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Boston’s approach to ‘problem properties’ could help improve cities across the US, new research finds

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For years, communities across the country have been trying to tackle “problem properties,” specific addresses that are hubs of crime, drug use, violence and other public safety hazards. Despite how widespread problem properties are, there hasn’t been any evidence to prove that intervention efforts work –– until now.

A recent comprehensive assessment of Boston’s Problem Properties Task Force published in Criminology, using almost a decade’s worth of data, is the first of its kind to show how effective these strategies can be. Boston’s approach, which focuses on collaborating with landlords to create custom solutions that avoid policing an entire community, not only reduces crime on the property but in the surrounding neighborhood as well, according to the analysis. 

“What we find in the paper is, very simply, that the interventions do lower crime and disorder at the target property and it’s sustained over many years, through the end of our analysis, which is almost a decade’s worth of data,” says Dan O’Brien, author of the paper and a professor of public policy and urban affairs and criminology and criminal justice at Northeastern University.

Boston established its Problem Properties Task Force in 2011 with the aim of identifying so-called “problem properties” across the city, amounting to 408 properties investigated between 2011 and 2019. Representing more than a dozen city departments and agencies, the task force focuses on holding property owners responsible and giving citizens a way to address quality-of-life issues on the properties.

Read more at Northeastern Global News

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