No Connection Between Metro Stations and Crime

The urban legend is often repeated in D.C. that Georgetown didn’t get a Metro station because that neighborhood’s rich residents feared an invasion of crime and undesirables. The statement is totally false, and has been debunked thoroughly by Zachary Schrag in academic articles and his book about the history of the Metro where he describes how the station was never seriously considered due to economic and geologic reasons. (The station would have to be very deep since the line crosses the river at that point.)

However, the persistence of the legend suggests a latent belief in a possible connection between Metro stations and crime, particularly violent crime. Conventional wisdom says there is probably no connection, and a recent Washington Post analysis of robberies showed the crimes concentrated in the city’s densest and liveliest neighborhoods. However, up until now I knew of no study examining the specific relationship between District crime and Metro stations.

Two classmates of mine, Nancy Leahy and Julee Thomas, decided to tackle precisely this issue for a class project last fall in our GIS for Urban Planners class at the University of Maryland. They mapped 2005 crime data available from the city along with the location of Metro stations. Although some of the crimes fall within the half-mile buffer zones they defined, there is no overall pattern visible:

All violent crimes:
Violent Crime

Assault with a deadly weapon:
Assault With a Deadly Weapon


Metro Stations and Homocides - Map 2

Metro Stations and Homicides - Map 1

They concluded that there was no apparent relationship between Metrorail stations and nonviolent or violent crime. To the contrary, evidence seems to suggest the stations themselves are very safe. Every station is monitered by a station manager and numerous security cameras, and the transit police reported in 2006 just 1.70 crimes for every million riders.

Author: Rob Goodspeed


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