Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 626–634 | Cite as

Urban building demolitions, firearm violence and drug crime

  • Jonathan JayEmail author
  • Luke W. Miratrix
  • Charles C. Branas
  • Marc A. Zimmerman
  • David Hemenway


Although multiple interventions to remediate physical blight have been found to reduce urban firearm violence, there is limited evidence for demolishing vacant buildings as a violence reduction strategy. Starting in 2014, Detroit, MI launched a large-scale program that demolished over 10,000 buildings in its first 3 years. We analyzed the pre-post effects of this program on fatal and nonfatal firearm assaults and illegal drug violations at the U.S. Census block group level, using propensity score matching and negative binomial regression. Receiving over 5 demolitions was associated with a 11% reduction in firearm assaults, relative to comparable control locations, 95% CI [7%, 15%], p = 0.01. The program was associated with larger reductions in firearm assaults for the locations receiving moderate numbers of demolitions (between 6 and 12) than for locations receiving high numbers of demolitions (13 and over). No effects were observed for illegal drug violations and no evidence of spatial crime displacement was detected. These findings suggest that vacant building demolitions may affect gun violence.


Firearm Violence Drugs Demolitions Blight remediation 



The authors thank Erica Raleigh (Data Driven Detroit) and Diana Flora (Detroit Police Department) for helpful consultations regarding the property survey and police department datasets used in this analysis.

Author contributions

JJ conceived the project, conducted the analyses and drafted the manuscript. JJ and LM designed the model. CB, MZ and DH contributed to the interpretation of the results. All authors provided critical feedback and helped shape the research, analysis and manuscript.


This work has been supported by the Firearm-safety Among Children and Teens (FACTS) Consortium (NICHD 1R24HD087149-01A1). The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the funding agency. No honoraria, grants or other form of payment were received for producing this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Jonathan Jay, Luke W. Miratrix, Charles C. Branas, Marc A. Zimmerman, David Hemenway declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and animal rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health institutional review board waived review of this study as non-human subjects research.

Supplementary material

10865_2019_31_MOESM1_ESM.docx (61 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 61 kb)
10865_2019_31_MOESM2_ESM.docx (74 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 74 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Firearm-Safety Among Children and Teens ConsortiumUniversity of Michigan School of MedicineAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of Health Policy and ManagementHarvard T. H. Chan School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Harvard Graduate School of EducationCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Department of EpidemiologyColumbia Mailman School of Public HealthNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Department of Health Behavior and Health EducationUniversity of Michigan School of Public HealthAnn ArborUSA

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