Gentrification & Crime

Chung 2006 Cabrini GreenCabrini–Green Tear Down” (2006) by Payton Chung is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Smith, Chris M. 2014. “The Influence of Gentrification on Gang Homicides in Chicago, 1994 to 2005.” Crime & Delinquency 60(4):569-91.

In this study, the author examines the effects of three forms of gentrification—demographic shifts, private investment, and state intervention—on gang-motivated homicides in Chicago from 1994 to 2005 using data from the U.S. Census, the Chicago Police Department, business directories, and the Chicago Housing Authority. The findings suggest that demographic shifts have a strong negative effect on gang homicide. Private investment gentrification, measured here as the proliferation of coffee shops, has a marginally significant and negative effect on gang homicide. In contrast, state-based gentrification, operationalized as the demolition of public housing, has a positive effect on gang homicide.

This paper received the Best Comprehensive Exam Paper Award from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Department of Sociology in 2011. Upon publication, Chris was invited to write a summary of this research for the London School of Economics’ USA Public Policy Blog (see below).

Papachristos, Andrew V., Chris M. Smith, Mary L. Scherer, and Melissa A. Fugiero. 2011. “More Coffee, Less Crime? The Relationship between Gentrification and Neighborhood Crime Rates in Chicago, 1991 to 2005.” City & Community 10(3):215-40.

This study examines the relationship between gentrification and neighborhood crime rates by measuring the growth and geographic spread of one of gentrification’s most prominent symbols: coffee shops. The annual counts of neighborhood coffee shops provide an on-the-ground measure of a particular form of economic development and changing consumption patterns that tap into central theoretical frames within the gentrification literature. Our analysis augments commonly used Census variables with the annual number of coffee shops in a neighborhood to assess the influence of gentrification on three-year homicide and street robbery counts in Chicago. Longitudinal Poisson regression models with neighborhood fixed effects reveal that gentrification is a racialized process, in which the effect of gentrification on crime is different for White gentrifying neighborhoods than for Black gentrifying neighborhoods. An increasing number of coffee shops in a neighborhood is associated with declining homicide rates for White, Hispanic, and Black neighborhoods; however, an increasing number of coffee shops is associated with increasing street robberies in Black gentrifying neighborhoods.

Invited public sociology:
Smith, Chris M. 2014. “Gentrification May Not Be a Silver Bullet to Prevent Gang Violence, and in Some Cases, It May Even Make It Worse.” The London School of Economics Public Policy Group. USAPP American Politics and Policy Blog. May 22.

The past two decades have seen falling homicide rates in Chicago, previously dubbed the “murder capital” of the U.S. This decline in homicides has generally coincided with a period of gentrification of Chicago, but are the two related? Chris M. Smith takes a close look at how gentrifiers, private investors, and local government have contributed to the process of gentrification, which has had mixed results on gang homicides. She argues that while individuals and investors reduce homicide rates through gentrification, when local authorities demolish public housing, they may actually be intensifying gang violence through forced relocation.