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Does Gentrification Affect Crime Rates?

Scott C. McDonald
Crime and Justice
Vol. 8, Communities and Crime (1986), pp. 163-201
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147427
Page Count: 39
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Does Gentrification Affect Crime Rates?
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Abstract

The emergence of gentrification in American cities during the 1970s surprised most urban observers because it contradicted the general trend of urban decline. The middle class was suddenly and unexpectedly moving into neighborhoods where crime rates were notoriously high. A number of hypotheses have been offered concerning gentrification and crime. One is that high-income newcomers offer more lucrative targets, this being conducive to increased crime. Another is that middle-income people commit less crime than do low-income people, and the displacement of low-income residents by newcomers should reduce crime. In this study, time-series data from fourteen gentrified neighborhoods in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D. C., were analyzed to determine if gentrification had an effect on crime rates in central city neighborhoods. The neighborhoods resembled one another in architectural or locational amenities, attracted young middle-class professionals with nonfamily living arrangements, and experienced a rapid appreciation of property values. Additional factors lent a distinctive character to each neighborhood. Analysis of crime rates between 1970 and 1984 in the fourteen neighborhoods tentatively indicates that gentrification leads to some eventual reduction in personal crime rates but that it has no significant effect on rates of property crime. Relief from long-term trends of urban decline may be only temporary in gentrified neighborhoods. Crime may act as a feedback mechanism to deter neighborhood stability resulting from gentrification.

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