When doing research for this blog, and on condominium in general, I often come across news stories linking violence and condominiums: Inside a condominium unit they found a dead man, breaking into a unit at Arbor Woods Condominium Homes … He fatally shot his father-in-law, and The victim … was found in the charred remains of his condominium.
Almost daily, news feeds I subscribe to have at least one (the above three were taken from a single day’s feed) violent condominium story. Over time it makes me wonder if there is a higher or significant level of crime related to multi-unit housing compared to detached or low density.
Statistics on crime rates in/related to condominiums are next to non-existent. Instead I’ve relied upon some studies that look at crime and population density, along with other factors. Indeed, it’s hard to isolate the concept of crime in condominium because high-density can be, and exists, in almost every strata of society, and every location.
Starting with a Texas study by Jianling Li and Jack Rainwater – using land mapping tools they were able to demonstrate that:
areas dominated with single-family housing are not all associated with lower crime rates … Multifamily buildings are concentrated in the west and north of the city, but crime rates in those areas are relatively lower
the reason for these findings were
highest crime rates were those with the highest percentage of households in poverty and the highest percentage of population who did not have a high school diploma. The two neighborhoods also had the highest percentage of large-size households. In addition, male unemployment rates in the two neighborhoods were greater than 6.6% — topping the index in other beats. In comparison, the areas with lower poverty and unemployment rates, such as those areas in the north, generally have lower crime rates.
The recognition that crime isn’t based on housing density (but on demographic and socio-economic traits) is reinforced by research from Statistics Canada. Their findings indicate:
The population of high-crime neighborhoods has a larger proportion of single people, people living alone, young males aged 15 to 24, Aboriginals, people who moved in the year preceding the census and lone-parent families.
Interesting, Statistics Canada indicates that the statistics don’t indicate that these types of people are more prone to perform crime, but:
The analyses presented here do not establish causal links between these residents and the crime level in their neighbourhood. However, many studies have found links between these demographic characteristics and higher rates of victimization
This says that crime exists where people who tend to be more easily victimized reside. Significantly, they also indicate that levels of neighbourhood wealth are a primary indicators of crime:
A larger proportion of the population of high-crime neighbourhoods spend more than 30% of their income on shelter, and a smaller number of owners occupy their dwelling, regardless of whether these neighbourhoods are located near city centres or are on the periphery of the municipality
Finally, backing up the idea that crime isn’t related to density, the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings released a paper that indicates the gap between city (where I assume higher housing density) and suburban violent crime rates declined in nearly 2/3 of metro areas, and that city and suburban crime rates rose or fell together.
All this leads me to realize that it’s not the nature of condominium or high-density housing to promote or encourage crime. It’s the characteristics of the citizens – education, wealth, and ease of victimization – that births higher crime rates.
Indeed, if there was a single rule of thumb about condominiums and crime, the more expensive the housing in comparison to other homes in the municipality, the safer you will generally be. Single detached housing or condominium.