Safety from Crime
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Safety from crime, especially violent crime, is associated with positive psychological and educational outcomes, which might have long-term consequences on mobility later in life. Research shows that individuals who believe that crime is a severe problem in their neighborhoods experience more stress and depression than individuals who think their neighborhoods are safer. Being a victim of crime can also affect physical and mental health as well as material well-being. Thus, safety from crime can have wide-ranging effects on mobility.

Evidence of the Relationship between Predictor and Related Outcomes

  • In a sample of people living in Baltimore, Maryland, individuals who perceived that their neighborhood had severe problems with crime were more likely to experience higher levels of stress and depression (Curry, Latkin and Davey-Rothwell 2008). Exposure to violent crime has been shown to increase stress symptomology (Berman et al. 1996). Adolescents that had been exposed to gang violence displayed increased anxiety and posttraumatic stress (Kelly 2010).
  • Witnessing violence in a community or being a victim of crime is the strongest predictor of adolescent violence (Kelly 2010). A study on the effects of the Moving to Opportunity program on youth found that moving to a lower-poverty, lower-crime neighborhood leads to lower violent crime arrests for both male and female youth. Young women experienced fewer arrests overall (Kling, Ludwig and Katz 2005).
  • According to a 2009 study funded by the Department of Justice, 60 percent of US children were exposed to violence, crime, or abuse in their homes, schools, and communities, and childhood exposure to one type of violence increases the likelihood of exposure to other types of violence. The study also found that children exposed to violence, crime, or abuse are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, experience anxiety and depression, have severe obesity, and have severe chronic adult diseases. Children exposed to violence, crime, or abuse also are more prone to delinquent behaviors (Finkelhor et al., 2009).
  • A 2009 survey of victims of crimes conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that over half of respondents who were victims of serious violent crimes reported socioemotional problems that affected their relationships, education, and work (Langton and Truman 2014).
  • Berton and Stabb (1996) found that across 96 high school juniors, men of color were exposed to more violent crime in their neighborhoods and schools than other groups. A study investigating the impact of exposure to different types of violence on 110 Black children affirmed that higher exposure to community violence was associated with increased behavioral problems and negatively associated with school achievement (Thompson and Massat 2005).
  • Property crimes can have negative effects on their victims. A home burglary can affect a family's sense of safety and security and trust in their community, and financial crimes against older adults can fracture relationships and create barriers to building trusting relationships (Wilson 2012). An estimate of the costs of property crimes, including monetary costs and quality-of-life losses, in the United States in 2017 estimated a cumulative financial cost of $390 billion (Miller et al. 2021).

How Investments Can Influence the Predictor at State or Local Levels

A synthesis of existing literature on the impacts of interventions to reduce youth group and gang-related gun violence found some interventions that showed promise but largely saw mixed results across model types. The report included studies of interventions such as the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Comprehensive Gang Model as well as law enforcement–driven “focused deterrence” interventions, where punishments are increased and targeted toward the most active violent offenders. The report highlights the importance of molding programs to local context and implementing interventions with fidelity to the model (Matei et al. 2022). Branas and colleagues (2020) look at the impacts of non–law enforcement approaches to recurring violence and highlight several evidence-based strategies: improving the physical environment, strengthening antiviolence social norms and peer relationships, engaging and supporting youth, reducing substance abuse, mitigating financial stress, and reducing the harmful effects of the criminal legal process (Branas et al. 2020).

Moore and colleagues (2015) conducted a review of research related to preventing violence. They summarize determinants of violence at the individual, family, school, and community level and identify promising avenues to reduce violence, thus reducing childhood exposure to crime. The review identifies the roles of education, health, justice, and the community in this work. The health sector can reduce determinant by addressing substance use and mental health; treating injury from those issues; and addressing parental depression, harsh discipline, dysfunctional parenting, domestic violence, intimate partner violence, and unintended pregnancy. The justice sector can strengthen prevention and treatment including through promotion of alternatives to legal system involvement such as treatment in place of incarceration and alternative approaches to incarceration of parents convicted of nonviolent offenses.


The primary reference is marked with an asterisk.

John Jay College Research Advisory Group on Preventing and Reducing Community Violence. 2020. “Reducing Violence Without Police: A Review of Research Evidence.” New York, NY: Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

Berman, Steven L., William M. Kurtines, Wendy K. Silverman, and Lourdes T. Serafini. 1996. “The Impact of Exposure to Crime and Violence on Urban Youth.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 66 (3): 329–36.

Berton, Margaret Wright, and Sally D. Stabb. 1996. “Exposure to Violence and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Urban Adolescents.” Adolescence 31 (122): 489.

Curry, Aaron, Carl Latkin, and Melissa Davey-Rothwell. 2008. “Pathways to Depression: The Impact of Neighborhood Crime on Inner-City Residents in Baltimore, Maryland, USA.” Social Science & Medicine 67: 23–30.

*Finkelhor, David, Heather Turner, Richard Ormrod, Sherry Hamby, and Kristen Kracke. 2009. “Children’s Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey.” Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Kelly, Sarah. 2010. “The Psychological Consequences to Adolescents of Exposure to Gang Violence in the Community: An Integrated Review of the Literature.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing 23 (2): 61–73. 

Kling, Jeffrey R., Jens Ludwig, and Lawrence F. Katz. 2005. “Neighborhood Effects on Crime for Female and Male Youth: Evidence from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 120 (1): 87–130.

Langton, Lynn, and Jennifer Truman. 2014. “Socio-emotional Impact of Violent Crime.” Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Miller, Ted R., Mark A. Cohen, David I. Swedler, Bina Ali, and Delia V. Hendrie. 2021. “Incidence and Costs of Personal and Property Crimes in the USA, 2017. Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis12 (1): 24–54.

Matei, Andreea, Leigh Courtney, Krista White, Lily Robin, Paige S. Thompson, Rod Martinez, and Janine Zweig. 2022. “Implementing Youth Violence Reduction Strategies.” Washington, DC: Urban Institute

Moore, Kristin Anderson, Brandon Stratford, Selma Caal, Carl Hanson, Shelby Hickman, Deborah Temkin, Joy Thompson, Susannah Horton, and Alyssa Shaw. 2015. “Preventing Violence: A Review of Research, Evaluation, Gaps, and Opportunities.” San Francisco: Futures Without Violence.

Thompson, Theodre Jr., and Carol Rippey Massat. 2005. “Experiences of Violence, Post-Traumatic Stress, Academic Achievement and Behavior Problems of Urban African-American Children.” Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal 22 (5): 367–93.

Wilson, Carol. 2020. “The Cognitive and Emotional Impact of Crime, Parts 1 and 2.Colonial Behavioral Health, March 14.


Related outcome: Stable and healthy living environment; positive socioemotional development; strong financial health; good physical health

Mobility principles engaged: Economic success; power and autonomy; being valued in community