The Impact of Hurricanes on Crime: A Spatio-Temporal Analysis in the City of Houston, Texas
Authors: Leitner, Michael; Helbich, Marco
Source: Cartography and Geographic Information Science, 1 April 2011, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 213-221(9)
Abstract:The impact that natural disasters have on crime is not well understood. In general, it is assumed that crime declines shortly after the disaster and slowly increases to pre-disaster levels over time. However, this assumption is not always confirmed by the few empirical studies that have been conducted to date. In this paper we analyze the impacts that Hurricane Rita, and for the purpose of comparison, Hurricane Katrina had on the temporal and spatial distributions of reported crimes in the city of Houston, TX. Crime data were collected before, during, and after the landfall of both hurricanes. The modeling part of this paper focused on primarily spatio-temporal and local regression models at the local scale. Spatio-temporal models were applied to identify potential spatio-temporal crime clusters associated with the hurricanes. A local regression model in the form of a geographically weighted regression was applied to explore relationships between crime clusters and possible underlying factors leading to the creation of said clusters.
The results show that while Hurricane Katrina did not have any apparent impact on crime, Hurricane Rita led to a significant short-term increase in burglaries and auto thefts. The post important result was the identification of a large, highly significant spatio-temporal burglary cluster located in the northeastern part of Houston. This cluster lasted from a few days before to a few days after the landfall of Hurricane Rita. Empirical evidence was found that the mandatory evacuation order that was issued prior to the arrival of Hurricane Rita led to a short-time spike in burglaries. It was assumed that these crimes were committed by individuals who did not follow the evacuation order, but instead burglarized the residences of individuals who did evacuate. No mandatory evacuation order was issued for Hurricane Katrina. Altogether, three variables including the percentage of African Americans, the percentage of persons living below the poverty level, and the distance to the nearest police station was identified as having a positive relationship with the increase in burglaries associated with Hurricane Rita
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: 2011-04-01T00:00:00