Reuters

New research debunks this fear in 142 cities across the U.S.

The foreclosure crisis is thought to have caused all kinds of downstream consequences for cities across the country, leading to lost tax revenue, strained government services, broken community ties, increased criminal activity and even public health problems.

But new research concludes that one of these fears may be only just that: there has been no direct association nationally between the housing crisis and serious crime. The new study, conducted by Professor William Alex Pridemore and doctoral student Roderick Jones at Indiana University Bloomington, counters theories and headlines (often repeated by police officials) that criminals have rushed into neighborhoods as foreclosed families have moved out.

The researchers looked at 142 metropolitan statistical areas throughout the U.S. and compared crime statistics for six violent and property crimes – homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft – with a measure of the health of the local housing market called the the Housing-Mortgage Stress Index, created by Richard Florida and Charlotta Mellander.

"The anecdotal evidence that is available in local and national news suggests that crime associated with foreclosures has become an important problem for city budgets and police agencies," the researchers write in a special issue of the journal Social Science Quarterly. "Scientifically, however, there is little empirical evidence that the foreclosure-crisis has influenced rates of violent and property crime." 

Pridemore and Jones controlled for the crime rates in each of these cities prior to the housing bust, as well as for a number of other variables often associated with crime, including local poverty rates, population density and unemployment rates. Their findings also contradict some neighborhood-level research that has been conducted on this same question, much of which theorized that the housing crisis had depleted the capacity of communities to respond to crime, as well as the financial ability of police departments to fight it. The "broken windows" theory of policing also suggests that neighborhoods with clearly vacant homes or untended property might entice opportunistic criminals. But this doesn't appear to be the case.

"Moving forward, researchers should begin to think about why the foreclosure crisis is not directly linked to rates of violent and property crime," Pridemore and Jones suggest. "…It may be that for foreclosure to have a significant impact on crime, other social and demographic characteristics must first be present."

Top image: John Gress/Reuters

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Maps

    This Guy's Never Met a Map He Didn't Want to Fix

    Just not always for the better: "I've deliberately designed maps that are deliberately horrible to look at, and succeeded."

  2. California Highway Patrol officer stop the flow of traffic on the 110 freeway as protesters unsuccessfully attempted to rush the freeway in a November 11, 2016, rally to oppose the election of President Donald Trump.
    Equity

    The States Trying to Pass Laws Protecting Drivers Who Hit Protesters

    After the Charlottesville attack, Republican lawmakers are seeking to distance their efforts to pass driver immunity legislation.

  3. "Gift Horse"—a skeletal sculpture of a horse by artist Hans Haacke—debuted on the Fourth Plinth in London's Trafalgar Square in 2015.
    Design

    What To Do With Baltimore's Empty Confederate Statue Plinths?

    Put them to work, Trafalgar Square style.

  4. Life

    Can Craft Breweries Transform America's Post-Industrial Neighborhoods?

    A new study tells the story of craft beer’s astonishing rise and geographic clustering.

  5. Equity

    Meet the 26-Year-Old Mayor Taking On Jeff Sessions

    Michael Tubbs on being singled out by the DOJ, and his plan turn his city around.