High crime rate, poverty linked
Published: Friday, February 13, 2004
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012 23:06
A research project conducted by the Kirwan Institute on the Study of Race and Ethnicity found that high concentrations of poverty has led to a hotbed of crime in the university district - a crime rate that is higher than the city average.
john a. powell, professor of law and director of the Kirwan Institute, presented the University Area Safety Committee with his findings Wednesday, as well as recommendations to improve safety within the university district.
In a report titled "Dedensifying" Urban Neighborhoods, powell explained high-concentrated poverty in the area caused by racial and economic segregation of low-income housing, urban sprawl and lopsided wealth creation opportunities have caused a spike in the crime rate in and around the Ohio State campus.
"Concentrated poverty happens when more than 40 percent of a community lies below the (federally defined) poverty level," powell said. "When a neighborhood reaches a certain level of poverty, it invites crime to it."
Studies have shown concentrated poverty to have adverse effects on many facets of life, including employment, education, health and criminal behavior. powell said by further concentrating people into one area through the establishment of low-income housing with federal money, the situation only will get worse.
Public safety at OSU is compromised by its proximity to these poverty-stricken areas. An urban university setting, along with unsafe and dilapidated physical design characteristics of buildings, have created a "perfect storm," powell said.
All of these factors have come together to intensify public problems and create a high crime rate, he said.
powell presented potential solutions to stop campus area crime by focusing on the much-needed dispersion of low-income housing. The Weinland Park area, comprised of 550 units, make up the largest conglomerate of low-income housing in central Ohio.
powell does not have plans to displace anyone from their homes but rather reverse the poverty effects by providing opportunity-based housing or de-concentrated areas close to jobs, safe neighborhoods and schools.
"Affordable housing areas throughout central Ohio need to be accessible to low-income individuals," said Steve Sterrett, spokesman for Campus Partners.
Neighborhoods in the university district have lost population over the years - a situation where middle class families have moved to the suburbs and left behind an increase in poverty and crime.
Sterrett is excited about the opportunity for powell to work closely with the UASC to develop a plan to decrease crime and poverty-concentrated areas at the same time. He has brought research experience from the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota and plans to implement similar crime relief approaches to the university district that worked in Minnesota.
powell hopes to see better coordination between the University Police and the Columbus Division of Police in an effort to deploy resources to points of high crime by mapping out hot spots - a successful technique that was implemented in Minneapolis.
Dispersing high concentrations of subsidized Section 8 housing in the University District, as well as improving lighting, visibility and blight conditions, are the first steps toward helping people feel safe and comfortable in their neighborhoods, powell said.
"If done right, they will pay for themselves to help in reducing crime in the university district," he said.