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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Michigan: Blight-Busting Demolitions Reduced Gun Injuries, Deaths in Detroit Neighborhoods

For the past half-decade, Detroit’s government and community groups have worked to tear down abandoned houses and buildings in the city’s most blight-stricken neighborhoods.

A new University of Michigan and Harvard University study shows an 11 percent drop in homicides and serious injuries caused by firearms in the areas where more than a few demolitions took place. The study does not find that such incidents went up in nearby neighborhoods.

The analysis was led by Dr. Jonathan Jay, a scholar with the Firearm Safety Among Children and Teens (FACTS) coalition based at Michigan. Dr. Jay and colleagues find that the clearest drops in firearm deaths and injuries occurred in areas where six to 12 abandoned buildings were demolished in the first 18 months of the demolition program. Areas where fewer buildings were demolished had smaller drops.

Dr. Jay, who will soon join the faculty of Boston University, worked with Dr. David Hemenway of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and FACTS co-director Dr. Marc Zimmerman of the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Other co-authors were Dr. Luke Miratrix of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Dr. Charles Branas of the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health.

Dr. Zimmerman said demolitions are part of the process of cleaning up neighborhoods that show people care about the place and are paying attention, which results in people feeling safer and more likely to be outside and interact with their neighbors.

“The process of cleaning up neighborhoods can be infectious for creating optimistic feelings and perceptions about the neighborhood, which is a vital first step in making a street busy with positive social interactions,” he said.

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