Exploring hotspots of drug offences in Toronto: A comparison of four local spatial cluster detection methods

Matthew Quick, Jane Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Spatial cluster detection is an exploratory spatial data analysis technique that identifies areas or groups of areas with disproportionately high risk. Several local cluster detection methods have been developed; yet no research has critiqued these methods as they contribute to spatial studies of crime. This study aims to identify the locations of drug offence hotspots in Toronto and compare the clusters detected through four methods: (1) spatial scan statistic - Euclidean distance, (2) spatial scan statistic - non-Euclidean contiguity, (3) flexibly shaped scan statistic, and (4) local Moran's I. It was found that all methods detected clusters in the downtown, with fewer methods detecting clusters in the west and east of Toronto. It was observed that the spatial scan statistic detected the largest and most circular clusters, making it a suitable tool to inform general policing initiatives and highlight possible variables to be included in confirmatory research. The local Moran's I method, in contrast, found the smallest and most compact clusters, indicating that it is an appropriate test for identifying areas where resource intensive crime prevention and policing efforts should be targeted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-238
Number of pages24
JournalCanadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Cluster analysis
  • Drug hotspots
  • Environmental criminology
  • Exploratory spatial data analysis
  • Local Moran's I
  • Scan statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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