Study finds demolishing vacant homes did little to deter crime in Kansas City neighborhoods

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City is littered with hundreds of vacant homes, which can attract crime into a neighborhood. But a new study shows tearing them down will not cause crime to go away.

Abandoned homes are often an eyesore. Criminals and the homeless will squat inside those homes, and some believe tearing them down will force criminals to go elsewhere.

But the study out of the University of Kansas shows otherwise.

A few years ago, Kansas City spent $10 million tearing down hundreds of abandoned homes in inner-city neighborhoods, leaving behind vacant lots. 

City officials say they didn’t do it to try and reduce crime – they did it due to a backlog of dangerous homes causing major blight in these neighborhoods. They hoped crime would also go down due to their efforts, but this study proves otherwise.

A KU associate professor studied crime rates in these neighborhoods before and after the abandoned homes were torn down and found no difference in the crime rate.

It costs around $10,000 to tear down an abandoned home, and she argues taxpayer dollars would be better spent trying to beautify these neighborhoods to attract more people to live there.

Kansas City officials agree; they’ve offered $1 homes and other incentives to get people to renovate abandoned homes and build new on the thousands of vacant lots scattered throughout the inner-city.

They know if more people live in a neighborhood, the less likely criminals will congregate there.

“When it’s yours, you have a vested interest in it, you know your neighbors, you know who supposed to be there, who isn’t, it just adds to the deterrent factor. It keeps people that aren’t supposed to be in there and doing things illegally out,” said John Baccala with Kansas City’s Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department. 

According to KU, this is the first time anyone has tried to quantify the effects of tearing down abandoned homes.

Even though it might not reduce crime, Kansas City officials say they will still tear down abandoned homes if that home proves to be a danger to the community.  

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