Place-Based Improvements for Public Safety

Place-Based Improvements for Public Safety

Private Investment, Public Code Enforcement, and Changes in Crime at Micro-places Across 6 U.S. Cities

By: Alexandra de Leon Date: March 21st, 2023

Research on crime patterns reveals that crime is concentrated at relatively few micro-places (addresses, intersections, street segments, and businesses), it tends to be stable over time, and changes at a small proportion of locations can have a considerable effect on a city’s overall crime level. A study published September 2022 in Justice Quarterly examines what accounts for change in crime across micro-places.

As part of a project funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to study spatiotemporal crime patterns, researchers used data from six U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Seattle, to examine the relationships between private investment in the form of building permits and public regulation in the form of municipal code enforcement and changes in crime at street segments over time.

The results from the study revealed that the two mechanisms for place-based improvements were significantly associated with changes in crime at street segments over time in all six cities. While building permits and code enforcement were significantly related to changes in all types of crime across all study cities, the effects were strongest for property crime, followed by violent crime. There was also evidence of modest spatial diffusion of benefits; nearby segments enjoyed crime prevention benefits of investment and code enforcement on adjacent segments.

Researchers suggest public safety planning should go beyond policing strategies to include efforts that incentivize and compel physical improvements to high crime locations, including directing resources allocated for community and economic development investment typically distributed at the neighborhood level to specific streets within neighborhoods.

Investigators represent the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Texas at San Antonio and Runstad Department of Real Estate, College of Built Environments at the University of Washington.