As a follow-on to this piece about crime on transit, I need to talk about crime around transit. Crime on transit makes people less willing to ride transit, which is why I showed that transit is actually a safer place to be than the rest of America. Crime around transit makes people less willing to allow transit near their homes. What does the data tell us about that?
The story and the accusations are intuitive, after all. Criminals don’t like to commit crimes close to their homes, for fear of being recognized. Criminals commit crimes an average of two miles from their homes, but almost never less than two blocks, for fear of being recognized. Transit should extend the range of this anonymity throughout the service area, allowing criminals a smorgasbord of options for places to knock over and people to mug.
Here’s an article detailing all the crimes that happen around Oregon’s famous light rail network
No wonder transit is considered a “Mugger Mover”, a “Loser Cruiser” and some terms that I won’t repeat in writing. How could it not increase crime?
Do crimes actually increase as a result of bringing transit to far flung suburbs, or do crimes change more with the neighborhood or metro crime rates? Here’s the actual evidence from studies around the nation:
- Where crime does increase after a transit station goes in, the surrounding neighborhood is more of a forcing factor than the presence of a transit station. On the same systems, crime will actually decrease around transit stations in safer neighborhoods.
- Crime near transit stations increases and decreases with the metro as a whole, not more or less. The peak in the graph for the Mission Valley East station area is as much an artifact of small sample size (1) as it is any deviation from the metropolitan norm.
- Transit stations, adequately planned, bring private investment and increases in commercial and even residential land uses to station areas. Commercial areas by themselves attract property crime, because that is where victims are more likely to be out of placer and carrying money. I do not support the conclusion of this summary that a transit station decreases crime from the data, but it doesn’t look like it increases it either. The two monthly crime lines shown in the articles show crime rates near actual (red) and unbuilt (blue) transit stations. Most of the time shown is the interval between station announcement and station opening. I don’t see any differences in slope for the area after the station opening, and the data after opening is minimal compared to the data between announcement and opening. I could credit the opened station with reversing an upward trend that the unbuilt station areas did not have, however. I’d like to see this data series continued, now that the stations have been open for five years.
- This last point is unfounded by data, but transit seems to be a poor mode for criminal transportation. Once they have committed a property or violent crime, police in the area of the crime are likely to be searching for somebody matching their description. The last thing a criminal wants to do is loiter at a bus stop or a train station, in public view. Far better to arrive in traffic, if the criminal can afford a car. The construction of a new freeway in Los Angeles increased crime more than the construction of a new transit station near one of the freeway’s exits. Crime decreased, in fact after the transit station opened, but I do not know if this was part of the overall decline in crime since 1993.
The data, corrected for metro or local effects, show that transit does not increase crime near stations. However, there are still some questions that haven’t been answered, like my speculation on criminal preferences above, or the effect of land use (commercial, residential, industrial, parking lot, highway) on crime rates around stations. From what I found, the evidence for transit attracting crime is mostly anecdotal, and the evidence for transit having no effect on crime is well-supported by the evidence.
I believe there are one or two more bits to write on this topic, but I’m probably going to write next about this last weekend.