Mixed Methods Approaches to Spatial Analysis of Graffiti in Providence, RI

Authors: Cyrus Maden*, Brown University, Stefano Bloch, University of Arizona, Yesim Sungu-Eryilmaz, Boston University
Topics: Geographic Information Science and Systems, Urban Geography
Keywords: GIS, GIScience, Graffiti, Crime, Spatial Statistics, Broken Windows, Mixed Methods, Urban Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 12:40 PM / 2:20 PM
Room: Astor Ballroom III, Astor, 2nd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Graffiti is ubiquitous in cities and is commonly associated with gang violence and lawlessness. Broken windows theory claims a causal relationship between perceived disorder and violent crime, but this has been widely challenged. Ferrell and Weide's (2010) spot theory provides an alternate lens to examine this relationship by describing the spatial distribution of graffiti as a subcultural practice situated spatially within the unique contexts of a particular urban environment. Recent advances in GIScience and spatial statistics provide a quantitative approach to examine the relationship between perceived disorder and violent crime in the context of spot theory. To examine this relationship, thirty-nine block groups in Providence, RI are sampled for all instances of graffiti and geocoded for spatial analysis. Detailed hot spot and residual maps of the spatial distribution of graffiti and violent crime in the city are then produced. Statistically significant clusters of residuals are observed, indicating that the relationship between graffiti and violent crime varies by neighborhood and that the most significant clusters of graffiti are statistically distinct from and uncorrelated with violent crime. In addition, no global correlation or spatial covariation is observed. Therefore, visual and statistical analysis of these maps, when considered with qualitative, ethnographic research, support the spatial behavior of graffiti presented in spot theory and show no causal link between graffiti and violent crime.

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