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Spatiotemporal patterns and distributions of harm within street segments: The story of the “harmspot”

Stuart Norton (Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Barak Ariel (Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Cristobal Weinborn (Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK)
Emma O’Dwyer (Sussex Police, Lewes, UK)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 23 April 2018

Issue publication date: 4 May 2018




Virtually all analyses of hotspots have been devoted to a crude counting system, i.e. tallying the number of occurrences that take place in pre-specified units of space and time. Recent research shows that while usually half of all criminal events are concentrated in about 3 percent of places commonly referred to as “hotspots” of crime, similar proportions of harm concentrate in only 1 percent of places. These are “harmspots.” Identifying that harm is a more concentrated issue suggests wide policy and research implications, but what are the dynamics of these harmspots? The paper aims to discuss this issue.


This paper provides a descriptive framework for measuring, as well as evidence about, these patterns and concentrations, harmspots in Sussex, England.


There are four discrete offense categories that account for 80 percent of all the harm within harmspots. These categories include: sexual offenses, violence against the person, robbery and theft. Within these high harmspots, crime counts and harm are strongly correlated (r=0.82, p=0.001). Temporal analyses show that harmspots are not evenly spread across time and place, with night time and weekends becoming substantially more susceptible to harm – more than count-based models. Harmspot trajectory analysis suggests evidence of stability over time within the high harmspots; most harmspots remain chronically inflicted with harm. Violence and sexual offenses are random in their spatial distribution between the harmspots, but robberies and theft are more closely coupled to particular harmspots than others.


Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of future research avenues and crime policy.



Norton, S., Ariel, B., Weinborn, C. and O’Dwyer, E. (2018), "Spatiotemporal patterns and distributions of harm within street segments: The story of the “harmspot”", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 352-371.



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