Study shows what happens after blight is removed from Detroit neighborhoods


Violent crime and property crime drop in areas where blighted homes are razed in Detroit — and the more vacant, dilapidated houses that come down in an area, the greater the crime reduction.

That’s according to a study done by two Wayne State criminologists who examined nearly 9,400 home demolitions throughout the city over a five-year period. The study, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Criminal Justice, provides the first data-driven examination of the connection between the city’s massive demolition program and its impact on crime.

Matthew Larson and Charles Klahm IV, associate professors in Wayne State’s Department of Criminal Justice, reviewed 9,398 demolitions completed by the city from 2010 to 2014, then looked at violent and property crime statistics from 2009 to 2014 in the same locations down to the “block-group” level, a U.S. Census Bureau designation equating to a group of five to 12 city blocks, usually contiguous, that contain between 600 and 3,000 people.

Their findings: For roughly every three demolitions completed in that time period, block-groups experienced an average reduction in crime of almost 1 percent. With the average block-group in the study experiencing about 10.7 demolitions during that span, the average reduction in crime was approximately 3 percent.

And more than a third of the block groups had more than 10 demolitions — some with more than 100 houses razed — meaning they were likely to have a far greater average reduction in total crime.

“Depending on the type of crime, we’re talking dozens, if not more than 100, fewer crimes in a block-group, specifically tied to demolitions,” Larson said.

But curiously, the study found no connection between a reduction in drug crimes and blighted home demolitions, something the researchers can’t yet explain.

It doesn’t appear from the crime data that removal of crime in one location has led to an increase in crime in other, nearby areas, Larson said.