). Social order and disorder of street blocks and neighborhoods: Ecology, microecology, and the systemic model of social disorganization. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 34(1), 113–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tobler, W. (1970). A computer model simulation of urban growth in the Detroit region. Economic Geography, 46(2), 234–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tseloni, A., Osborn, D. R., Trickett, A., & Pease, K. (2002). Modelling property crime using the British Crime Survey. British Journal of Criminology, 42, 109–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tukey, J. (1977). Exploratory data analysis. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  46. Weisburd, D. L., Bushway, S., Lum, C., & Yang, S.-M. (2004). Trajectories of crime at places: A longitudinal study of street segments in the city of Seattle. Criminology, 42(2), 283–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Weisburd, D. L., Lum, C., & Yang, S.-M. (2004). The criminal careers of places: A longitudinal study. Washington DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.Google Scholar
  48. Weisburd, D. L., Morris, N., & Groff, E. R. (unpublished manuscript). Hot spots of juvenile crime: A longitudinal study of street segments in Seattle, Washington. Manuscript submitted for publication.Google Scholar
  49. Weisburd, D., & Green, L. (1995). Police drug hot spots: the Jersey City Drug Market Analysis experiment. Justice Quarterly, 12(4), 711–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Groff
    • 1
  • David Weisburd
    • 2
    • 3
  • Nancy A. Morris
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeTemple UniversityPhiladelphiaUSA
  2. 2.Institute of CriminologyHebrew UniversityJerusalemIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Administration of JusticeGeorge Mason UniversityManassasUSA
  4. 4.Crime, Delinquency and Corrections CenterSouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

Personalised recommendations