Reducing Crime by Shaping the Built Environment with Zoning: An Empirical Study of Los Angeles

59 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2013  

James M. Anderson

RAND Corporation

John MacDonald

University of Pennsylvania

Ricky Bluthenthal

University of Southern California - Keck School of Medicine

J. Scott Ashwood

RAND Corporation

Date Written: February 13, 2013

Abstract

The idea of using law to change the built environment in ways that reduce opportunities to commit crimes has a long history. Unfortunately, this idea has received relatively little attention in the legal academy and only limited rigorous empirical scrutiny. In this Article, we review the considerable literature on the relationship between zoning, the built environment, and crime. We then report the results of two empirical studies on these relationships. First, we conducted a study of the effect of zoning on crime using 205 blocks selected in eight different relatively high crime neighborhoods in Los Angeles that have similar demographic character- istics but different forms of zoned land use. We find that mixed commercial- and residential-zoned areas are associated with lower crime than are commercial-only zoned areas. Second, we matched neighborhoods undergoing zoning changes between 2006 and 2010 with neighborhoods that underwent no zoning changes during this period but had similar preexisting crime trajectories between 1994 and 2005. The primary zoning change in these neighborhoods was to convert parcels to residential uses. We find that neighborhoods in which there was a zoning change experienced a significant decline in crime. Our results suggest that mixing residential-only zoning into commercial blocks may be a promising means of reducing crime.

Keywords: crime, planning, built-environment

JEL Classification: K14, H79, H40

Suggested Citation

Anderson, James M. and MacDonald, John and Bluthenthal, Ricky and Ashwood, J. Scott, Reducing Crime by Shaping the Built Environment with Zoning: An Empirical Study of Los Angeles (February 13, 2013). University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 161, No. 699, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2216842

James M. Anderson (Contact Author)

RAND Corporation ( email )

4570 Fifth Avenue, Suite 600
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-2665
United States
412 683-2300 (Phone)

John MacDonald

University of Pennsylvania ( email )

483 McNeil Building
3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
215-646-3623 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.crim.upenn.edu/faculty_macdonald.htm

Ricky Bluthenthal

University of Southern California - Keck School of Medicine ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

J. Scott Ashwood

RAND Corporation

1776 Main Street
P.O. Box 2138
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

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