The Economics of Crime

By Aria Mortazavi and Mei Chen

Economic status influences crime in the neighborhoods around Old Dominion University’s campus where property values and average incomes vary from poverty levels to the upper echelon of society, where the university president’s mansion is just blocks from one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.

Neighborhoods like Edgewater, Larchmont, Lambert’s Point, and Park Place have drastic differences in their income and housing values. Park Place, with an average income of $14,000, is rated being among 15% of the lowest income levels in the country. While just down the road, Larchmont and Edgewater, have among the 15% highest income levels in the nation.

Edgewater, where ODU’s President lives, has a median housing value of $366,104, with prices peaking close to one-million dollars along the Elizabeth River, according to the housing website www.neighborhoodscout.com.

“Edgewater is one of Norfolk’s most pristine neighborhoods due to the three sides of river boundary and people’s desire for water-front property,” said Erika Belt of Abbitt Realty. Larchmont has a median house value of $353,951 with some homes reaching over $886,001, while Park Place housing values range from $139,217 – $191,446.

Park Place is “one of Norfolk’s most distressed and crime ridden areas due to gang activity,” Belt said. Another realtor, Angel Ireland from Allied Realty agreed. “There are eight active gangs in Park Place, leaving people afraid to drive through there at night.” Another troubled community, Lambert’s Point, has housing values that range from $44,000 – $355,000, with a median house value of $191,446.

Having rich and the poor next to each other causes more problems than if everyone were living at about the same standards according to ODU Criminology Professor Ruth Triplett. Neighborhoods are healthier when there is mutual trust among neighbors, Triplett said. “To improve these neighborhood communities, sometimes people have to reach outside of their community for help,” said Triplett. People tend to want what they see daily, which is at easiest access to them, therefore crime tends to occur in or around the poorer sections surrounding ODU.

To the north of campus, Edgewater and Larchmont have extremely low crime rates, about 1 in 1,000 in Edgewater, according to (SOURCE) and 1.9 in 1,000 in Larchmont. But directly south of the campus, in Lambert’s Point, the crime rate soars to 20 in 1,000. Across Hampton Boulevard, Park Place escalates to 39 in 1,000.

Low socioeconomic status and crime are directly related, so having high-crime areas to the south and east of campus increases the likelihood of students being victimized.  Many of these neighborhoods have been in poor condition for decades. “Most property is owned by absentee landlords who allow the homes to go into disrepair and then vacancy. The landlords seem to be at a loss to deal with the situation,” Ireland said. In addition, many students are unaware of the dangers.

The District is an apartment complex right near a high crime area. Students sometimes fall prey to “crimes of opportunity.”

11/19/2013The District, W. 39th between Killam and Hampton Boulevard: Robbery
11/15/20134400 Block Hampton Blvd, in front of TED Constant Convocation Center: Robbery
11/08/2013Rogers Main: Burglary
10/19/201349 St & Powhatan: attempted robbery
08/31/20131400 Block of W. 42 St, intersection of Elkhorn Ave: 6 students robbed at gunpoint
08/24/2013856 W. 41st St: Shooting results from fight at a party

While city and campus police have increased patrols and pledged to combat rising crime, it’s extremely difficult to combat entrenched socio-economic influences that lead to crime.

Another socioeconomic factor is the high rate of mobility of college age students. “This makes it hard to build community because if you’re only in the neighborhood temporarily you won’t really care about the improvements,” said Triplett.