Just think of them as the safety squad. iStockPhoto.com // LuckyBusiness

take a bite out of crime?

While dogs have long been our best friend, a recent paper by Nicolo P. Pinchak and colleagues suggests that they also are a neighborhood’s best friend. The mere presence of dogs in neighborhoods, they find, plays a role in deterring urban crimes.

The study, published in Social Forces, draws on extensive market survey data that captures the presence of dogs in households across different neighborhoods in Columbus, OH. The authors discover that neighborhoods with a higher density of dogs have lower incidences of robbery and homicide. This association is particularly noticeable in neighborhoods where there is a higher level of trust among residents, but even when removing neighborhood trust from the equation, the presence of dogs is still associated with lower rates of property crime such as burglaries, automotive crimes, and theft. What’s more, these results are consistent across neighborhoods with different class and racial compositions, suggesting that dogs are good for neighborhoods regardless of who lives in them.

Though many would assume that dogs deter urban crimes through constant vigilance and barking, Pinchak and colleagues highlight the function of dogs in facilitating residential street monitoring. Dogs have been found to encourage routine walks within the neighborhood and social interactions among residents. They play a crucial role in promoting local surveillance, or residents’ “eyes on the street,” thereby deterring potential offenders. This is exemplified by the findings of the authors, which indicate the associations between neighborhood dog presence and the reduction of street crimes such as robbery and homicide, which often occur outside of homes. Regardless of why dogs are a neighborhood’s best friend, it is important to look after our canine companions like our lives depend on them.