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ABANDONED BUILDINGS: MAGNETS FOR CRIME?

NCJ Number
145937
Journal
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 21 Issue: 5 Dated: (1993) Pages: 481- 495
Author(s)
W Spelman
Date Published
1993
Annotation
This study tests the hypothesis that "The number of drug, property, and violent crimes is higher on blocks with abandoned residential buildings than on comparable blocks without abandoned buildings."
Abstract
To test this hypothesis, a matched cohort design was used (Kupper et al., 1981). The cases were blocks with abandoned residential building in the low-income Austin (Texas) neighborhood of Robertson Hill, a longtime high- crime area. The working definition of "abandoned" was "any residential building that had been vacant for 3 months or more or had been vacant for less time but was uninhabitable. "Control" blocks were similar to case blocks in all respects, except that there were no abandoned residential buildings. For both case (n=35) and control (n=24) blocks, the researchers collected data on the physical environment and on reported crimes. For case blocks, all vacant houses on the block were inspected for security and evidence of illegal uses. The study found that 41 percent of abandoned buildings could be entered without use of force. Of these open buildings, 83 percent showed evidence of illegal use by prostitutes, drug dealers, property criminals, and others. Crime rates on blocks with open abandoned buildings were twice as high as on matched blocks without open buildings. Even if 90 percent of the crimes prevented are displaced to the surrounding area, the securing of abandoned buildings is apparently a cost- effective crime-control tactic for distressed neighborhoods. 1 figure, 6 tables, and 46 references