Places of Worship Linked to More Neighborhood Crime

Author: PLoS ONE
Published: 2023/03/09 - Updated: 2023/07/04
Publication Type: Survey / Analysis - Peer-Reviewed: Yes
Contents: Summary - Main - Related Publications

Synopsis: A statistical analysis of publicly available crime and neighborhood data for the areas immediately surrounding 742 places of worship across Washington, D.C.. Analysis showed that places of worship were associated with higher violent and property crime rates in their immediate neighborhood. These findings align with evidence from two prior studies suggesting that places of worship might unintentionally boost crime.

Place of Worship

A place of worship is a specially designed structure or space where individuals or a group of people, such as a congregation, come to perform acts of devotion, adoration, or religious study. A building constructed or used for this purpose is sometimes called a house of worship. Temples, churches, mosques, and synagogues are examples of structures created for worship.

Main Digest

Crime Generators or Social Capital Organizations? Examining The Effects of Places of Worship on Neighborhood Crime - PLoS ONE.

A new analysis of crime statistics near hundreds of places of worship in Washington, D.C., shows that these sites are associated with higher levels of violent and property crime-even after accounting for other factors commonly linked with crime. James Wo of the University of Iowa, U.S., presents these findings in the open-access journal PLOS ONE on March 8, 2023.

Prior research has established that places of worship foster social ties and community actions for the common good, suggesting that these sites would reduce crime in their neighborhoods. However, only some studies have addressed the hypothesized crime-reducing impact of places of worship.

In the present study, Wo conducted a statistical analysis of publicly available crime and neighborhood data for the areas immediately surrounding 742 places of worship across Washington, D.C.

The analysis showed that places of worship were associated with higher violent and property crime rates in their immediate neighborhood. This association persisted even after accounting for various sociodemographic factors and other factors commonly linked with crime, such as proximity to bars, liquor stores, check-cashing stores, and D.C. metro stations.

These findings align with evidence from two prior studies suggesting that places of worship might unintentionally boost crime. Further research is needed to determine the mechanism by which this might occur. Still, it is possible that places of worship draw high foot traffic while having limited ability to monitor and regulate the public activity, boosting the chances that potential offenders might seize the opportunity to commit crimes against weakly guarded targets.

Continued below image.
Four police cars with red and blue lights outside a city church.
Four police cars with red and blue lights outside a city church.
Continued...

The author notes that these findings do not invalidate the positive impacts of places of worship or religion. However, they suggest a need to consider places of worship as risk factors for neighborhood crime to shape policing policies and crime-reduction efforts accurately.

Future research could help confirm and extend these findings by examining crime statistics over time as places of worship become established or shut down. Neighborhood-level data on social capital, civic engagement, foot traffic (or the ambient population), and anonymity could be collected to test whether these factors do, in fact, mediate the effects of places of worship on crime. Researchers could also examine whether similar patterns are seen in other U.S. cities and worldwide.

James Wo adds:

"Findings should not be interpreted as an indictment on religion or places of worship (POW). Rather, they highlight POW as an unexpected ecological risk factor for neighborhood crime, similar to how shopping malls, central business districts, restaurants, and retail stores have been deemed to operate as crime generators."

Citation:

Wo JC (2023) Crime generators or social capital organizations? Examining the effects of places of worship on neighborhood crime. PLoS ONE 18(3): e0282196.

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This peer reviewed publication pertaining to our Disability and Religion section was selected for circulation by the editors of Disabled World due to its likely interest to our disability community readers. Though the content may have been edited for style, clarity, or length, the article "Places of Worship Linked to More Neighborhood Crime" was originally written by PLoS ONE, and submitted for publishing on 2023/03/09 (Edit Update: 2023/07/04). Should you require further information or clarification, PLoS ONE can be contacted at the plos.org website. Disabled World makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith.

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Cite This Page (APA): PLoS ONE. (2023, March 9). Places of Worship Linked to More Neighborhood Crime. Disabled World. Retrieved April 17, 2024 from www.disabled-world.com/communication/religion/religious-crime.php

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