Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

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

  • Original Article
  • Published:
Journal of Urban Health Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1

Similar content being viewed by others

Data Availability

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

References

  1. Olofsson N. A life course model of self-reported violence exposure and illhealth with a public health problem perspective. AIMS Public Heal. 2014;1:9–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Baranyi G, Di Marco MH, Russ TC, Dibben C, Pearce J. The impact of neighbourhood crime on mental health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Soc Sci Med. 2021;282. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2021.114106

  3. Knopov A, Rothman EF, Cronin SW, Franklin L, Cansever A, Potter F, et al. The Role of Racial Residential Segregation in Black-White Disparities in Firearm Homicide at the State Level in the United States, 1991–2015. J Natl Med Assoc. 2019;111:62–75.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Krieger N, Feldman JM, Waterman PD, Chen JT, Coull BA, Hemenway D. Local Residential Segregation Matters: stronger Association of Census Tract Compared to Conventional City-Level Measures with Fatal and Non-Fatal Assaults (Total and Firearm Related), Using the Index of Concentration at the Extremes (ICE) for Racial. Econ J Urban Heal. 2017;94:244–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Brisson D, Roll S. The Effect of Neighborhood on Crime and Safety: a Review of the Evidence. J Evid Based Soc Work. 2012;9:333–50.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Hohl BBC, Kondo MC, Kajeepeta S, Macdonald JM, Theall KP, Zimmerman MA, et al. Creating Safe And Healthy Neighborhoods With Place-Based Violence Interventions. Health Aff. 2019;38:1687–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Kondo MC, Andreyeva E, South EC, Macdonald JM, Branas CC. Neighborhood Interventions to Reduce Violence. Annu Rev Public Health. 2018;39:1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. MacDonald J. Community design and crime: the impact of housing and the built environment. Crime Justice. 2015;44:333–83.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Branas CC, Rubin D, Guo W. Vacant Properties and Violence in Neighborhoods. ISRN Public Health. 2012;2012:1–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Sivak CJ, Pearson AL, Hurlburt P. Effects of vacant lots on human health: A systematic review of the evidence. Landsc Urban Plan. 2021;208:104020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2020.104020

  11. Németh J, Hollander JB, Whiteman ED, Johnson MP. Planning with justice in mind in a shrinking Baltimore. J Urban Aff. 2020;42:351–70. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/07352166.2018.1454820

  12. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. 2021. https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/more-fbi-services-and-information/ucrl. Accessed 19 July 2023

  13. Accordino J, Johnson GT. Addressing the vacant and abandoned property problem. J Urban Aff. 2000;22:301–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Heinze JE, Krusky-Morey A, Vagi KJ, Reischl TM, Franzen S, Pruett NK, et al. Busy Streets Theory: the Effects of Community-engaged Greening on Violence. Am J Community Psychol. 2018;62:101–9.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  15. Branas CC, South EC, Kondo MC, et al. Citywide cluster randomized trial to restoreblighted vacant land and its effects on violence, crime, and fear. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2018;115(12):2946–51. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1718503115.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. Spader J, Schuetz J, Cortes A. Fewer vacants, fewer crimes? Impacts of neighborhood revitalization policies on crime. Reg Sci Urban Econ. 2016;60:73–84. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.regsciurbeco.2016.07.005

  17. Stacy CP. The effect of vacant building demolitions on crime under depopulation. J Reg Sci. 2018;58:100–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Han HS, Helm S. Does Demolition Lead to a Reduction in Nearby Crime Associated With Abandoned Properties? Hous Policy Debate. 2020;00:1–24. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/10511482.2020.1800776

  19. Wheeler AP, Kim DY, Phillips SW. The Effect of Housing Demolitions on Crime in Buffalo. New York J Res Crime Delinq. 2018;55:390–424.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Larson M, Xu Y, Ouellet L, Klahm CF. Exploring the impact of 9398 demolitions on neighborhood-level crime in Detroit, Michigan. J Crim Justice. 2019;60:57–63. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2018.11.002

