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Potential Models for Understanding Crime Impacts of High or Increasing Unoccupied Housing Rates in Unexpected Places, and How to Prevent Them

NCJ Number
Date Published
39 pages
This study examined how spatial and temporal variations in the rates at which residential housing becomes unoccupied are likely to influence community crime rates.
In examining whether higher foreclosure and house abandonment rates lead to higher crime rates and how, this study explores how currently available theoretical models would expect current and future rates of unoccupied housing (URs) due to the mortgage crisis to influence later crime rates. The models examined are political economy models; models that reflect the "incivilities thesis;" crime pattern theory; social disorganization theory/collective efficacy theory; routine activity theory and related territorial concerns; race-based models of neighborhood preservation and change; and sense of community/attachment to place/defended neighborhood models. Each of these crime cause theories and associated models are examined for their relevance in analyzing the link between URs and the crime rate. The format for analyzing each theory and associated models is to first define the theory and/or family of models and then outline the "ways the perspective may be useful" and "ways the perspective may not be useful." The analysis concludes that all the models have substantial deficiencies in attempting to explain links between URs caused by the current mortgage crisis and trends in crime rates. Only models grounded primarily in an ecological framework seem thoroughly designed for modeling impacts and responses to the current foreclosure crisis; however, even these frameworks are lacking in some ways. Most importantly, all of these models, except for the political economy model, are inadequately linked with current scholarship on the growth of suburban poverty and the links between economics and structures of metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). Regarding crime prevention strategies relevant to the current mortgage crisis, however, several theories suggest that the safety of some communities would benefit from keeping foreclosed or pre-foreclosed but abandoned properties occupied and maintained. 118 references

Date Published: January 1, 2009