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Effects of building demolitions on firearm violence in Detroit, Michigan

NCJ Number
Preventive Medicine Volume: 165 Issue: Part A Dated: 2022
Date Published

This article adds to the available evidence regarding the effects of demolition, by focusing specifically on events occurring within Census blocks in Detroit, Michigan, at quarterly intervals; they discuss their research methodology and findings, and note that their results differ from expectations, especially for violent and firearm-involved crimes.


Former industrial cities facing economic challenges and depopulation often experience high levels of violence, including firearm violence. Within these cities, violent crime often clusters in neighborhoods affected by high levels of vacant and abandoned housing. This study estimates the effects of building demolition in Detroit, Michigan on the subsequent risk of violent crime using property-level data and longitudinal targeted maximum likelihood estimation. The primary outcome is violent Crime Index crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault). The authors estimate effects for this category of crimes as a whole and for the subset involving firearms. Drug and other lower-level crimes are included as secondary outcomes. They compare the risk of experiencing each crime type following building demolition in Census blocks and block groups to an estimate of the risk, had there been no demolition in the 1–3 quarters prior in 2017. There were more than 2,600 total demolitions in about 1,700 blocks in 2017 in Detroit. Nearly all demolished buildings were sourced from tax foreclosures. Estimates suggest the risk for all crime types tested would have been statistically indistinguishable from the observed crime risk had demolitions in the prior 1–3 quarters of 2017 not occurred. The authors’ results run counter to most previous research on this topic, which tends to show a protective effect of demolition on violent crime. Understanding why their results differ may provide important insights into the types of demolition programs with the greatest potential to reduce violent crime. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2022