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Prior empirical research has shown that a large proportion of a city's total crime arises from a relatively small number of locations within its jurisdiction. Drawing from results of research on the distribution of crime in a handful of cities, scholars have suggested that this dramatic "concentration" of crime is likely to be comparable in cities across the U.S. Although evidence from existing research is compelling, there are theoretical reasons to believe that the concentration of crime may not be as invariant as suggested in the past. Additionally, the traditional measures of concentration utilized in prior research fail to account for how tightly clustered these high-crime places are within space, leading to a relatively ambiguous definition of the term concentration. Finally, there are theoretical reasons to believe that accounting for the concentration of crime may add to our knowledge on the factors which contribute to the between-city difference in crime. To date, this possibility has not been explored in prior research. Thus, our knowledge of the concentration of criminal activity and its consequences remains relatively limited. To expand our knowledge on the concentration of crime, this dissertation addresses two primary research questions: (1) Does the concentration of crime vary across cities?, (2) Does variation in the concentration of crime have a significant impact on between-city differences in crime? These questions are answered by first exploring the variation revealed from two measures that reflect slightly different dimensions of concentration (i.e. evenness and clustering), disaggregated by crime-type, for a relatively large sample of American cities. Subsequently, the study assesses the effects of these measures on between-city difference in city crime rates. Tract-level crime data drawn from the National Neighborhood Crime Survey, a multicity database on crime in 91 cities from across the country, provided the information from which the measures of concentration and clustering were created. In combination with city-level data on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics drawn from a number of sources, the impact of crime's concentration on city crime rates was then examined in an empirical context. Results indicate that the concentration of crime is not as invariant as suggested in prior research. Additionally, multivariate analyses indicate that greater concentration of homicide is associated with lower homicide rates. Similar findings are observed for robbery, though in this instance conclusions are sensitive to model specification and sample composition. No significant link is found between concentration and crime rates for assault and burglary. The implications of the results of this dissertation for theory and research on the concentration of crime and aggregate crime rates are discussed.
Criminal justice, Administration of
Clustering, Concentration, Crime, Criminological Theory
Date of Defense
June 19, 2013.
A Dissertation submitted to the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Eric Baumer, Professor Directing Dissertation; Mark Horner, University Representative; Eric Stewart, Committee Member; Brian Stults, Committee Member.
Florida State University
Wolff, K. T. (2014). The Concentration of Crime in Cities Across the U.S. Retrieved from http://purl.flvc.org/fsu/fd/FSU_migr_etd-9116