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'Hot Spot' Policing Strategy Catches On Despite Louisville's Taylor Case

A crime-reduction strategy abandoned by Louisville police after the 2020 fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor has spread to other major cities, gaining favor with police chiefs for its potential to reduce violent crime despite its ties to the case that prompted calls for police reform. Before the Taylor shooting, Louisville officers studied a model known as “place network investigations.” The approach pioneered by an academic posited that crime could be curbed if police and community partners focused on geographic connections in areas plagued by violent crime, known as hot spots. In early 2020, a newly formed Louisville police squad installed cameras and tracking devices to surveil several vacant homes that officers believed were linked to a drug operation. One officer was later fired and accused of lying about some of the evidence used to connect Taylor — who lived over 10 miles away — to her ex-boyfriend’s alleged drug activity. “It was an epic failure on so many levels,” said Sam Aguiar, a lawyer who has represented Taylor’s family in litigation against the city over her death.

Still, at least nine jurisdictions either plan to or have already adopted a similar model. Tamara Herold, an associate professor at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas and the architect of the place network investigations model, said Taylor’s death should not be viewed as a consequence of the strategy. “This particular search warrant resulted in a horrific tragedy. It is not a defining feature of this initiative,” she said. “The defining feature ... is really to bring in city resources to remove the need for continuous police enforcement.” In Philadelphia, police spokeswoman Jasmine Reilly called the plan “a holistic approach to crime reduction.” In Tucson, Police Chief Chad Kasmar called it “a comprehensive and meaningful plan to reduce violence,” saying his department is “a staunch supporter of evidence-based, science-informed policing.” The private fund Arnold Ventures, has pledged more than $2 million for training efforts and evaluations of the program in Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Tucson, Denver, Wichita, Baton Rouge, and Harris County, Tx. One advocate of the "hot spot" strategy, criminologist David Weisburd of George Mason University, said, "As opposed to having [police] to just ride around in incoherent ways, have them go to the hot spots. Let’s use police patrol in a more rational way.”


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