Effect of Rail Transit on Crime: A Study of Los Angeles from 1988-2014

WP 2015-14.0

Greg Ridgeway, John MacDonald

Neigborhoods often resist public transit expansion for fears that it will increase crime by attracting transient populations and prospecting criminals. On the other hand, transit may reduce crime by altering economic development and other positive features of neighborhoods. Studies examining public transit and crime have either been cross sectional or examined the impact of public transit expansion in a limited number of locations. We improve on previous research by examining the effect that the Los Angeles Metro Rail system had on crime in neighborhoods. Analyzing data on crimes reported to the police over 27 years we are able to assess the change in crime in the neighborhoods surrounding stations as they opened compared to neighborhoods not exposed to new transit stations. We also capitalize on the fact that during this period Los Angeles experienced two of the nation's longest transit strikes. These interruptions provide a natural experiment that we use to test for the effect of transit on crime neighborhoods. We find no evidence that new transit station openings or a disruption in transit due to strikes result in changes in crime in surrounding neighborhoods.

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