A new University of Texas-Virginia Tech study says that while foreclosures may “destabilize and disorganize” communities, they do not directly affect the neighborhood crime rate.

Researchers said that instead of affecting crime, foreclosures are — like crime — symptomatic of a community’s lack of political clout, poverty and segregation.

The study used data on foreclosures and crime in Chicago during an eight-year period, from 2000 to 2008. During that time, foreclosures tripled in the study area. Researchers examined the consequences of the rising foreclosure rates, and the effects on crime and the structure of the study area.

Many housing experts had thought that foreclosures increased property crime since abandoned homes were easy targets for vandalism and burglary. David Kirk, assistant professor in the UT Department of Sociology and lead researcher on the study, said, “We suggest that our results provide a more informed depiction of the complex relationship between community conditions, foreclosures and crime in Chicago. We were able to statistically adjust for confounding influences such as segregation, the political hierarchy of communities and other unobserved factors predictive of both foreclosures and crime.”

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