  21. Jay J, Miratrix LW, Branas CC, Zimmerman MA, Hemenway D. Urban building demolitions, firearm violence and drug crime. J Behav Med. 2019;42:626–34.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Jay J, de Jong J, Jimenez MP, Nguyen Q, Goldstick J. Effects of demolishing abandoned buildings on firearm violence: a moderation analysis using aerial imagery and deep learning. Inj Prev. 2022;28:249–55.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Kim YA, Wo J. A spatial and temporal examination of housing demolitions on crime in Los Angeles blocks. J Crime Justice. 2021;44:441–57. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1080/0735648X.2020.1819376

  24. Jay J, Kondo MC, Lyons VH, Gause E, South EC. Neighborhood segregation , tree cover and firearm violence in 6 U . S . cities , 2015 – 2020. Prev Med (Baltim). 2022;107256. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2022.107256

  25. Kvik A, Rose J, Curriero FC, Crifasi CK, Pollack CE. The association between vacant housing demolition and safety and health in Baltimore, MD. Prev Med (Baltim). 2022;164:107292. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ypmed.2022.107292

  26. Quantified Ventures. U S. Forest Service: Sustainable Recreation Infrastructure Pay-for-Success Feasibility Report. 2018; Available from: http://baltimorewoodproject.org/pdf/FeasibilityReport_Dconstruct_BaltimoreUrbanWood_042618.pdf. Accessed 19 July 2023

  27. Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development. Project C.O.R.E. Available from: https://dhcd.maryland.gov/ProjectCORE/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed 19 July 2023

  28. Ellen IG, Lacoe J, Sharygin CA. Do foreclosures cause crime? J Urban Econ. 2013;74:59–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jue.2012.09.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Daw JR, Hatfield LA. Matching in Difference-in-Differences: between a Rock and a Hard Place. Health Serv Res. 2018;53:4111–7.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  30. Savje F. On the inconsistency of matching without replacement. Biometrika. 2022;109:551–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. City of Baltimore. OpenData Baltimore. Available from: https://data.baltimorecity.gov/datasets/baltimore::part1-crime-data/explore. Accessed 19 June 2023

  32. Broadwater L. In Baltimore’s high-crime zones, an experiment in government starts to yield results. Balt Sun. 2018; Available from: https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-transformation-zones-20180308-story.html. Accessed 19 July 2023

  33. Besag J, York J, Mollié A. Bayesian image restoration, with two applications in spatial statistics. Ann Inst Stat Math. 1991;43:1–20.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Rue H, Martino S. Approximate Bayesian inference for latent Gaussian models by using integrated nested Laplace approximations. J R Stat Soc Ser B Stat Methodol. 2009;71:319–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Massey D, Denton N. American Apartheid: segregation and the Making of the Underclass. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press; 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Rupp LA, Zimmerman MA, Sly KW, Reischl TM, Thulin EJ, Wyatt TA, et al. Community-Engaged Neighborhood Revitalization and Empowerment: busy Streets Theory in Action. Am J Community Psychol. 2020;65:90–106.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. Frazier AE, Bagchi-Sen S, Knight J. The spatio-temporal impacts of demolition land use policy and crime in a shrinking city. Appl Geogr. 2013;41:55–64. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2013.02.014

  38. Locke DH, Fix RL, Gobaud AN, Morrison CN, Jay J, Kondo MC. Data and replication code for analyzing crime on street segments with and without building removals in Baltimore, MD 2014-2019. Fort Collins, CO: Forest Service Research Data Archive; 2023. Available from: https://www.fs.usda.gov/rds/archive/catalog/RDS-2023-0036. Accessed 19 July 2023.

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to D. H. Locke.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary file1 (DOCX 250 KB)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-023-00758-3

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-023-00758-3

Keywords

Navigation