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Spatial distribution and developmental trajectories of crime versus crime severity: do not abandon the count-based model just yet

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Harinam, V 
Bavcevic, Z 


Purpose/background: a new body of research that focuses on crime harm scores rather than counts of crime incidents has emerged. Specifically in the context of spatial analysis of crime, focusing on crime harm suggests that harm is more concentrated than counts, at the level of crime hot spots. It remains presently unclear what drives the concentration distributions, and whether the count-based model should be abandoned. Methods: Cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of six year of spatiotemporal crime data in Toronto, Canada, to compare patterns and concentration of crime harm (measured in terms of the Crime Severity Index (CSI) against crime counts. Conditional probabilities, trajectory analyses, power few concentrations, and spatial Global Moran’s I are used to infer generalised trends from the data. Findings: Overall CSI and crime counts tend to exhibit similar concentrations at the spatial micro levels, except against-the-body crimes such as violence which seems to drive nearly all the variations between the two measurement types. Violence harm spots tend to be more dispersed citywide and often do not remain constant year-to-year, whereas overall crime hotspots are more stable over time. Nevertheless, variations in disproportionally high crime hot spots are associated with total variations in crime, with as little as 1% increase in crime levels in these hot spots translating into substantial overall gains in recorded crime citywide. Conclusions: Abandoning count-based models in spatial analysis of crime can lead to an incomplete picture of crime concentrations. Both models are needed not just for understanding spatial crime distributions but also for cost-effective allocation of policing resources.



Hot spots, Harm spots, Crime counts, Crime harm index, Spatial analysis

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Crime Science

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