George Mason University

News at Mason

Mason criminology research featured in Malcolm Gladwell’s new book

September 26, 2019

David Weisburd

Research from George Mason University Distinguished Professor David Weisburd is featured in the new book by New York Times bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell.  ​

In his book, “Talking to Strangers,” Gladwell draws from Weisburd’s research on crime hot spots and crime concentrations in cities like Minneapolis, New York, Tel Aviv and Seattle. ​

Weisburd, who also serves as executive director of the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policyat Mason, has found that crime hot spots are spread throughout the city, and that most streets in the so-called “bad part of town” have little to no crime. Importantly, Weisburd has also found that when the police focus in on these hot spots, crime does not easily displace to nearby areas, but rather such areas tend to improve as well.​

“The relevance for the book is that Malcolm wants to show that there is a ‘coupling of crime and place.’ That is important because he explains early in the book that people often don’t interpret the behavior of strangers correctly,” said Weisburd. “He argues that my work, and that of colleagues, suggests that when and where we meet strangers can help us in improving our assessments.”  ​

Gladwell refers to Weisburd’s “law of crime concentration,” which shows that in larger cities, about 1% of the streets produce about 25% of crime and about 5% of the streets produce about 50% of crime. Gladwell utilizes this work to argue that law enforcement should focus on these specific hot spots. ​

“Using my work, Gladwell argues that we should begin to recognize that we can use other clues, for example, where we meet strangers, to develop better predictions and better policies for making decisions about strangers,” said Weisburd.   ​

Gladwell previously praised Weisburd’s work at a keynote speech at the University of Miami in February, calling Weisburd “probably one of the most important criminologists of the 20th century.” ​

You can listen to Malcolm Gladwell read the part of his book describing Weisburd’s research on the BBC website.

David Weisburd can be reached at 703-993-4079 or dweisbur@gmu.edu. ​

For more information, contact Mary Lee Clark at 703-993-5118 or mclark35@gmu.edu

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 38,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.