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Drugs, Crime, Space, and Time: A Spatiotemporal Examination of Drug Activity and Crime Rates

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 37 Issue: 2 Dated: 2020 Pages: 187-209
C. Contreras; J. R. Hipp
Date Published
23 pages

In order to take stock of the “neighborhood effects” of drug activity, this study combined theoretical insights from the drugs and crime and communities and place literatures in examining the longitudinal relationship between drug activity and crime rates at more spatially and temporally precise levels of granularity, with blocks as the spatial units and months as the temporal units.


The study found that drug activity on a block 1 month “pushes” assaultive violence into surrounding blocks the next month. Integrating perspectives form social disorganization theory with Zimring and Hawkins’ (1997) contingency causation theory, the study also found that the economic resources and residential stability of the “the larger social environment”—that is, the surrounding quarter-mile area—moderated drug activity’s block-level relationship to crime. These results suggest that drug activity increases assaultive violence and serious acquisitive crime rates on structurally advantaged blocks, producing a significant ecological niche redefinition for such blocks relative to others in Miami-Dade County, Florida. (publisher abstract modified)