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Vacant Building Removals Associated with Relative Reductions in Violent and Property Crimes in Baltimore, MD 2014–2019

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Vacant and abandoned buildings are common features in many post-industrial US cities, and are consistent predictors of violence. Demolition programs are regularly employed as an urban land use policy to stabilize housing markets and mitigate public health problems including violence. The objective of this research was to examine the effect of vacant building removals on violent and property crimes in Baltimore, MD from 2014 to 2019. We conducted a difference-in-differences analysis using spatio-temporal Bayesian mixed models on six crime types on block faces with and without building removals, before compared with after removal. There were significant reductions in total, violent crimes (with and without assaults), thefts, and burglaries on block faces with building removals relative to their controls. Total crimes decreased 1.4% per mi2 (CrI: 0.5 – 2.3%), which translates to a relative reduction ~ 2.6 total crimes per mi2 per year. The largest relative decreases in crime were found among assaults (4.9%; CrI: 3.4 – 6.3%) and violent crimes (3.0%; CrI: 1.9 – 4.1%). Building removals were associated with relative reductions in crime in Baltimore City. The relative reductions in crime, at building removals compared to at control vacant lots, were found among assaults and violent crimes, the crimes of greatest public health concern. Building removals provide co-benefits to their communities, and may be considered part of a crime reduction strategy compatible with other approaches. A systematic effort to understand the role of care for remaining vacant lots could further inform our findings, and efforts to further decrease violence and improve community health.

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Data Availability

Data and reproducible code are available via Locke et al 2023 [38].


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The analyses for this paper were supported by a grant from the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, USA. Kristin Mmari provided comments on an earlier draft. CNM and ANG were supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (grant R49CE003094). The findings and conclusions in this paper are those of the author(s) and should not be construed to represent any official USDA or U.S. Government determination or policy.

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Locke, D.H., Fix, R.L., Gobaud, A.N. et al. Vacant Building Removals Associated with Relative Reductions in Violent and Property Crimes in Baltimore, MD 2014–2019. J Urban Health 100, 666–675 (2023).

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