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Foreclosures and Crime: A Geographical Perspective

NCJ Number
Date Published
Ronald E. Wilson, Derek J. Paulsen
This introductory overview of the articles in this issue of “Geography and Public Safety” discusses the impact of housing foreclosures on the geographical distribution of crime.
Current home foreclosures are not randomly scattered across a metropolitan area nor do they occur only in neighborhoods that are already crime-prone and depressed. They are often clustered in middle-class or revitalized neighborhoods that were created by the housing boom of the last decade. Although neighborhood decline is typically a long, slow process that occurs over a generation, the housing foreclosure crisis is fueling more rapid neighborhood declines, bringing with it a rapid influx of theft, drug dealing and use, vandalism, vagrancy, prostitution, and arson. Residents who remain in these largely abandoned and deteriorating neighborhoods are at increasing risk of being victims of burglary and robbery. Over the long term, the housing crisis could undermine the significant progress that many metropolitan areas have made in the last few decades. A new set of socially disorganized neighborhoods are springing up, and the geographic distribution of these rapidly declining areas is more dispersed than traditional geographical patterns of crime. Social disorganization may impact suburban areas, not just the inner city. This portrayal of the scenario facing the United States under the current housing crisis sets the stage for the articles that follow. The issues covered include the consequences of housing foreclosures in Charlotte, NC; how geographic information systems can be used to advise policy decisions related to the foreclosure crisis; news stories on how the foreclosure crisis has created problems in many cities across the Nation; and the application of the “broken-windows” theory to the foreclosure crisis.
Date Created: September 14, 2008