Research Explores Crime and Property Conditions

December 23, 2013


A link between property conditions and property crimes provides an incentive for leaders to invest in neighborhood revitalization.

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Poor property conditions can attract property crimes.

Crime is of concern to many residents, especially to those who live in distressed neighborhoods.

In a March, 2012 Gallup poll, 42 percent of the people surveyed cared “a great deal” about crime, and an additional 31 percent cared “a fair amount.”  Most reported that crime had increased in their neighborhoods, although FBI statistics show that it’s unlikely in most places. 

The Kansas City Fed researches housing and neighborhood revitalization as part of its role in community and economic development. And crime is an important element to consider in stabilizing and improving neighborhoods.

Research by the Kansas City Fed suggests a correlation between the physical condition of property and the incidence of property crimes in low-income neighborhoods.

Costs of crime

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Abandoned homes pose economic costs for communities.

The costs of crime are significant. The perception of crime can cause people to leave neighborhoods, resulting in vacant properties. There are also economic costs, including property damage and the cost of an increased police presence.

There are many theories that seek to explain the incidence of crime by addressing individual propensities to commit crimes. The literature on the attributes of communities that make them more susceptible to crime is sparse, but is receiving increasing attention.

The Kansas City Fed’s research seeks to determine if the location of clusters of crime incidents are affected by the physical condition of properties. 

Data used in the analysis were surveys of property conditions on 90,000 parcels in Kansas City, Mo., mostly in low-income areas, and reports on crime incidences. 

The survey data were provided by the Center for Economic Information at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and crime data were provided by the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.  The analysis was undertaken at the block-level, so the incidence of crime on a block was compared with the physical condition of properties on that block.

A series of statistical methodologies were used, but the result in all cases is that property conditions matter.  Using the simplest of the methodologies, a one-unit decrease in the property condition score (which ranges from 1 – 6) is associated in 7.4 additional violent crimes per 100,000 residents and 45.2 additional property crimes per 100,000 residents.  

Investing in neighborhoods

Other important influences were proximity to a bank/ATM, proximity to a bar, proximity to a HUD housing development, proximity to a school, proximity to a hospital and proximity to land used for nonresidential purposes.  Proximity to a hospital had the greatest impact on block-level crime.

In addition, when using a more sophisticated methodology comparing blocks with no crime to blocks where crimes were reported, the research found that the condition of the property influenced the number of property crimes, although not violent crimes.

For community leaders, this finding serves as another positive incentive for investing in the improvement of neighborhoods, specifically housing. 

Edmiston’s full research analysis will appear in the research section of the Kansas City Fed’s Community Development website in early 2014.