A new data portal created by the Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab finds strong correlations between eviction filings and crime rates in Rochester’s ZIP codes. The analysis comes as some question Rochester City Council’s vote against the Good Cause Eviction Law.
The 14604, 14611, and 14608 ZIP codes, encompassing much of downtown, part of the city’s southwest quadrant, and neighborhoods immediately west of the Genesee River, saw the top three highest annual average eviction filings per 1,000 people. These areas respectively also faced the city’s first-, fourth-, and second-highest annual average index crime rates per 1,000 people.
Index crimes, pulled from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program’s classification of “Part I crimes,” include homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson.
According to the data portal, each additional eviction filing per 1,000 residents in a city ZIP code correlates with 2.4 additional index crimes. The data show that an increase of one eviction filing is associated with 0.28 additional violent crimes, 2.12 additional property crimes, and 0.004 additional homicides per 1,000 residents. All the correlations constitute “strong positive associations.”
Selecting a crime category from the relevant dropdown menu will update the right-hand-side map in the portal to show the rate of that crime per 1,000 persons. In the crime maps, “colder” colors (e.g., darker blue hues) are associated with low crime rates, while “warmer” colors (e.g., orange and red) show higher crime rates. All data are shown as annual averages.
The data span 2016 to 2021 and consist of the New York State Unified Court System’s records of eviction filings and the Rochester Police Department Open Data Portal’s records of crimes by ZIP code. Rape, though considered a Part I crime, is not included in the RPD’s data in accordance with privacy regulations.
The analysis emphasizes that the relationships between eviction filings and crime rates demonstrate correlations, not causations. They are related, but both are products of more base-level systemic issues.
“Eviction filings and crime are related in ways that cannot be explained by chance alone; but surface-level patterns in these variables are products of deeper structural variables, such as poverty and inequality,” the analysts wrote. “In that sense, the foregoing maps document multiple, correlated symptoms (housing insecurity, violence, and property crime) that emerge from larger systemic problems (concentrated poverty, exploitative economic relations, racialized social and political institutions, etc.).”
“The data from Rochester confirm something that’s been observed in numerous other communities and empirical investigations across the United States: where there are more evictions, there’s more crime,” he says. “Evicting people from their homes adds to violence by robbing them of housing security when they are already in desperate states, barely able to keep up with the cost of living. As such, eviction prevention is not only violence prevention; it is a crucial tool for advancing public health and well-being.”
Indeed, along with these crime correlations, research has found eviction, or the threat of it, to be associated with a number of negative public health and economic effects, including worsened mental and physical health outcomes, higher drug and alcohol mortality in urban counties, and being laid off of work.
Rochester City Councilmember Stanley Martin, one of the proponents of the city’s defeated Good Cause Eviction Law, which would have prevented landlords from removing tenants without proving they have “good cause” as defined by the protections, echoes Weaver’s point that eviction prevention can be a public safety measure.
“Any public safety solutions must prioritize safe, stable housing and eviction prevention through measures like Good Cause,” she says.
Good Cause eviction protections were voted down by City Council level on March 15, on grounds that the measure goes against state law and doesn’t consider landlord rights. However, a state-level Good Cause bill, sponsored by Sen. Julia Salazar, a Democrat representing the 18th District, is currently sitting in the Judiciary Committee. Similar protections have been passed in California and Oregon in recent years.
According to the sponsor memo written by Salazar, the legislation would allow the removal of tenants for “the failure to pay rent, the violation of a substantial obligation of the tenancy, committing or permitting a nuisance, permitting the premises to be used for an illegal purpose.” In addition, under certain circumstances, the premises coming “to be personally occupied by the landlord or close relatives of the landlord as their primary residence” would be permissible grounds for removing a tenant.
The legislation would protect tenants from being evicted if their failure to pay rent coincided with a rent increase exceeding either 3 percent or 1.5 times the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is higher, during the same calendar year.
Salazar introduced Good Cause legislation in the state Senate in 2019 as well, but it died in committee. While the effort has faced many setbacks, proponents like City Councilmember Kim Smith continue to emphasize the importance of political action to mitigate systemic mass evictions.
“Countless research studies prove the correlation and intersectionality of the issues that plague Rochester’s community,” she says. “All have continued to prove we have serious problems, and all studies will focus on human behavior.
“The major question is, when will we begin to realize the correlation between human behavior and system failures? The lack of political will and complacency will continue to exacerbate problems such as evictions and violence. We needed Good Cause yesterday.”
Justin O’Connor is a senior at the University of Rochester. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.