Urban Building Demolitions, Firearm Violence and Drug Crime

Jay, J., Miratrix, L. W., Branas, C. C., Zimmerman, M. A., & Hemenway, D. (2019). Urban building demolitions, firearm violence and drug crime. Journal of behavioral medicine, 42(4), 626-634.


Although multiple interventions to remediate physical blight have been found to reduce urban firearm violence, there is limited evidence for demolishing vacant buildings as a violence reduction strategy. Starting in 2014, Detroit, MI launched a large-scale program that demolished over 10,000 buildings in its first 3 years. We analyzed the pre-post effects of this program on fatal and nonfatal firearm assaults and illegal drug violations at the U.S. Census block group level, using propensity score matching and negative binomial regression. Receiving over 5 demolitions was associated with a 11% reduction in firearm assaults, relative to comparable control locations, 95% CI [7%, 15%], p = 0.01. The program was associated with larger reductions in firearm assaults for the locations receiving moderate numbers of demolitions (between 6 and 12) than for locations receiving high numbers of demolitions (13 and over). No effects were observed for illegal drug violations and no evidence of spatial crime displacement was detected. These findings suggest that vacant building demolitions may affect gun violence.

Keywords: Blight remediation; Demolitions; Drugs; Firearm; Violence.