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Voluntary organizations and neighborhood crime: A dynamic perspective


Although numerous theories suggest that voluntary organizations contribute to lower crime rates in neighborhoods, the evidence for this proposition is weak. Consequently, we propose a dynamic perspective for understanding the relationship between voluntary organizations and neighborhood crime that involves longitudinal analyses and the measurement of the age of organizations. By using longitudinal data on a sample of census blocks (N = 87,641) located across 10 cities, we test the relationship between age-graded measures of different types of voluntary organizations and neighborhood crime rates. We use fixed-effects negative binomial regression models that focus on change within neighborhoods of the relationship between voluntary organizations and neighborhood crime. Our results show that although each type of voluntary organization is found to exhibit crime-reducing behavior in neighborhoods, we find that many of them are consistent with what we refer to as the "delayed impact scenario"-there is a pronounced delay between the placement of a voluntary organization and a neighborhood subsequently experiencing a reduction in crime. With protective effects of organizations typically not demonstrated until several years after being in the neighborhood, these patterns suggest a need for long-term investment strategies when examining organizations.

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