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Examining spatiotemporal associations between legal drug outlets and crime and violence

Authors: Jason Alexander Douglas*, Chapman University, Olivia Lounsbury, Chapman University, Elmer Camargo, Chapman University, Jacy Sera, Chapman University, Sydney Cheung, Chapman University, Andrew Makoto Subica, University of California, Riverside, Sandra Villanueva, Loyola Marymount University , Cheryl Tawede Grills, Loyola Marymount University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Applied Geography
Keywords: Public health, legal drug outlets, crime and violence
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Legal drug outlets, such as tobacco shops and medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries (MMD and RMD), are neighborhood-level institutions that (1) are prevalent in disadvantaged communities throughout California, and (2) frequently associate with compromised community health and safety. To investigate the public health and safety impact of legal drug outlets, this paper examines spatiotemporal crime and violence associations with tobacco shops, off-sale alcohol outlets, and MMDs and RMDs in South Los Angeles (SLA), CA—a large, disadvantaged community of color. We accordingly conducted spatial buffer analyses to compare mean rates of January 2015-December 2018 felony property and violent crime within 100, 200, 300, 500, and 1000-foot buffers of all tobacco shops, off-sale alcohol outlets, and MMDs and RMDs in SLA. Following, we conducted spatial regression analyses to investigate associations between density of these legal drug outlets and felony property and violent crime at the census tract unit of analysis. Spatial buffer analyses revealed significant mean felony property and violent crime increases surrounding tobacco shops and off-sale alcohol outlets compared to MMDs and RMDs within 200, 300, and 500-foot buffers. Spatial regression analyses revealed that tobacco shops associated with felony property and violent crime increases in SLA. Thus, our study results suggest that (a) investigating social and environmental mechanisms of crime and violence control surrounding these legal drug outlets could lead to new insights, and (b) implementing public policies that reduce the density of tobacco shops and off-sale alcohol outlets may serve to improve public health and safety in disadvantaged communities.

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