Researchers have long linked urban decay to crime rates. But do the old models of urban renewal—tearing down housing projects in expensive redevelopment schemes—address the roots of the problem?
In Fayetteville, NC, city authorities have been slowly buying up properties in depressed neighborhoods near the downtown area and demolishing abandoned homes. But without a master “blueprint” that integrates housing reconstruction with efforts to improve infrastructure, schools and community services, such efforts are likely to come up lacking.
Greg Barnes, a reporter for the Fayetteville Observer, went to Atlanta to investigate a program run by a nonprofit called Purpose Built Communities which has pioneered a different approach. Supporters of the model point to the transformation of East Lake, one of Atlanta's poorest and most crime-riddled neighborhoods, as evidence of its success.
And the model has been duplicated in other American cities.
Barnes, a 2014 John Jay/H.F. Guggenheim Reporting Fellow, says the program, which operates with private donations, has already produced a 90 percent drop in crime in the neighborhood.