If you have lots of dogs in the neighbourhood, then you are safe. This comes up in a new study conducted in Columbus. The researchers noted that neighbourhoods 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.
Lead author Nicolo Pinchak stated that people walking their dogs puts more “eyes on the street,” which can discourage crime. The author is a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University. Pinchak said that the reality was that people walking their dogs are essentially patrolling their neighbourhoods. “They see when things are not right, and when there are suspect outsiders in the area. It can be a crime deterrent,” the author said.
Social Forces published the study.
Meanwhile, study co-author Christopher Browning, a professor of sociology at Ohio State held that sociologists have long theorized that a combination of mutual trust and local surveillance among residents of a neighbourhood can deter criminals. But there hasn’t been a good measure of how residents provide surveillance of neighbourhood streets. “We thought that dog walking probably captures that pretty well, which is one reason why we decided to do this study,” Browning said.
The researchers looked at crime statistics from 2014 to 2016 for 595 census block groups – the equivalent of neighbourhoods – in the Columbus area. They collected data from a marketing firm that asked Columbus residents in 2013 if they had a dog in their household. They also used data from the Adolescent Health and Development in Context study (which Browning runs) to measure trust in individual neighbourhoods. As part of the study, residents were asked to rate how much they agreed that people on the streets can be trusted” in their neighbourhoods.
Research has shown that trust among neighbours 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, Pinchak said.
Among high-trust neighbourhoods, those with high concentrations of dogs showed an additional drop in crime compared to those with low concentrations of dogs. Among the high-trust neighbourhoods, the neighbourhoods 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. The study found that more dogs in a neighbourhood was also related to fewer property crimes, like burglaries, irrespective of how much residents trust each other, Pinchak said. “That’s because barking and visible dogs can keep criminals away from buildings where the dogs are found – and neighbourhood trust and surveillance is not needed as a factor, as it is in street crimes,” she said.
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.