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Cincinnati HAZARD: A Place-Based Traffic Enforcement and Violent Crime Strategy

By Daniel W. Gerard, M.S., Captain, Cincinnati, Ohio, Police Department

In 2006, the Cincinnati, Ohio, Police Department developed and implemented its Crash Analysis Reduction Strategy (CARS), which reduced traffic crashes through a series of focused strategies that reduced crash opportunity, increased violator risk and effort, increased police guardianship on streets and highways, and ultimately saved lives. By the end of 2010, fatal traffic crashes within the city limits had been reduced by 47 percent compared to 2005.1

The three primary action areas of CARS: high-visibility patrol, consistent enforcement, and analysis of hot spots paralleled those of the Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) model developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has been proven to both reduce crime and increase traffic safety in cities that have implemented it.2 However, despite anecdotal evidence that CARS had a crime reduction effect, the Cincinnati Police Department had not formally measured CARS’ impact on criminal activity.

In January 2013, District 4 of the Cincinnati Police Department merged the existing CARS and DDACTS strategies into one formal place-based traffic enforcement strategy that targeted both traffic crashes and violent crimes in identified street gang territories. The new strategy was named HAZARD as it focused on both traffic crashes and violent crimes in High Activity Zones and Resource Deployment in them.

HAZARD Theory Development

Cities are often identified by their neighborhoods. The citizens’ behavior, good or bad, which regularly occurs in only a very small segment of the neighborhood, can define the perception of the entire neighborhood. An entire neighborhood may have a reputation as a high-violence or high-crime location, when in reality the majority of criminal activities are concentrated in a two-block area or in an apartment building, store, or parking lot while the rest of the neighborhood is relatively crime free.

Similar area typing occurs with traffic crashes and other traffic incidents. A roadway may acquire a reputation for traffic crashes or congestion, but a detailed analysis of the crashes and congestion will show the vast majority of the crashes occur at one intersection or traffic backups occur at particular times of the day, such as during morning or afternoon rush hours. The rest of the time, the roadway functions without problem.

Police agencies routinely deploy their officers in precincts, districts, zones, sectors, beats, or neighborhoods depending on the specific agency. All of these areas share the common trait of being geographically large and as such are more difficult to analyze in terms of crime causative factors or to evaluate for program effectiveness.

A place-based strategy, by contrast, focuses on a much smaller geographic unit such as an address, intersection, street segment, or street corner.3 When traffic crashes or crime regularly come together at these places, they become well-known as high activity zones or the more commonly termed hot spots.4 This smaller geographic focus allows for easier measurement of both criminal and traffic activity patterns, timely identification of the underlying causative factors of problems, immediate evaluation of action plans implemented to positively impact the identified cause, and quick modification of the plans if they are shown to be ineffective.

Numerous academic research studies establish that crime has been empirically proven to cluster in time and space and at particular locations, remain stable over time, and be committed by a relatively small number of offenders.5 Police officers who regularly patrol an area can readily point out locations they respond to almost daily on calls for service regarding traffic crashes or criminal activities. Analyses of Cincinnati crime show that it followed the same cluster and offender patterns, and analyses of Cincinnati traffic crashes show that collisions grouped in small geographic areas, which resulted in the original development of CARS.6

Using the principles of place-based theory; it was hypothesized that a highly visible traffic enforcement focus on small street segments in which traffic crashes and violent crime overlapped inside identified street gang territories would drive down both violent crime and traffic crashes throughout the entire District 4 patrol area. Street segments within gang territories were chosen for the targeted intervention because the Cincinnati Police Department regularly identified and updated both the identities of street gang members and their territories as part of an existing violence reduction program and city gang members were previously shown to be disproportionately involved in violent criminal activity.7

