Dogs can reduce crime in your area

(ORDO NEWS) — Dogs are something great. These wonderful animals are so smart and so connected to us. For people who are lucky enough to be dog owners, they really are our best friends.

Now researchers have found another reason to love dogs, and it’s not so obvious. A greater concentration of dog owners in an area is associated with lower crime rates, according to a new study. In their own way, dogs help us fight crime. Seriously.

Not that it was the fault of the dogs. The Ohio State University researchers believe the link exists because owning a dog means having to walk it, and dog walking means getting outside and walking in your neighborhood.

Increased levels of civic activity on the streets – and the additional contact with neighbors that results from this – provide increased levels of surveillance of the local area, which in turn helps keep the area safe, the researchers say.

“People walking their dogs are essentially patrolling their neighborhoods,” says sociologist Nicolo Pinchak, lead author of the new study.

“They see when something is wrong and when there are suspicious outsiders in the area. That can be a deterrent to crime.”

The researchers’ hypothesis, inspired by the work of urban theorist Jane Jacobs, builds on Jacobs’s “eye in the street” concept: the idea that people in public spaces help maintain order and safety simply by being present, as it gives them the ability to observe their surroundings.

The constant stream of “eyes on the street” and the interaction of people in public places helps create a web of public respect and trust in the area, which together can help prevent crime, Jacobs argued.

While the idea has a lot of influence in sociology, urban planning, and academia, Pinchak and his team say there have been few attempts to quantify whether this hypothesis works to reduce neighborhood-level crime.

To test this, the researchers focused on dog ownership, believing that the daily routine of those who walk dogs is in line with Jacobs’ (and others’) theory that the activity can promote surveillance and safety in the area while building trust in the community by facilitating interactions between strangers.

The researchers used data from several sources, including crime statistics for neighborhoods in Columbus, Ohio; a marketing study showing the concentration of areas of the city where there are dog owners; as well as data from a separate sociological project led by research co-author Christopher Browning, which measures the level of trust and social climate in the city’s neighborhoods.

Although the findings are not proof of any causal effect, the researchers found an association between having dogs and a reduction in crime.

“According to the Jacobs Crime Control Model, we found that the concentration of dogs in a neighborhood was inversely related to the rate of robberies, homicides, and, to a lesser extent, aggravated assault rates in neighborhoods with higher levels of local trust,” the team wrote in their work, noting that property crimes also showed an inverse relationship with dog concentration, regardless of the level of neighbors’ trust.

So far, the results of the study have been received in only one city. In addition, the researchers acknowledge that they cannot rule out the influence of various biases in the data, so future studies are needed to explore this issue in more detail.

However, the study offers new evidence to support the idea that dog ownership and dog walking contribute to lower crime rates in a society, possibly through residents having greater knowledge to spot suspicious bystanders, or deter would-be criminals, given that dog walkers may seem more likely to intervene in the event of a crime.

More research is needed to explore this issue in more detail, the researchers said, but so far it seems that dogs may have a beneficial effect on these areas – simply by bringing people together, and perhaps other effects follow from this.

“Trust doesn’t help neighborhoods as much if there aren’t people on the streets who notice what’s going on. That’s what dog walking does,” says Pinchak.

“When people walk their dogs, they talk, pet each other’s dogs. Sometimes they know the dog’s name and don’t even know the owners. They find out what’s going on and can spot potential problems.”

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