Title

A Spatial Analysis of Non-Emergency Requests for Service & Violent Crime in St. Louis, Missouri

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Criminology and Criminal Justice

Date of Defense

4-14-2016

Graduate Advisor

Adam Boessen, PhD.

Committee

Doherty, Elaine

Thomas, Kyle

Abstract

The “Broken Windows” thesis posits that disorderly conditions are likely to incite a downward spiral in an area, eventually leading to crime. In contrast, collective efficacy theorists argue that crime and disorder are manifestations of the same underlying issue; as such, disorder could be construed as an opportunity for citizens to mobilize against a problem in their neighborhood. This research employs longitudinal administrative data regarding requests for non-emergency services (“311” calls). Prior research has examined this measure as an indicator of disorder; however, these requests are representative of citizen action against disorder, and thus may better represent a form of social control or collective efficacy. Using data from 9,577 blocks in St. Louis, MO, this paper analyzes the spatial distribution of requests for service regarding physical disorder and violent crimes over a period of five years (2009-2013). After controlling for neighborhood demographic characteristics and land use, requests for service are positively and significantly related to violent crimes in the area. This finding suggests that requests for non-emergency services are an indicator of neighborhood disorder, and provides support for the broken windows theoretical framework.

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