Neighborhoods with more dogs have lower rates of homicide and robbery, according to a new study from The Ohio State University. The results suggest that people walking their dogs puts more “eyes on the street,” which can discourage crime, explained study lead author Nicolo Pinchak.
“People walking their dogs are essentially patrolling their neighborhoods,” said Pinchak. “They see when things are not right, and when there are suspect outsiders in the area. It can be a crime deterrent.”
Study co-author Christopher Browning noted that sociologists have long theorized that a combination of mutual trust and local surveillance among residents of a neighborhood can deter criminals.
However, there has not been a good way to measure how residents provide surveillance of neighborhood streets. “We thought that dog walking probably captures that pretty well, which is one reason why we decided to do this study,” said Browning.
For the investigation, the researchers analyzed crime statistics from 2014 to 2016 for 595 census block groups, or neighborhoods, in the Columbus area. The team used a 2013 survey to assess the number of dogs in these neighborhoods, as well as data from the Adolescent Health and Development in Context study to measure trust in individual areas.
The results showed that neighborhoods with higher levels of trust had lower levels of homicide, robbery and aggravated assaults. Among these areas, the neighborhoods with a lot of dogs present had about two-thirds the robbery rates of those without many dogs. Neighborhoods that were high in dog concentration also had about half as many homicides.
“Trust doesn’t help neighborhoods as much if you don’t have people out there on the streets noticing what is going on. That’s what dog walking does,” explained Pinchak.
“When people are out walking their dogs, they have conversations, they pet each other’s dogs. Sometimes they know the dog’s name and not even the owners. They learn what’s going on and can spot potential problems.”
“There has already been a lot of research that shows dogs are good for the health and well-being of their human companions. Our study adds another reason why dogs are good for us.”
The study is published in the journal Social Forces.