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Geographies of Urban Crime: An Intraurban Study of Crime in Nashville, TN; Portland, OR; and Tucson, AZ

NCJ Number
Date Published
197 pages
This research explored the context of criminal behavior by testing the spatial relationships between crime and various neighborhood characteristics in the urban areas of Nashville, TN; Portland, OR; and Tucson, AZ.
Overall, the research tested criminal opportunity theory, which integrates social disorganization and routine activity theories. The study methodologies and findings are presented in three papers submitted for publication by the author. All of the papers stemmed from analyses of data on nine crimes in the three cities during the period 1998-2002. Census data were used to quantify a variety of socioeconomic measures at the census block group level, along with land-use data. The first paper reports on whether certain structural links with violence are generalizable across urban areas. This concept was tested by first developing an Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) model of crime for the three cities and then replicating the results for each city. The models provided support for a general relationship between violence and several structural measures, but they suggest the need for a study of the geographic variation of crime and its covariates within and across urban areas. The second paper proposes an alternative to crime rates as a measure of the crime scene, i.e., location quotients of crime, which can be used to determine what influences the crime profile of a geographic area. The models provide modest support for the opportunity framework as an explanation for crime prevalence. The third paper examines spatial variation in crime and its covariates through a local analysis of crime that uses Geographically Weighted Regression. These results are compared with those of a "base" global OLS model. Maps confirm the results of the OLS model and also allow visual inspection of areas where specific measures have a strong influence in the model. The research shows the importance of considering local context when modeling urban violence. 12 tables and 41 figures

Date Published: January 1, 2004