HAZARD Problem Analysis

The Cincinnati Police Department has five patrol districts that serve approximately 300,000 city residents. District 4 runs through the center of the city for 11.6 square miles, contains 10 distinct neighborhoods, and is the second busiest patrol district in terms of citizen calls for service and violent and overall crime. Two of the neighborhoods, Avondale and Walnut Hills, are annually two of the top three most violent neighborhoods in the city for gun-related violence and also contain major traffic arteries that generate regular calls for service for traffic crashes. The neighborhoods of Roselawn and Bond Hill are adjacent to Avondale, are situated along the same major traffic artery, and suffer from similar crime problems. Collectively in 2012, these four neighborhoods accounted for over 75 percent of District 4’s violent crimes (homicides, felonious assaults, and robberies).8

Prior to the implementation of HAZARD, the District 4 crime analyst divided the entire district into street segments of one block each and identified a total of 2,352 individual street segments within its boundaries. Street segments that experienced two or more violent criminal offenses in 2012 were then identified and totaled 125, almost all of which were either within existing street gang territory or on the border of a street gang territory. Next, street segments that experienced three or more traffic crashes in 2012 were identified and totaled 302. Of the 302 high–traffic crash street segments, 102 overlapped with the previously identified high–violent crime street segments.

After the high–violent crime and traffic crash street segments were identified, traffic citation locations were analyzed. In 2012, District 4 officers issued 3,935 traffic citations for hazardous moving violations, excluding those citations that were issued during traffic crash investigations. Of these citations, 1,027 traffic citations (26.1 percent of all citations issued) were issued inside the street gang territories identified by District 4 officers; and 1,746 citations (44.4 percent of all citations issued) were issued in high-crash zones.

When the locations of traffic crashes, traffic citations, and violent crime were mapped across the district, some locations for targeted deployment stood out: Avondale; Walnut Hills; Roselawn, and Bond Hill. (See figures 1 and 2.) Traffic crashes, violent crime, and street gang territory overlapped in these four neighborhoods; but a drill down into their street segments revealed that a more focused effort in both traffic enforcement and visibility was needed. Officers conducted regular traffic enforcement in some of the identified overlap areas, but, in other overlap areas, enforcement efforts lacked consistency.

The overlay maps clearly showed several areas in which officers focused their traffic enforcement activity on locations where they were able to easily write citations for violations but that had no correlation to either high activity traffic crashes or crime zones. To achieve maximum positive impact in traffic crash and crime reduction, daily traffic enforcement needed to be more centered on the overlap areas and shifted away from these non-high–activity areas in which officers were comfortable. They could get a point on their daily worksheet by writing an easy citation that had no overall impact on traffic crash or crime reduction.

HAZARD Implementation

After the traffic and crime data were analyzed, they were presented to all of the officers assigned to District 4. Officers were asked a series of detailed questions about both the traffic patterns and the crime that occurred in the targeted 102 overlap high activity street segments during their normal shift hours.

When the results of this questionnaire were calculated, precise, narrowly defined locations within each street segment were identified and chosen to receive increased traffic enforcement. The locations were specifically chosen to disrupt repeat locations for traffic crashes and criminal activities, and increased visibility in these locations would lead to an anticipated reduction in traffic crashes and crime throughout the entire District 4 patrol area.

The supervisors of each shift were provided comprehensive lists of the high activity street segments and of the known gang members who either resided in or conducted their illegal trade in those segments to share with their patrol officers and detectives. Officers assigned to patrol the selected street segments were then directed to emphasize traffic enforcement while on patrol and to conduct detailed field interrogation reports on those gang members they encountered during traffic stops. Each shift also assigned a daily discretionary traffic car not responsible for answering routine calls for service and solely focusing on traffic enforcement in the known high activity zones.

HAZARD Results for First Quarter of 2013

Through the first quarter of 2013, HAZARD had the desired impact on traffic safety and violent crime. The neighborhoods of Walnut Hills, Roselawn, and Bond Hill have shown significant reductions in violent crime, property crime, and traffic crashes. Avondale still presents challenges as violent crime levels there have remained stable. However, Avondale has shown small reductions in both property crime and traffic crashes since HAZARD was implemented.

Overall, violent crime, property crime, and traffic crashes have been reduced from 2012 levels throughout the entire patrol area of District 4.

