The Effect of Vacant Building Demolitions on Crime under Depopulation

The United States government spent almost $200 million on vacant building demolitions between 2008 and 2011 under the Neighborhood Stabilization Program alone.2 One of the main justifications for these demolitions is that they reduce the crime caused by vacant buildings. However, it is unclear whether demolitions remove crime or merely displace it to other areas within a city. In this paper, I examine this question using block level monthly panel data from Saginaw, Michigan to estimate a Poisson fixed effects model of the effect of vacant building demolitions on crime. I also analyze the spatial impacts of demolitions through use of spatial lags of demolitions. To control for the endogeneity of crime and demolitions, I compare only those blocks that have had a demolition in that month to those that have a permit pending for a demolition. Initial results indicate that one demolition decreases crime over a six month period by 7.896 crimes, reduces violent crime by 3.906 crimes, and reduces property crime by 9.62 crimes. Using estimates from Levitt (2002), the cost effectiveness of these crime reductions is superior to that of police.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

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