Home Foreclosure Symptom, Not Cause for Increased Crime Rates, Research Shows

Aug. 16, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — High levels of foreclosures in a community do not independently lead to increased crime rates, as previously believed, according to new research from The University of Texas at Austin.

More than 6.4 million U.S. properties entered foreclosure between 2007 and 2009, according to RealtyTrac, the largest foreclosure database in the nation. As the dire consequences of the foreclosure crisis have started to become clear, it has become critical to determine whether or not it has sparked a crime boom in U.S. metropolitan areas.

"Foreclosures do not independently affect crime," says David Kirk, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and a Population Research Center affiliate and lead researcher on the study. "Rather, both foreclosures and crime are the products of similar community-level factors, which include a community's political clout (or lack thereof), poverty and segregation."

Kirk and co-author Derek S. Hyra, of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), used data on crime and foreclosures in Chicago from 2000 to 2008, a period in which Chicago home foreclosures tripled. They examined the implications of rising foreclosure rates — particularly the effect of rapid changes to the structure of communities — on community crime.

Foreclosures can potentially affect community crime rates because unoccupied properties afford increased opportunities for property crimes such as vandalism and burglary. Communities characterized by rapid changes in foreclosure rates may become destabilized and disorganized, undermining community social control of crime to a much greater extent than in communities that change more gradually. Despite these potential reasons, the researchers found foreclosures and crime rates are not causally related. Instead, each are symptoms of a similar set of root causes, which include the structural characteristics of communities.

"We suggest that our results provide a more informed depiction of the complex relationship between community conditions, foreclosures and crime in Chicago," says Kirk. "We were able to statistically adjust for confounding influences such as segregation, the political hierarchy of communities and other unobserved factors predictive of both foreclosures and crime."

Kirk and Hyra presented their findings on Aug. 15 at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Atlanta.

For more information, contact: Michelle Bryant, College of Liberal Arts, 512 232 4730; David Kirk, Department of Sociology and Population Research Center, 512-471-0141.

2 Comments to "Home Foreclosure Symptom, Not Cause for Increased Crime Rates, Research Shows"

1.  William said on Aug. 16, 2010

I totally agree with you on the subject that foreclosures are not increasing crime. I live in Miami and I work with Foreclosures helping people sell them before they go through foreclosure and I do not see the increase in crime here either.

2.  Jimmy said on Oct. 31, 2010

I agree as well on the fact that there lies no connection between crime and foreclosure. And why should there be? this article really strengthens the proper view. Nonetheless, foreclosures aren't exactly any good either, they can be sought after as a crime themselves. That is why so many banks in the USA are putting restrictions on the mortgage loans according to your income. I say that it is the right thing to do. If people still fall in foreclosure, it is best if they can get foreclosure refinance loans to help them out. This is probably the most vital part of the foreclosure and it should never be mistaken for.