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A Difference-In-Differences Study of the Effects of a New Abandoned Building Remediation Strategy on Safety

NCJ Number
PLoS ONE Volume: 10 Issue: 7 Dated: 2015 Pages: 1-14
Michelle C. Kondo; Danya Keene; Bernadette C. Hohl; John M. MacDonald; Charles C. Branas
Date Published
14 pages
Since vacant and abandoned buildings pose significant challenges to the health and safety of communities, this study tested the effects of a 2011 Philadelphia ordinance intended to address this issue.

In 2011, the City of Philadelphia began enforcing a Doors and Windows Ordinance that required property owners of abandoned buildings to install working doors and windows in all structural openings or face significant fines. The current study tested the effects of the new ordinance on the occurrence of crime surrounding abandoned buildings from January 2011 to April 2013, using a difference-in-differences approach. Poisson regression models were used to compare differences in pre- and post-treatment measures of crime for buildings that were remediated as a result of the ordinance (n = 676) or permitted for renovation (n = 241), and randomly matched control buildings that were not remediated (n = 676) or permitted for renovation (n = 964), while also controlling for sociodemographic and other confounders measured around each building. Building remediations were significantly associated with citywide reductions in overall crimes, total assaults, gun assaults, and nuisance crimes (p <0.001). Building remediations were also significantly associated with reductions in violent gun crimes in one city section (p <0.01). At the same time, some significant increases were seen in narcotics sales and possession and property crimes around remediated buildings (p <0.001). Building renovation permits were significantly associated with reductions in all crime classifications across multiple city sections (p <0.001). No significant spatial displacement effects for crime were found. Doors and windows remediation was found to be a relatively low-cost method of reducing certain crimes in and around abandoned buildings. Cities with an abundance of decaying and abandoned housing stock might consider some form of this structural change to their built environments as one strategy to improve public safety. (publisher abstract modified)