Poverty, crack, and crime: A cross-city analysis

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Many observers have attributed recent increases in violent crime rates to the arrival of crack cocaine on the urban scene. However, little hard evidence exists to support this contention. This study examines the relationship between arrestee cocaine use and homicide, robbery, and burglary rates for the 24 cities participating in the Drug Use Forecasting (DUF) Program. To isolate the effects of rates of cocaine use among arrestees on crime rates, the analysis incorporates controls for additional city-level characteristics, including population composition and selected indicators of economic deprivation and social disorganization. Multivariate analyses reveal that arrestee cocaine use has a positive and significant effect on city robbery rates, net of other predictors. The effect of arrestee cocaine use on homicide is more modest, and no effect was found for burglary. Although these results must be interpreted cautiously, they do suggest that cocaine use elevates city violent crime rates beyond levels expected on the basis of known sociodemographic determinants. Serious consideration should be given to community-level indicators of drug use in formulating theories to explain inner-city violence and policies to reduce it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-327
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology


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