Hotspot - Safety and security in deprived neighbourhoods
'Hotspot' is a massive effort aimed at reducing and preventing crime and insecurity in selected neighbourhoods, so-called "hotspots". It's about combining both hard and soft measures – i.e. a zero-tolerance approach together with crime prevention, and helping former criminals on their way to a law-abiding life. "Hotspots" are neighbourhoods that for at long time have had problems with either a lot of crime and / or great insecurity among residents. The Hotspot approach was first introduced in 1999 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Since then, the effort grew in Rotterdam and was introduced in other Dutch cities, including the Hague.
What makes the Hotspot approach different than many other preventive or anti-crime measures is that:
1) the approach coordinates various existing initiatives and resources. It is about strengthening the collaboration between various public administrations, police, schools, recreational clubs, etc. in order to avoid that a specific group of people causes problems in the chosen neighbourhood. Copenhagen municipality puts it this way: "The basic idea of hotspots is to support, coordinate and develop activities already happening in the area. Hotspot should not replace or compete - and not undermine - the existing efforts." (From the leaflet "Tag hånd om trygheden", the Municipality of Copenhagen 2008)
2) the hotspot approach is focused on creating fast, measurable results.
3) the approach also have a strong focus on increasing the feeling of security in general among the residents. For that reason it is also about changing the physical conditions and surroundings, for example to get better street lighting.
4) the approach includes a focus on measuring the changes made in the specific hotspot area – using both statistical reports on crime in the area and the level of insecurity as it is perceived by the residents. It is a central part of the approach in both Rotterdam and Copenhagen.
The City of Copenhagen was inspired by the Dutch approach and created a Copenhagen version of the Hotspot initiative. So far 'Hotspot' in Copenhagen works as a pilot project introduced in two residential areas. It started the 1st of February 2009 and runs for 2 years. A coordinating secretariat for the two areas - Sjælør Boulevard and Akacieparken in Valby - has been established. The plan is that the hotspot approach is later expanded to other neighbourhoods in Copenhagen.
The Copenhagen Hotspot model differs from the hotspot approach in Rotterdam in relation to the problems the approach is focused on solving. In the urban district called Spangen in Rotterdam "Hotspot" is an action both against drug trafficking, prostitution, gang crime, etc. In the City of Copenhagen the problems are mainly revolving around groups of young people who drop out of school and become criminals etc. Besides that, "Hotspot" in Copenhagen has not taken quite as radical measures as in Rotterdam. The head of the Hotspot effort in Rotterdam acknowledges in an article in the Danish newspaper 'Politiken' (March 23, 2008) that their action is balancing on the edge of the law. Some of these radical approaches have been to tear down entire housing blocks, which was inhabited by drug dealers and a screening procedure where new residents are checked in relation to crime and complaints from former neighbours before they are offered an apartment in the area. These very radical actions have created a lot of criticism of the hotspot approach in the Netherlands, including criticism from the ombudsman of Rotterdam. The Hotspot Approach has also been criticized for only moving the problems of certain areas to other places in the city.
The approach and other developments in Rotterdam from 2002-2006 were evaluated by Professor Pieter Tops from Tilburg University. In March 2010 the danish research center CFBU published a report based on the latest information on the hotspot programs in Rotterdam and Copenhagen. The following links to the report.
Links and references to more information – in English and Dutch:
• Excluding disadvantaged households into Rotterdam Neighbourhoods
• Flyer in English on how Rotterdam address safety (The Hot Spot model) "Rotterdam: Looking back and looking ahead"Can be ordered from the Rotterdam Secretariat on safety. (see link above)
• Evaluation of changes in Rotterdam – Pieter Tops: Tops, P.W. (2007). "Regimeverandering in Rotterdam. Hoe een stadsbestuur zichzelf opnieuw uitvond". Amsterdam: Atlas.
• Anthony A. Braga: The Effects of Hot Spots Policing on Crime (in English)The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 2001; 578; 104
• The Rotterdam Approach – Action not Words
• Hotspots: establishing safety in The Hague
• Urban Mobile Youngsters Team prevents hotspots in the city of The Hague