The Memphis Commercial Appeal embraced the argument in an article in the Atlantic magazine that changes in housing policy have something to do with the city’s rising crime rate. The Atlantic article was summarized in yesterday’s Crime & Justice News. The newspaper says the city’s campaign to transform grim, litter-strewn public housing projects into attractive mixed-use neighborhoods has been a success. It cites a drawback to such public-private partnerships, financed in part with Hope VI federal funds, documented by University of Memphis researchers Richard Janikowski and Phyllis Betts.
Janikowski and Betts compared maps highlighting criminal activity and housing units where rents are subsidized through the Section 8 housing program and found that the marked areas on the two maps overlapped. Many former residents of inner-city public housing projects are now clients of the Section 8 program, and others have moved into apartment buildings in the same neighborhoods where crime is spiking. The newspaper says the discovery doesn’t change the formula for addressing the root causes of crime in Memphis, which means emphasizing education, job creation and the delivery of social services to the poor. It doesn’t fundamentally change the way law enforcement does its job, through the efficient deployment of resources and other smart-policing techniques. Concludes the newspaper: “Recognizing the relationship between social policy and crime also puts planners on notice that there may be unintended consequences to social programs developed with the best of intentions.”