Measuring Displacement and Diffusion

Recent studies point to the potential theoretical and practical benefits of focusing police resources on crime hot spots. However, many scholars have noted that such approaches risk displacing crime or disorder to other places where programs are not in place. Although much attention has been paid to the idea of displacement, methodological problems associated with measuring it have often been overlooked. We try to fill these gaps in measurement and understanding of displacement and the related phenomenon of diffusion of crime control benefits. Our main focus is on immediate spatial displacement or diffusion of crime to areas near the targeted sites of an intervention.

Do focused crime prevention efforts at places simply result in a movement of offenders to areas nearby targeted sites—do they simply move crime around the corner? Or, conversely, will a crime prevention effort focusing on specific places lead to improvement in areas nearby—what has come to be termed a diffusion of crime control benefits? Our data are drawn from a controlled study of displacement and diffusion in Jersey City, New Jersey. Our findings indicate that, at least for crime markets involving drugs and prostitution, crime does not simply move around the corner. Indeed, this study supports the position that the most likely outcome of such focused crime prevention efforts is a diffusion of crime control benefits to nearby areas.

The Police Foundation Displacement and Diffusion Study