Mortgage Foreclosures and the Changing Mix of Crime in Micro-neighborhoods

Johanna Lacoe and Ingrid Gould Ellen
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Published online before print February 20, 2015. doi: 10.1177/0022427815572633

Objectives: The main objectives of the study are to estimate the impact of mortgage foreclosures on the location of criminal activity within a blockface. Drawing on routine activity theory, disorder theory, and social disorganization theory, the study explores potential mechanisms that link foreclosures to crime.

Methods: To estimate the relationship between foreclosures and localized crime, we use detailed foreclosure and crime data at the blockface level in Chicago and a difference-in-difference estimation strategy. Results: Overall, mortgage foreclosures increase crime on blockfaces. Foreclosures have a larger impact on crime that occurs inside residences than on crime in the street. The impact of foreclosures on crime location varies by crime type (violent, property, and public order crime).

Conclusions: The evidence supports the three main theoretical mechanisms that link foreclosure activity to local crime. The investigation of the relationship by crime location suggests that foreclosures change the relative attractiveness of indoor and outdoor locations for crime commission on the blockface.

Wagner Faculty