Ecological Networks and Urban Crime: The Structure of Shared Routine Activity Locations and Neighborhood-Level Informal Control Capacity

Christopher Browning, Ohio State University
Catherine Calder, Ohio State University
Bethany Boettner, Ohio State University

We hypothesize that neighborhoods in which residents intersect in space more extensively in the course of conventional routine activities will exhibit higher levels of familiarity, trust, collective efficacy, public space monitoring and, in turn, lower crime rates. We introduce the concept of ecological networks – two-mode networks capturing links between residents and activity locations – to formalize our hypotheses. Specifically, we expect structural features of ecological networks captured by the extensity and intensity of eco-network ties will reduce crime. We use unique travel diary data from all members of 2,459 households in Columbus, OH to extract eco-network structural properties by tract. We then examine associations between ecological network characteristics and data on crime (N=145 tracts). We employ spatial autoregressive models of neighborhood crime rates adjusting for structural controls and prior crime. Results offer evidence that eco-networks with more extensive ties among households exhibit lower levels of violent and property crime.

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Presented in Session 186: Demography of Crime and Punishment