  • Violent crime is down 13 percent.
  • Property crime is down 13 percent.
  • Traffic crashes are down 11 percent.9


Academic research has clearly shown that a place-based approach to crime will result in reductions.10 Through the use of HAZARD, the Cincinnati Police Department sought to determine if a narrower place-based approach to traffic enforcement in high-crime areas would also be effective in crime prevention.

District 4 of the Cincinnati Police Department started its HAZARD project in January 2013 and placed officers on the specific street segments where criminal activity and traffic crashes overlapped within street gang territory. Those officers were then directed to use traffic enforcement both to increase visibility and to reduce traffic crashes and violent crime. District 4 has achieved that goal in three of the four targeted neighborhoods during the first three months of the initiative.

Both the officers and the supervisors assigned to District 4 now have an increased understanding of a place-based strategy and its ability to positively impact both traffic crashes and crime by focusing on smaller high activity street segments instead of larger geographic areas. All District 4 crime and traffic data are now analyzed in a manner that targets the precise locations where incidents occurred as well as who committed the offense or was victimized by it. Repeat locations, repeat offenders, and repeat victims are quickly identified and addressed. Traffic crashes and crime are down across the entire District 4 patrol area and not just in the targeted street segments. By implementing a place-based approach to traffic enforcement that narrowly focuses on high activity street segments, traffic crashes are reduced and benefits in crime prevention are achieved.♦

1Daniel W. Gerard et al., “Cincinnati CARS: A Crash Analysis Reduction Strategy,” The Police Chief 79 (July 2012): 24-31, (accessed April 16, 2013).
2National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety (DDACTS) Operational Guidelines, DOT HS 811 185, (August 2009).
3John E. Eck and David Weisburd, “Crime Places in Crime Theory,” in Crime and Place, Crime Prevention Studies 4, ed. John E. Eck and David Weisburd (Monsey, N.Y.: Willow Tree Press, 1995), 1-33, (accessed June 11, 2013).
4David Weisburd, “Place-Based Policing,” Ideas in American Policing 9 (Washington, D.C.: Police Foundation, January 2008).
5Leslie Kennedy et al., “Risk Clusters, Hotspots, and Spatial Intelligence: Risk Terrain Modeling as an Algorithm for Police Resource Allocation Strategies,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology 27, no. 3 (September 2010): 339–362.
6Lawrence W. Sherman et al., “Hot Spots of Predatory Crime: Routine Activities and the Criminology of Place,” Criminology 27, no. 1 (February 1989): 27–56; David Weisburd, Reorienting Crime Prevention Research and Policy: From the Causes of Criminality to the Context of Crime, NCJ 165041 (Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, 1997); David Weisburd et al., “Trajectories of Crime at Places: A Longitudinal Study of Street Segments in the City of Seattle,” Criminology 42, no. 2 (May 2004) 283–322; Tamara D. Madensen and John E. Eck, “Crime Places and Place Management” in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory, ed. Francis T. Cullen and Pamela Wilcox (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) 554–578; and Nicholas Corsaro et al., “Not by Accident: An Analytical Approach to Traffic Crash Harm Reduction,” Journal of Criminal Justice 40, no. 6 (November–December 2012): 502-514.
7Robin S. Engel et al., “Reducing Gang Violence Using Focused Deterrence: Evaluating the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV),” Justice Quarterly 30, no. 3 (2013): 403–439.
8Cincinnati, Ohio, Police Department, STARS Report, 12/04/2012 -12/31/2012, (accessed March 31, 2013).
9Cincinnati, Ohio, Police Department, STARS Report, 05/05/2013 - 06/01/2013, (accessed March 31, 2013).
10Anthony A. Braga, “Hot Spots Policing and Crime Prevention: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials,” Journal of Experimental Criminology 1, no. 3 (September 2005): 317-342.

Please cite as:

Daniel W. Gerard, "Cincinnati HAZARD: A Place-Based Traffic Enforcement and Violent Crime Strategy," The Police Chief 80 (July 2013): 44–46.



From The Police Chief, vol. 80, no. 7, July 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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