“We live in a nice neighborhood.”
“I never thought something like that could happen here.”
“This is the good part of town.”
You’ve probably heard – or even uttered – these phrases. Crime happens in a place you wouldn’t expect it to, and phrases like these come out. The reality is, crime happens everywhere – no where is immune. But certainly, there are areas that can have a higher tendency for crime than others.
Force Science Institute News #268 contains an article on “What locations are riskiest for you?” In this context, “you” means law-enforcement officers. And while I tend to look at things from a private citizen standpoint, this is still information worthy of note.
The study looked at data from the nation’s second largest municipal police department (Chicago), and constructed “a “risk terrain model” that links an officer’s relative danger of felonious injury to the presence of certain environmental factors.” They looked at 991 batteries (“serious bodily harm or death, including firearm threats and assaults) against CPD officers over a 12-month period. They examined where those tended to occur across the city, at a granularity of about 1-city block. They also considered other “potential risk factors”, locations likely to be trouble spots like apartment complexes, night clubs, homeless shelters, laundromats, convenience stores, etc..
From their analysis, they determined an “exceptionally strong” statistical correlation between batteries against officers and proximity to 11 environmental features.
In a descending order of risk, “police who handle calls for service at locations with foreclosures, problem buildings [sources of complaints about criminal activity], bars, schools, gang territories, banks, apartment complexes, liquor stores, clusters of service requests for malfunctioning streetlights, grocery stores and/or retail shops are at a greater risk of felonious battery,” Caplin writes.
At the upper end of this list, calls “within three blocks of foreclosures and/or within a dense area of problem buildings pose as much as two to three times greater risk of battery to police officers” than calls to locations at the lower end of the spectrum, he says. But even the lesser locations on the list present a significantly higher danger than the average among all the cells analyzed.
Of course, the risk is even greater at locations where more than one of these “model features” is present.
The specifics are unclear, but Caplan theorizes that the behavior of people can be influenced by the geographical features around them. “The nature of certain places may be perceived by offenders to be opportune locations to behave aggressively toward police,” he writes.
For example, “foreclosures may be high-risk due to the absence of invested caretakers who would otherwise serve as ‘eyes and ears’ within the area. This void of guardians may serve as cues to certain suspects that the prospect for instant freedom from criminal justice authorities is better had with aggression toward police rather than cooperation.”
Rather an interesting take-home. Of course, like any study it really is a call for further study: to have the study replicated in other cities, other jurisdictions, other departments, both within the US but also abroad. So, take the study results for what they are.
Out of curiousity, I asked Tom Givens how this data compared to his (ever growing) data set of student/civilian incidents. His response:
That all makes sense from a law-enforcement perspective. Bear in mind that these are police officers responding to calls for service. That takes them to foreclosed homes, ghetto apartment complexes, and such locations that the typical middle-class CCW holder is far less likely to frequent.
In our civilians experience the most dangerous places are gas station/convenience store, shopping malls and parking lots in general. These are the places where your typical CCW holder has the highest chance of interacting with strangers, and thus with criminals.
Hope this helps.
Either way, this information does give you an idea of where there is greater risk, and lends into John Farnam’s quip about personal safety: “Don’t go to stupid places, associate with stupid people, and do stupid things.”