07 September 2021

Spotlight on the evidence: Hot spots policing

We have updated the Crime Reduction Toolkit’s summary of hot spots policing approaches and how these impact on reducing crime


Hot spots policing is a proactive strategy that involves targeting police resources and activities at places where crime is most concentrated. Crime and disorder are not evenly spread within neighbourhoods, but tend to cluster in small high crime locations. Focusing resources and activities on these 'hot spots' aims to maximise police impact by reducing crime in these areas, and also lead to potential crime prevention benefits in neighbouring areas. Hot spots policing is an approach which can be used in conjunction with other policing activities such as directed police patrols, aggressive disorder enforcement ('crackdowns') and problem-oriented policing (POP). 

Research has consistently shown that hot spots policing is an effective method of reducing crime. The latest research, based on a meta-analysis of 62 studies (mostly from the USA), strengthens the existing evidence and reinforces that hot spots policing leads to a significant reduction in overall crime. All of the studies included in the new review consisted of police-led approaches to crime prevention targeted on high activity crime locations or hot spots. Based on the data from hot spots studies, the review reported that reductions in crime were identified across a range of crime types including: drug offences, disorder offences, property crime and violent crime. 

The new review also found that hot spots policing was more likely to produce a diffusion of benefits (reduction of crime in neighbouring locations) than displace it into nearby locations.

Hot spots policing appears to be most effective when a problem-oriented policing approach is adopted in these areas rather than only using more traditional policing techniques. The new review found that some common implementation issues can impact on the success of hot spot programmes. These include: staffing problems, technology failures, lack of strict adherence to the target areas and lack of support from other criminal justice partner agencies.

Additional resources are available on implementation of problem-oriented policing and tips for successful problem solving.

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