April 9th, 2024 2 Minute Read Press Release

New Report: A Quantitative Study of Hot-Spot Streets in Baltimore

Residents in Baltimore’s high crime areas are capable of helping the police make their streets safer

NEW YORK, NY — Criminologists have long known that crime is highly concentrated—in most cities approximately 50% of crime happens on only 5% of streets. As a result, many cities have effectively reduced crime by concentrating police resources in extremely high-crime “hot-spots.” Yet little research has been done on the temperament of those living in these hot beds of criminal activity. Are these residents in desperate need of saving, or are they capable and willing to play a key role in making their streets safer? In a new report for the Manhattan Institute, David Weisburd, a professor at George Mason University and Hebrew University of Jerusalem, along with coauthors Clair V. Uding, Kiseong Kuen, and Beidi Dong, provide evidence that those living in high-crime areas are less hopeless than popular perception would suggest.  

Over a multiyear study, Weisburd and colleagues gathered quantitative survey data in over 300 hot-spot streets in Baltimore and compared it to data collected on a subsample of streets with far less crime. All the hot-spot streets studied fell within the top 3% of streets in rates of violent or drug crime in Baltimore. There is a perception that street and gang culture is the norm in these disadvantaged places and that residents endorse violence and criminal activity to resolve conflicts. Much to their surprise, the researchers found those surveyed on hot-spot streets showed strong social and network ties with their neighbors that were nearly identical to those on safer streets. For example, among those living on hot-spot streets, about half of respondents often chat with their neighbors (48.5%–54.7%), and about a quarter often visit their neighbors (20.3%–25.1%). And though they showed statistically lower levels of willingness to intervene in problems on their street than residents of streets with little crime, over three-quarters report willingly helping their neighbors, and over 70% recount watching over their neighbors’ houses.

While police presence is enormously important, the bedrock of social control of crime is not the police, but citizens who exercise informal social control through community engagement. Police should recognize the potential of residents of hot spots streets to help themselves, and act to support them in their informal efforts to make their streets safer. Additionally, Weisburd suggests city government should invest in other city services, such as parks, recreation, and sanitation—areas in which hot-spot streets are often neglected. Repairs and improvements to the environment would be well received by residents and enable them to strengthen informal social controls.

Click here to view the full report. 


Are you interested in supporting the Manhattan Institute’s public-interest research and journalism? As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, donations in support of MI and its scholars’ work are fully tax-deductible as provided by law (EIN #13-2912529).