Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: A Retrospective Evaluation of a Crime Reduction Strategy

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Tayo Fabusuyi and Victoria Hill, Numeritics
This research details a retrospective analysis of a Pittsburgh, PA-based Community Development Corporation (CDC), and the innovative set of real estate and housing-based strategies that were found to be highly correlated with a 49% reduction in residential crime in that neighborhood over the period 2008-2012. This reduction in crime was significantly greater than what occurred in the City of Pittsburgh during that period, and is also larger than that observed for comparable neighborhoods in close proximity to East Liberty. Our retrospective assessment utilized a robust conceptual framework that provides structure to the semi-organic manner through which the strategy was implemented.

The objective was to use the framework to demonstrate the effect that the CDC’s initiatives have had on neighborhood crime rates through two primary means; directly reducing the situational opportunities for criminal activity; and indirectly improving the neighborhood’s social characteristics. The framework looked first towards evidence-based theories in the literature to attempt to explain why and how the CDC’s strategies had been successful in this neighborhood transformation. Among key research theories identified were hot spot theory, place-based management, guardianship and collective efficacy. To visualize neighborhood hot spots, we performed GIS mapping of crime data overlaid with specific intervention sites. This hot spot mapping over time shows the dramatic decrease in crime in the neighborhood. Semi-structured interviews with residents, law enforcement officials and business owners were used to validate the quantitative findings.

The way that the CDC identified the “hot spots,” or nuisance residential properties that attracted criminal activity, was literally through staff members walking around the neighborhood. They found that these properties were overwhelmingly slumlord, vacant or abandoned properties. Using a “go big or go home” strategy along with a creative financing mixture of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs), financial institution lines of credit, and local foundation funding, the CDC made the decision to purchase these properties at scale, eventually purchasing approximately 3% of all rental units in East Liberty. In addition, as evidence from previous studies suggests that high levels of structural density in a neighborhood leads to increase crime rates, the ability to renovate these scattered sites into low-income and market rate housing both avoids the concentration of poverty and promotes the CDC’s goal of a safe, stable and sustainable mixed income community.

Throughout the acquisitions, effective place-based management was put into place to enforce already existing rules. No rule-abiding residents were displaced. This change, along with the CDC’s traditional community oriented development work, has been instrumental in influencing and shaping the social characteristics of East Liberty, with resulting increase in collective efficacy and informal social controls. This transformation was achieved in such a manner that fidelity to the CDC’s primary objective of having a mixed income neighborhood was not compromised. It is especially noteworthy to point out that these developments occurred in an environment where the median income stagnated and actually declined in real terms and where there was minimal change in the racial composition of the neighborhood