Examining spatiotemporal associations between legal drug outlets and crime and violence

Authors: Jason Douglas*, Chapman University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Applied Geography
Keywords: Public health, legal drug outlets, crime and violence
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 2:25 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Governors Square 9, Sheraton, Concourse Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Legal drug outlets, such as tobacco shops, are neighborhood-level institutions that (1) are prevalent in low-income communities of color, and (2) frequently associate with compromised community health and wellbeing. To investigate this understudied phenomenon, this paper examines spatiotemporal crime and violence associations with tobacco shops, off-sale alcohol outlets, and medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries in South Los Angeles, CA—a large, low-income, health poor, community of color. We accordingly conducted spatial buffer analyses to examine change in property and violent crime within 100-foot buffers of each property using 2015 and 2018 crime data. Following, we conducted spatial regression analyses to investigate the relationship between legal drug outlet density and property and violent crime at the census tract unit of analysis for both project years. Results indicated that property crime decreased significantly from 2015 to 2018 around medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries, but not tobacco shops and off-sale alcohol outlets. Spatial regression analyses revealed that tobacco shops, but not off-sale alcohol and medical/recreational marijuana dispensaries, associate with property and violent crime escalations in South Los Angeles. Thus, our study findings suggest medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries may have improved security and social controls that deter crime and violence. However, tobacco shops appear to pose a public health threat that associates with crime and violence. Therefore, we contend that (a) additional research is needed to identify the mechanisms that connect tobacco shops to crime and violence, and (b) additional policies regulating tobacco shops will be necessary to improve health and safety.

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