Chicago Home Foreclosures Causing Crime?

August 27, 2012

Do Chicago foreclosures increase crime?We’ve all heard it. Empty, abandoned homes are like breeding grounds for criminal activity. And with the foreclosure crisis, who hasn’t driven through a particularly hard-hit area and noticed the Chicago homes with boarded-up doors and windows, overgrown grass, garbage in the yard and maybe even graffiti on the siding? And we’ve all seen on the news empty homes that have been used for delinquents and lawbreakers to commit crimes. Frankly, it’s hard to not think, “if it weren’t for that foreclosed home, that crime wouldn’t have happened.”

Well if you have thought that, your logic may be a little askew.

This is according to recent research from Indiana University that shows that foreclosures don’t actually increase or encourage crime, debunking some reports that claim they do. The researchers controlled for crime rates as well as a number of other variables often associated with criminal activity, including poverty and unemployment rates and population density in select cities.

With this being such a close-to-home, hot topic, there’s all kind of research coming out on the subject.  Another study by researchers from UT-Austin and Virginia Tech looked at Chicago area communities from 2002-2009 and tried to separate correlation from causation on this issue and found, “After accounting for simultaneity and time-variant and time-invariant community characteristics, the rise of recent home foreclosures has no independent effect on community crime rates. Rather, crime and foreclosures are explained by a common set of factors.”

In other words, it’s a symptom, not a cause, of a much larger and more familiar problem. High poverty areas face higher crime rates and those same areas fell victim to predatory and subprime lending practices, which led to the wave of foreclosures in those communities.

Read more about this in the Chicago Magazine article, “Do Foreclosures Actually Increase Crime?

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