Can Dogs Take Bite Out of Neighborhood Crime?

July 28, 2022 • by Esther R Robards-Forbes
Medium yellow lag holding an unhooked leash in its mouth

Can having more dogs in a neighborhood help prevent crime? Yes, according to research from Kate Calder, chair of the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences; Jake Tarrence, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Statistics and Data Sciences, and their colleagues at The Ohio State University. The research was featured recently in USA Today and Medscape.

The study, which appears in the journal Social Forces, found that in neighborhoods where there is a higher degree of trust among residents, those neighborhoods with more dogs had fewer violent crimes.

The study looked at crime data from 2014-2016 in Columbus, Ohio in combination with marketing data on dog ownership. Levels of trust among neighbors were estimated using data from the Adolescent Health and Development in Context Study, of which Calder is one of the lead investigators.

"Social scientists and urban planners have long argued that informal surveillance – in addition to neighbors trusting each other – is an important aspect of crime deterrence," explained Calder. "It's a difficult thing to measure directly, but we thought dog walking might capture it well."

The lower levels of property crime were associated with dog ownership, regardless of the levels of trust. Researchers attributed this to the dogs themselves. Visible dogs and barking dogs likely act as deterrents to would-be burglars and thieves.

"Want to live in a safe neighborhood? Find one with lots of dogs, study suggests" | USA Today

"Having Dogs in a Neighborhood Makes it Safer" | Medscape