How to increase neighborhood safety
Two very different approaches to improving neighborhood safety are here illustrated by studies which both showed some positive results. One was an evaluation of the “Moving to Opportunity” (MTO) program, where through random assignment some parents were given housing vouchers to move out of public housing to lower-poverty neighborhoods. They tended to move to neighborhoods with conditions better suited to positive development, such as a lower concentration of poverty, less adult unemployment, and more adults with college degrees. Children in the MTO group performed at only slightly higher levels overall in their new schools, compared with children whose families did not receive vouchers. However, there was no evidence of improvement in reading scores, math scores, behavior, or school engagement compared with the control group.
Another approach focuses on what makes for safer neighborhoods. Cohesive, stable neighborhoods often have what is called “collective efficacy.” This is when the people in a neighborhood think of themselves as a group and have shared norms for the behaviors occurring in, and the appearance of their neighborhood. Collective efficacy, in turn, is associated with less visible disorder (trash on the streets, graffiti, etc.), and violent incidents, even when taking into account demographic characteristics, perceived neighborhood disorder, and previous neighborhood crime rates.