Crime in Amsterdam from 2003-2012: explaining the decline of violent and property crimes in the city districts of Amsterdam

Foekens, P.W. (2014) Crime in Amsterdam from 2003-2012: explaining the decline of violent and property crimes in the city districts of Amsterdam.

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Abstract:Crime in New York City (NY) declined with 80 percent over a period of 19 years (1990-2009). Crime also declined during this period in other metropolitan areas of the United States (US). The crime decline in NY was remarkable because the decline was twice as large and twice as long compared to the crime decline in other cities in the US during the 1990s. Zimring (2012) sought in his research for reasons that could explain this difference between NY and other cities in the US. The results were remarkable. A structural decline in crime and disorder turned out to be possible without any structural changes in the population, social, and economic structure of the city of NY. Changes in police strategies explain, according to Zimring (2012), 40 percent of the crime decline. This is in contrast with the assumption of many researchers who claim that the effect of the police and policing on crime is limited. Researchers claim that order maintenance is the main function of the police and policing. This is in contrast with the assumption of the general public, politicians, and even police officers who think that the main function of the police and policing is fighting crime. The social, cultural, political, and economical structure of societies have, according to the theory, a larger impact on crime (Reiner, 2010). The crime decline at the beginning of the 21st century in Amsterdam is the focus of this research. Goal of this research is examining to what extend the factors that explain the crime decline in NY are also applicable for the crime decline in Amsterdam. The structure of the city (demographic composition and socio-economic conditions) and law enforcement are taken into account. The next research question is examined with this research: Which elements of the structure of the city and law enforcement explain the decline of violent and property crimes in the city districts of Amsterdam from 2003 to 2012? The research design is a trend study comprising a period of 10 years. The development of macro- level variables, related to the structure of the city and law enforcement, is illustrated by making use of univariate analyses. Bivariate analyses are used for testing the correlation between the independent and dependent variables. Correlations are tested with the nonparametric test Spearman’s rho. The dependent variables are six reported crimes to the police (theft of motor vehicles, theft out/from motor vehicles, pick pocketing, burglary, street robbery, and robbery). The independent variables are seven variables related to the demographic composition of the city districts of Amsterdam (population, share of ethnic minorities, Surinamese, Antilleans, Moroccans, Turkish, and age 15-29). Five variables are related to the socio-economic conditions of the city districts of Amsterdam (unemployment rate, unemployment benefit recipients, very low income households, social benefit recipients, and one parent families) and four variables are related to law enforcement in the city districts of Amsterdam (juvenile suspects, hard core youth, drug trafficking, and drugs and alcohol nuisance). According to the hypotheses there is a positive relationship between the dependent and independent variables. The expectation is that crime in the city districts of Amsterdam would most likely be explained by developments in the demographic composition and socio-economic conditions of the city districts in Amsterdam and to a lesser extent by law enforcement. The results of the univariate analyses of these variables are as followed. The median crime decline in Amsterdam for the six crimes was approximately 45 percent between 2003-2012. The crime decline was stronger during the period 2003-2007 compared to the period 2008-2012. The decline was, from a geographical point of view, not of equal strength in every city district and for every type of crime. The decline in the rates of pick pocketing, burglary, and street robbery was weaker, or even increased, in certain city districts compared to other city districts. The structure of the city districts is in 2012 relatively the same as the city districts in 2003. Minimal changes have occurred in the demographic composition and socio-economic conditions of the city districts. Certain high risk populations increased within the demographic composition and the socio-economic conditions in the city districts were slightly better. Law enforcement was concerned with approaches aimed at specific groups and areas during this period. This was different compared to the focus on crime rates that was used to be the main point of focus. Approaches were aimed at groups that are responsible for a large part of crime in the city, namely hard core youth and addicted repeated offenders. Goals were a decline of the size of these groups and crimes committed by them. The results showed that the number of juvenile suspects and hard core youth declined in (most of) the city districts. Drug trafficking and drugs and alcohol nuisance (both are related to addicted repeated offenders) declined too in (most of) the city districts during the period 2003-2012. The attention of law enforcement was also placed on neighbourhood combinations that had high crime rates and were assigned as hot spots. The median crime decline in hot spot areas was between 11 and 44 percent higher than in non-hot spot areas. The results should be interpreted with caution because crime in certain non-hot spot areas declined with equal strength compared to hot spot areas. Other areas (for instance, public transport) were also selected as hot spots but were not part of the analysis. The bivariate analyses illustrated that 37 percent of the socio-economic variables, 33 percent of the variables related to law enforcement, and 21 percent of the demographic composition variables confirmed the hypotheses and are significant at least at the 0.05 level during the period 2003-2012. The three strongest predictors of crime are the unemployment rate with 57 percent, drugs and alcohol nuisance with 48 percent, and Surinamese with 45 percent. The weakest predictors of crime are the share of ethnic minorities with 19 percent, population with 2 percent, and age 15-29 with 0 percent. Crime rates in the city districts of Amsterdam proved to be capable of large changes irrespective of these significant correlations. Higher, lower, or equal changes in crime rates can’t (always) be explained by changes in the demographic composition, socio-economic conditions, and law enforcement. In contrast with the theoretical expectations, the effect of law enforcement on the crime decline seems to be larger. The effect that demographic developments had on crime rates seems to be much lower than would be expected. An exact explanation for the crime decline in the city districts of Amsterdam remains unclear because of the many causal factors that could affect crime rates. The major contribution of this research to this field of research (urban crime) is also important to take into account. According to Zimring (2012, p.173), ‘’it is more important to know that robbery rates can go down 84% than it is to know that police strategies are apparently responsible for about 40% of that decline. The volatility and variability of crime rates is a major signal to policy analysts, independent of a complete account of contributions to a decline.’’ This pinpoints exactly to the major contribution of this research to this field of research. Half (and in some cases less or even more than half) of the volume of crime rates in the city districts of Amsterdam showed strong variability and volatility during this 10 year period. This happened without any large structural changes in the city districts of Amsterdam. This shows that with properly designed policies it should be possible to make a large difference in crime rates. The crime decline in NY (1990-2009) as well as the crime decline in Amsterdam (2003-2012) validate that a more critical view and position should be taken on popular explanations for crime in urban areas (Schuilenburg, 2013). The traditional theories of crime are still important for understanding crime. But it is also important to take into account the variable part of crime. Criminology and urban sociology should focus on ‘’a rebalancing to accommodate the variable as well as the fixed (Zimring, 2012, p.216)’’ volume of crime.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/65570
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