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Crime Diversity*


Published online on


Large geographic areas should host a greater diversity of crime compared with small geographic areas. This proposition is reasonable given that larger geographic areas should not only support more crime but also contain a greater diversity of criminogenic settings. This article uses a neutral model to characterize crime richness as a function of area. The model starts with two neutral assumptions: 1) that all environments are statistically equivalent and exert no influence on what types of crimes occur there; and 2) that different crime types occur independently of one another. The model produces rigorous predictions for the mean and variance in crime richness with increasing area. Tests of the model against a sample of 172,055 crimes occurring in Los Angeles during the year 2013 are qualitatively consistent with neutral expectations. The model is made quantitatively consistent by constant scaling. Resampling experiments show that at most 20 percent of the mean crime richness is attributable to nonrandom clustering and assortment of crime types. A modified neutral model allowing for variation crime concentration is consistent with observed variance in crime richness. The results suggest that very general and largely neutral laws may be driving crime diversity in space.