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May 15, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Stupid, "Why Cities Are Superior"

Matthew Yglesias gets smacked by a couple of punks walking home, which leads to a "policy observation".

higher density helps reduce street crime in an urban environment in two ways. One is that in a higher density city, any given street is less likely to be empty of passersby at any given time. The other is that if a given patch of land has more citizens, that means it can also support a larger base of police officers.

I'm sure he's smarter than me, because I don't even understand his point. There's a reduced street crime rate in urban environments other than where he happened to be walking, because of witnesses or something, and also more citizens of said urban area mean more cops, also not helpful with his particular incident.

How do you make this leap?

Slublog pointed out higher population density leads to higher crime because of the anonimity factor. In rural areas, you are more likely to be shot identified. He emailed me this (but not the LINK, jerkwad), from a Harvard economist, so I'm just putting it out there, not saying the guy knows anything.

Informal community sanctions may be as important as formal, legal sanctions in eliminating crime. Urban anonymity makes it hard to enforce sanctions (Wilson and Herrnstein 1985). Likewise, the communities that would enforce any sanctions may be weaker in cities because people in the cities are more transient or more anonymous and therefore more likely to be free riders (see Wirth 1938; Putnam 1993).19 Glaeser (1998) formalizes some of these arguments and presents evidence suggesting that social cohesion appears to decline in large cities.

The point being, Yglesias has it exactly backward. Social mores repress criminality because of the likelihood of being caught and held accountable for your actions. Not masses of humanity in the teeming streets, or extra cops.

We email shit like this to one another on Sunday afternoons because we're idiots, and also Andy started it so there.

Hit me and call a cop.

matt urban hero.jpg

digg this
posted by Dave In Texas at 03:54 PM

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