Do all commercial land uses deteriorate neighborhood safety? Examining the relationship between commercial land-use mix and residential burglary

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Criminologists often claim that neighborhoods with a higher proportion of commercial land uses are likely to be more vulnerable to crime because commercial facilities attract outsiders to the neighborhood, thereby increasing its exposure to potential offenders. Advocates of mixed-use neighborhoods, on the other hand, suggest that combining commercial and residential uses can reduce crime by increasing opportunities for surveillance, encouraging social interaction, and promoting a sense of community and social control among neighborhood members. This theoretical contradiction of the effect of land-use mix on crime makes it difficult to reach a conclusive agreement and thus warrants further investigation. This study attempts to fill this gap by examining the association of residential burglary with five commercial land-use types (i.e., offices, retail stores, shopping centers, restaurants, and grocery stores) most commonly found in residential neighborhoods in Seattle. The findings show that grocery stores, restaurants, and offices have a positive role in improving neighborhood safety, whereas neighborhoods with more shopping center areas have experienced higher levels of residential burglary. These results indicate that the effects of commercial land-use mix on residential burglary vary depending on the type of commercial facility, suggesting that not all commercial uses increase crime. This study claims that the possible positive effects of increased surveillance can outweigh the opportunity effect (i.e., attracting offenders to possible targets) when commercial uses encouraging legitimate activities are integrated within the neighborhood. The implications for commercial establishments in relation to neighborhood safety are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-158
Number of pages11
JournalHabitat International
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Jul 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Urban Studies

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