Improve the appearance of premises left vacant or abandoned can significantly reduce crime, concludes a US study. A similar experiment conducted in Montreal in recent months showed a reduction in vandalism problems on the boulevard Saint-Laurent.
Hit hard by the crisis of 2008, Philadelphia has seen the number of vacant buildings explode. In 2010, the city lived almost 40,000 vacant properties and 3,000 altogether abandoned.
To curb soaring crime has also followed the crisis, Philadelphia has decided to focus on a relatively inexpensive solution: improve the appearance of abandoned buildings. The idea was inspired by the “broken window theory” that sagging of the frame in an area generally causes a deterioration of the living environment.
Philadelphia has adopted a regulation in 2011, the Doors and Windows Ordinance to require owners to maintain the doors and windows of vacant buildings. They must primarily ensure that they are functional, which prohibited the shot just putting up with plywood. Violators face fines of $ 300 per day. In just over two years, 2,356 buildings have received fines for a total of $ 1.5 million.
Researchers from the United States Forest Service at the University of Pennsylvania and the Yale School of Public Health followed over two years the evolution of crime in Philadelphia, is from January 2011 to April 2013. They found that crime had decreased significantly in areas where the owners had complied with the new regulation in relation to areas which had resisted. They noted an annual decline of 19% of assaults and 16% of nuisances like vandalism and graffiti. The reduction is even more dramatic for the armed attacks since reached 39%. And encouragingly, their work did not observe a displacement of crime.
Beyond the numbers, the researchers say that improving the appearance of abandoned buildings has helped to foster the feeling of safety in neighborhoods. “When we interviewed people, they told us to feel more secure since the property had been cleaned and now seemed occupied,” recalls Michelle Kondo, lead author of the study.
Several studies have established a link between the presence of abandoned buildings and a rise in crime, but this is the first study, the researchers said, to demonstrate that better maintenance can reduce crime.
Success in Montreal
The results reinforce the Philadelphia Association of Merchants of Saint-Laurent Boulevard, which has decided to invest in a project to improve the facades to counter vandalism. In recent weeks, showcases seven vacant space of commercial artery were covered with a vinyl coating to discourage graffiti. Rather than the traditional brown or plywood paper, collection displays works by the artist Ricardo Cavolo, a project with the LNDMRK agency.
“It’s been two months and there has been a single incident since. One person had a tag, but as is the vinyl, just a little alcohol and go. It really worked, “says Tasha Morizio, CEO of the Business Development Corporation (SDC) St. Lawrence.
By reducing the presence of graffiti, traders hope to make the St. Laurent Boulevard more attractive. “When you go, you want an atmosphere that encourages to stay. If there are lots of tags, it can take away the desire, “says Tasha Morizio.
The mayor of the Plateau also believes that improving the facade of shops can help improve the dynamism of commercial arteries. “We really believe in it to the broken window theory” says Luc Ferrandez.
Montreal Other sectors have also followed suit. The borough of Ahuntsic-Cartierville announced in December the creation of a development program for vacant commercial storefronts. This provides for a grant of up to $ 500 to dress the windows. The only problem: no owner has however still prevailed this program.