Neighborhoods with more dogs have less crime, study suggests

Dog owners in your neighborhood may be making it safer — a new study finds that neighborhoods with more paws on the street have less crime.

It found that neighborhoods with more dogs and where residents had high levels of trust had lower rates of homicide and robbery. To a lesser extent, there were also fewer aggravated assaults.

People walking their dogs act as patrols and can deter criminals, the study — which was conducted in Columbus, Ohio, and published in late June in the journal Social Forces — said.

“When people are out walking their dogs, they have conversations, they pet each other’s dogs,” Nicolo Pinchak, an Ohio State student who authored the study, said in a release. “Sometimes they know the dog’s name and not even the owners. They learn what’s going on and can spot potential problems.”

The idea that mutual trust and surveillance makes for safer neighborhoods isn’t new. Researchers fit dogs into the picture by looking at crime statistics from 2014 to 2016 for 595 census block groups and survey data on dog ownership. That data was combined with a study where Columbus residents rated how much they trust people in their neighborhood.

Dogs sit on the porch of a Virginia home. (WTOP/Jessica Kronzer)

The study found that high levels of trust alone can decrease homicide, robbery and aggravated assaults. But the impact of trust on crime is amplified when there are higher concentrations of dogs in an area.

High-trust neighborhoods with lots of dogs had about two-thirds the robbery rate of their counterparts and about half of the homicide rate, according to Ohio State University News.

Trust has less of an effect on crime when there’s no one out on the streets, the study said. Dog ownership differs from cats or other animals that don’t need to be walked.

The presence of dogs reduces crimes out in public, but also decreases property crimes, such as burglaries, regardless of levels of trust in a neighborhood.

The impact of dogs as crime deterrents held up even when factors related to crime were taken into account, such as the number of young men in the neighborhood and economic status of the neighborhood.

“There has already been a lot of research that shows dogs are good for the health and well-being of their human companions,” Pinchak said in a release.

“Our study adds another reason why dogs are good for us.”

Jessica Kronzer

Jessica Kronzer graduated from James Madison University in May 2021 after studying media and politics. She enjoys covering politics, advocacy and compelling human-interest stories.

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