Predicting Violent Crime Using Urban and Suburban Densities

Brian Christens, Paul W. Speer


Violent crime is often studied with individual level variables, using population characteristics as predictors. This study attempts to predict an additional amount of the variability in violent crime using an environmental variable-population density-in a single U.S. city. Data aggregated to the census block group level are used to test a model that compares the urban center of the city with the entire county and the non-urban parts of the county. Drawing on Jane Jacobs' (1961) theories of urbanism and the occurrence of crime, it was hypothesized that population density at the census block level would negatively predict violent crime in the urban areas. Based on evidence of a non-linear relationship between crime and density (Regoeczi, 2002), it was conversely hypothesized that density would have a positive predictive effect on violent crime in the suburban areas, due to differences in urban and suburban/rural crime. The analyses support the hypotheses for the urban areas, but fail to support the hypotheses for the suburban areas, providing insight into an elusive relationship-and the effects of environments on behavior patterns.

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

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