In a study conducted in Columbus, researchers found that neighborhoods with more dogs had lower rates of homicide, robbery and, to a lesser extent, aggravated assaults compared to areas with fewer dogs, at least when residents also had high levels of trust in each other.
As most people probably would predict, barking and visible dogs can keep criminals away from buildings where the dogs are found. However, being active with your pet also seems to play an integral role when it comes to a safer place to live. According to a press release, the results suggest that people walking their dogs puts more “eyes on the street,” which can discourage crime.
“People walking their dogs are essentially patrolling their neighborhoods,” said Nicolo Pinchak, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University. “They see when things are not right, and when there are suspect outsiders in the area. It can be a crime deterrent.”
Pinchak added, “When people are out walking their dogs, they have conversations, they pet each other’s dogs. Sometimes they know the dog’s name and not even the owners. They learn what’s going on and can spot potential problems.”
The study was published recently in the journal Social Forces
For the study, researchers looked at crime statistics from 2014 to 2016 for 595 census block groups – the equivalent of neighborhoods – in the Columbus area. They obtained survey data from a marketing firm that asked Columbus residents in 2013 if they had a dog in their household.
Finally, they used data from the Adolescent Health and Development in Context study (which Browning runs) to measure trust in individual neighborhoods. As part of that study, residents were asked to rate how much they agreed that “people on the streets can be trusted” in their neighborhoods.
Research has shown that trust among neighbors is an important part of deterring crime, because it suggests residents will help each other when facing a threat and have a sense of “collective efficacy” that they can have a positive impact on their area, according to the press release. Among the high-trust neighborhoods, neighborhoods high in dog concentration had about two-thirds the robbery rates of those low in dog concentration and about half the homicide rates, the study found.
Results showed that the trust and dog-walking combination helped reduce street crimes: those crimes like homicides and robberies that tend to occur in public locations, including streets and sidewalks. More dogs in a neighborhood was also related to fewer property crimes, like burglaries, irrespective of how much residents trust each other.
The protective effect of dogs and trust was found even when a wide range of other factors related to crime was taken into account, including the proportion of young males in the neighborhood, residential instability and socioeconomic status.
Ohio State’s Institute for Population Research supported the study.
Other co-authors of the study were Bethany Boettner of Ohio State, and Catherine Calder and Jake Tarrence of the University of Texas at Austin.
Source: Ohio State University