SVSU professors research drop in Saginaw crime

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Recent research from SVSU professors shows an 80 percent decrease in serious crimes such as homicides, assaults, burglaries and robberies in the city of Saginaw from 2010 to 2015.

The research, conducted by Andrew Miller, geography associate professor, and Evelyn Ravuri, geography professor, points to the demolition of blighted properties as a major driver of the reduction in crime.

Their research also indicates a significant drop in crime in communities that surround Saginaw, with crime in Bridgeport, Buena Vista and Saginaw townships dropping by 42, 19 and 15 percent, respectively, within the same time period.

Miller and Ravuri worked with several SVSU students to determine which factors have influenced Saginaw’s dramatic drop in crime and found that blight removal represents one of the most influential factors. By studying Saginaw and neighboring municipalities before, during and after a period of intense blight removal, Miller and Ravuri were able to determine a relationship between removal of blighted buildings and reduction of crime around those areas. Whereas crime tended to be concentrated around these blighted buildings before their removal, their research showed that after removal, crime rates went down and criminal activity was spread out more generally across the city.

“The demolitions drove crime out of Saginaw, and it dispersed evenly, for the most part,” Miller said. “Then, it becomes a much more manageable problem.”

During the time period studied, 884 federally funded housing demolitions occurred in Saginaw. Miller and Ravuri determined that those demolitions contributed to about 20 percent of the drop in crime over that period. They also believe factors such as neighborhood associations and an increase in Michigan State Police troopers in the city contributed to the decline. As part of their research, Miller and Ravuri also shared information and data analysis with Saginaw County’s police chiefs, helping them to track areas of heightened criminal activity in the city.

SVSU’s campus experiences significantly lower crime than surrounding communities, but Saginaw’s decrease in crime is still good news for the university. Despite the decline in crime rates, Saginaw has been rated by the FBI as one of the most violent cities in the U.S. as recently as 2014, and the city is often subject to negative stigma regarding crime. SVSU administration regularly emphasizes campus safety and has recently begun distributing marketing materials touting the researchers’ findings.

Miller and Ravuri continue to research the effects housing demolitions have on cities. They are now conducting research into the demolitions’ effects on the Saginaw area’s housing prices.