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Pittsburgh Reduces Crime with 'Slumlord Buy-Out' Program

At least some of a remarkable 49 percent drop in crime in a rough Pittsburgh is attributed to a new nonprofit-sponsored program designed to put slumlords out of business and get rid of their problem tenants.
April 21, 2015, 5am PDT | Josh Stephens | @jrstephens310
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Neighborhoods don't produce crime. People do. 

That's the philosophy behind a "slumlord buyout" program that has been underway in the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh since 2008. Between 2008 and 2012, taking advantage of recessionary prices, East Liberty Development Inc., targeted 200 units that it considered problematic. Law-abiding residents had to cope with "a steady drumbeat of nonsense. Not just gunfire but street fights, people screaming, hookers propositioning your dinner guests," Eric Jester, formerly of ELDI, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  

Finding that police could respond to incidents but not to the overall culture of the neighborhood, ELDI, a community development nonprofit, purchased the units from landlords who were too tolerant of sketchy and illegal behavior by their tenants. Previously, the city had hoped to combat crime by welcoming new retail establishments, such as Whole Foods. But, by forcing out a small number of bad apples the entire neighborhood has benefited.

The program abides by the "hot spot" theory of crime, which—the "hot-spot theory" suggests that are that three percent of locations were responsible for 50 percent of police calls. ELDI worked with researchers at nearby Carnegie-Mellon University to identify problematic properties. The result: crime went down 49 percent during the four years of the buyout program. 

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Published on Sunday, March 29, 2015 in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
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