A Spatial Analysis of Neighborhoods, Land-Use, and Crime Rates: Do We Reap What We Zone?

Karen L. Hayslett-McCall, Pennsylvania State University

Routine activity theory suggests that neighborhood-level activity patterns influence crime rates, and that the convergence of a motivated offender, a suitable target, and the absence of a capable guardian results in the increased likelihood of criminal events. Further, routine activity theorists suggest that neighborhood land-use patterns are related to neighborhood crime rates and that these criminogenic land-uses influence crime in two ways: (a) by inhibiting an area's social control capacity, and (b) by attracting particular types of routine activities. This paper examines the land-use crime relationship with three research questions. First, which land-uses have a direct influence on crime? Second, as disadvantaged neighborhoods often have higher crime rates than more advantaged areas, do land-uses mediate the effects of disadvantage on crime? Finally, do neighborhood social characteristics and land-use patterns interact to increase crime? To address these issues, this research uses census, tax parcel, and crime data from three cities, which vary in terms of size and racial composition. GIS and spatial regressive models are used, and initial results indicate that land-use may indeed mediate some of the effects of social characteristics on crime and that some land-uses have greater impacts in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

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Updated 05/20/2006