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Study Links Crime Rates and Land-Use Zoning in L.A.

Los Angeles city blocks zoned for both residential and commercial uses have lower crime rates than nearby blocks pegged for commercial purposes, according to a study released recently by a Santa Monica- based think tank.

The RAND Corp. study, which examined city blocks in Boyle Heights, Highland Park, Hollywood, San Pedro, South Los Angeles, Southeast Los Angeles, West Adams and Westlake, found that crime was lowest in blocks zoned for residential-only uses, even in relatively high crime neighborhoods of Los Angeles.

“At least in the case of a city like Los Angeles, zoning matters – an important fraction of reported crime is associated with the kind of zoning on a city block,” said James M. Anderson, the study’s lead author and a behavioral scientist at RAND.

“These results suggest both researchers and policymakers should pay more attention to the ways in which zoning and other land-use policies can affect crime,” Anderson said.

Policymakers have long debated the effect that city planning and zoning can have on crime. Some experts have urged diverse uses of land in order to create an urban environment that encourages “eyes on the street” to deter crime.

However, there has been relatively little research designed to test such theories, and most of the studies that have occurred have focused on older cities in the eastern United States, according to the nonprofit think tank.

The study was published in the February edition of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.