U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Mapping Crime: Understanding Hot Spots

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2005
77 pages
This report assists crime analysts and researchers in law enforcement in the identification and detection of high-crime areas through the use of hot spot analysis techniques and software, and when to use each one.
Much of crime mapping is devoted to detecting high-crime density areas known as hot spots. Hot spot analysis assists police in identifying high-crime areas, types of crime being committed, and the best way to respond. Hot spot analysis depends on several factors which vary. These varying factors or elements necessary in analyzing hot spots include: analysis focus, spatial dependence, crime type, time intervals, barriers, output display, and software. In addition, establishing a stronger link between theory and practice will help avoid the arbitrary approaches to hot spot analysis and give an analyst a scientific foundation from which to work. The report is comprised of three main chapters. Chapter 1 is targeted to novices in crime mapping defining crime hot spots; what they are, why they exist, and how to map them. Chapter 2 is more advanced discussing the methods and techniques for understanding crime hot spots. The third chapter is geared to those highly experienced analysts providing spatial analysis tools for identifying hot spots. The report can be used as a companion to a 1999 National Institute of Justice report, entitled Crime Mapping: Principle and Practice. Exhibits, references

Date Published: August 1, 2005