Fixing those blighted buildings will also reduce crime and violence - Generocity Philly

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Jul. 23, 2015 3:07 pm

Fixing those blighted buildings will also reduce crime and violence

The areas with remediated buildings saw a 39 percent decrease in gun assaults.

Fixing up old, abandoned buildings does more than just eliminate eyesores–it also reduces crime and violence, including gun assaults according to new research from the University of Pennsylvania and Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine, published in the journal PLOS ONE earlier this month.

The study found a significant decrease in both serious and nuisance crimes in areas around remediated buildings after Philadelphia began enforcing an ordinance requiring owners of abandoned buildings to improve their facades and install working doors and windows in 2011.

Researchers found that of the 2,356 buildings cited by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections as part of the ordinance enforcement, 29 percent complied with the ordinance between January 2011 and April 2013. The research team compared the number of reported crimes and acts of violence at these repaired sites, at which abandoned building owners had complied with the ordinance, to sites that had not complied, within one-half of a mile.

Compliance with the ordinance was associated with significant decreases in crime and violence, including an estimated 19 percent reduction in assaults, 39 percent reduction in gun assaults, and a 16 percent reduction in nuisance crimes. According to the study, the size and significance of some of these effects varied by section of the city.

The research team included Michelle Kondo, PhD, a former research fellow at the Perelman School of Medicine now a scientist with the USDA Northern Research Station, John MacDonald, PhD, a professor of criminology at Penn, and Charles Branas, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the Perelman School of Medicine.

“Replacing broken windows and doors is an effective deterrent of crime—and a low-cost alternative to demolishing abandoned buildings,” MacDonald said in a press release. “During a time when big cities like Philadelphia are looking to tackle issues of crime and violence, this study points to a potentially effective tactic for municipalities to continue or implement in helping make their neighborhoods safer and ultimately improving health outcomes.”

Other related research supports this study as well, suggesting that both vacant and abandoned places have a significant negative impact on community health and safety. A sister study of abandoned land conducted in 2011 found an association between greening of vacant lots and reduced risks of neighborhood violence, stress, and sedentary behavior.

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“City-wide, we found significant reductions in total crimes, assaults, gun assaults, robberies and nuisance crimes associated with ordinance compliance,” said Kondo, lead author of the study, in the press release.  “This could be the ‘broken windows theory’ in action, with new doors and windows and a newly cleaned building facade signaling to potential offenders that a property is occupied and crime is not tolerated.”

The full study can be found at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0129582

Image via PLOS ONE, Branas et al.

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